Syntactic Theory

The Preposition Phrase (PP)

The distribution of the preposition phrase

A PP can occur in the following diagnostic environments:

  • Chris put the book __.
  • The squirrel ran straight/right __.
  • inside an NP, following the noun, i.e. in [NP: ... N __]: The book about Canada

A PP can often be substituted with an adverbial pro-form there, then.

In a constituent question test for a PP, the question starts with where, how, why, ...

The internal structure of the preposition phrase

  • A PP must contain
    • a preposition (in, from, in spite of, by, ...)
    • a major phrase following the preposition, usually an NP (from [NP: Canada], to [NP: Kim]), but other phrases are also possible (from [PP: inside the building]).
  • A PP may contain
    • a degree word preceding the preposition (straight across the street)

If the preposition is used as a case marking preposition, i.e. as semantically vacuous, then the PP may not contain a degree word.

  • Kim put the book [PP: right into the shelf]
  • Kim gave the book [PP: to Sandy]
    *Kim gave the book [PP: right to Sandy]

Example 1: A PP with an NP
        /    \
       /    _NP_
      P    /    \
      |   /______\
    about the match

Example 2: A PP with a degree word and an NP
       /   |     \
      /    |     _NP_
    Adv    P    /    \
     |     |   /______\
   right from the start

Read further on the other major phrases, NP, VP, AP.

Categories: Glossary