Constituent (linguistics)

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Tests for Constituents in English
– Coordination (conjunction)
– Pro-form substitution (replacement)
Topicalization (fronting)
– Do-so substitution
– One-substitution

Do-so Substitution
– Do-so substitution is a test that substitutes a form of ‘do so’ into a test sentence for the target string.
– It is widely used to probe the structure of strings containing verbs.
– The test is limited in its applicability because it is only applicable to strings containing verbs.
– It helps identify constituents in the test sentence.
– The test sentence should have a left-branching verb phrase for the test to be effective.

Answer Fragments, Clefting, and Pseudoclefting
– Answer Fragments (Answer Ellipsis, Question Test, Standalone Test)
– The answer fragment test involves forming a question with a single wh-word.
– If the test string can appear alone as the answer to such a question, it is likely a constituent in the test sentence.
– This test helps identify constituents like nouns and verb phrases.
– Sub-phrasal strings are not identified as constituents in this test.
– Ungrammatical question formations suggest that certain strings are not constituents.
– Clefting
– Clefting involves placing the test string within a structure beginning with ‘It is/was.’
– The test string appears as the pivot of the cleft sentence.
– Clefting helps identify constituents in the test sentence.
– Individual words are not identified as constituents in this test.
– Certain phrasal strings are identified as constituents in this test.
– Pseudoclefting
– Pseudoclefting puts emphasis on a certain phrase in a sentence.
– There are two variants of the pseudocleft test.
– One variant inserts the test string in a sentence starting with a free relative clause.
– The other variant inserts the test string at the start of the sentence followed by ‘it/are’ and then the free relative clause.
– Pseudoclefting helps identify constituents in the test sentence.

Passivization, Omission, and Intrusion
– Passivization
– Passivization involves changing an active sentence to a passive sentence, or vice versa.
– The object of the active sentence is changed to the subject of the corresponding passive sentence.
– The passivization test can identify subject and object words, phrases, and clauses as constituents.
– Passivization is limited in its ability to identify other phrasal or sub-phrasal strings as constituents.
– Passivization is not capable of identifying constituents that appear obligatorily.
– Omission (deletion)
– Omission checks whether the target string can be safely omitted without affecting the grammaticality of the sentence.
– Local and temporal adverbials, attributive modifiers, and optional complements can qualify as constituents.
– Omission is limited in its ability to identify constituents that appear obligatorily.
– Omission can identify constituents such as definite articles and modifiers that can be safely omitted.
– Omission is of limited applicability in identifying constituents.
– Intrusion
– Intrusion involves having an adverb intrude into parts of the sentence to probe its structure.
– The strings on either side of the adverb are considered constituents.
– Modal adverbs like ‘definitely’ are commonly used in the intrusion test.
– Manner adverbs distribute differently than modal adverbs and suggest a distinct constituent structure.
– Intrusion test results can vary based on the choice of adverb.

Wh-fronting and General Substitution
– Wh-fronting
– Wh-fronting checks if the test string can be fronted as a wh-word.
– Wh-fronting is similar to the answer fragment test but disregards the potential answer to the question.
– Wh-fronting can identify constituents such as subjects, objects, and verb phrases.
– Wh-fronting fails to identify many subphrasal strings as constituents.
– Wh-fronting cannot identify individual words as constituents.
– General substitution
– General substitution test replaces the test string with another word or phrase.
– It is similar to proform substitution but does not require a proform.
– General substitution can identify constituents such as nouns, verbs, and phrases.
– General substitution can also suggest constituents that other tests indicate are not constituents.
– The value of general substitution as a test for constituents is questionable. Sources:

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Constituent (linguistics)