What are the tests that you can apply to determine whether a sequence of words is a syntactic constituent?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are eight different tests one can apply to determine the syntactic constituency of a sequence of words.

1.Topicalization or Fronting

Topicalization places emphasis on the subject (or topic) of a sentence by placing it at the beginning of a sentence. (This is typical in the English language.)

Example: Instead of "Stanley said Victoria bought milk at the store," the sentence would look read "Milk, Stanley said Victoria bought." (Milk is the topic of the sentence, therefore is would appear at the opening of the sentence.)

2. Clefting

Clefting is determined by placing "X" after "It was/It is."

Example: Instead of "He bought milk," the sentence would read "It was milk he bought." Milk is the constituent.

3. Pseudoclefting

This is similar to Clefting, but "X" is found before "It was/It is."

Example: Instead of "He bought milk," the sentence would read "Milk is what he bought." Milk is again the constituent.

4. Pro-Form Substitution or Replacement

This test involves replacing the test constituent with a pronoun.

Example: Instead of "I do not know if he bought a gallon of milk," the sentence would read "I do not know if he bought it." It is the constituent.

5. Answer Fragments

The answer fragments test refers to the ability of a sequence of words to stand alone when existing as the answer to a question.

Example: Question: How did you pass the test? Answer: Instead of answering "I studied hard," on would simply reply "Studied hard." Studied hard is the constituent.

6. Passivization

In this test, one changes an active sentence into a passive sentence or a passive sentence into an active one.

Example: Passive sentence: Once a week, the laundry is done by Mary. Active sentence: Once a week, Mary does the laundry. The laundry and Mary are the constitutes.

7. Omission

This test decides if a part of a sentence can be removed without changing the grammatical correctness of the sentence.

Example: I stayed home at night and read. I stayed home at night. I stayed home and read. (Each sentence retains its grammatical correctness with parts removed.) I stayed home is the constitute.

8. Coordination

This test relies upon the assumption that only constitutes are able to be coordinated through the use of "and."

Example: She was feeding the dogs and cats. The constitutes are dogs and cats.