Subscribe for updates and more.

ENG 219

Planted 02023-02-16

Intro to Linguistics


  1. phonetics
  2. phonology
  3. morphology
  4. syntax
  5. semantics
  6. historical linguistics
  7. neurolinguistics
  8. sociolinguistics

Core areas

  1. [k] as in “[k]ind” ([k] is a phoneme, this is Phonetics)
  2. Accents (Phonology)
  3. un + kind, un + pleasant (UN and KIND are morphemes, and this is morphology)

  • PHONETICS: Describes sounds
  • PHONOLOGY: Describes the combination of sounds to form syllables/sound clusters.
  • MORPHOLOGY: Describes the combination of syllables/sound clusters to form words.
  • SYNTAX: Describes the combination of words to form clauses, phrases, or sentences.
  • SEMANTICS: Describes the combination of clauses, phrases, or sentences with their meanings.

IPA: International Phonetic Alphabet



A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language that can distinguish one word from another. For example, in English, the sounds /p/ and /b/ are phonemes because they can create different words, such as “pat” and “bat”. A change in a phoneme can change the meaning of the word.

An allophone, on the other hand, is a variant of a phoneme that does not change the meaning of a word. Allophones are the different ways that a phoneme can be pronounced in different contexts. For example, in English, the “p” sound is pronounced differently in the words “spit” and “pit”. Although these sounds are slightly different, they are still perceived as the same phoneme /p/ because they do not change the meaning of the word.

The distinction between phonemes and allophones is important for understanding the sound system of a language. The phonemes of a language are its basic building blocks, while allophones are the various ways that those building blocks can be realized in different contexts.

Two sounds are considered to be allophones of the same phoneme if they occur in the same phonetic context and do not cause a change in meaning.

On the other hand, two sounds are considered to be different phonemes if they occur in different phonetic contexts and can cause a change in meaning.


A morpheme is the smallest unit that has meaning. A morpheme cannot be divived into smaller meaningful parts.

KIND is the root of UNKINDLYNESS.

A root is the basic unit of a word, without a prefix or a suffix.


Aa stem is the main part of a word to which affixes (prefixes, suffixes, infixes) can be added to create new words. It is the core lexical unit of a word, and it carries the word’s primary meaning or semantic content.

Free vs bound morphemes

Inflectional vs. derivational

Inflectional Derivational
Great + er → Greater Play + er → Player
(Stem + inflectional) (Stem + derivational)
bends stem meaning adds meaning to stem
not likely to change the stem’s part of speech likely to change the stem’s part of speech

Inflectional affixes are the last morphemes to attach to stems.

Only nine inflectional suffixes:

  • -s
  • -es
  • ’s
  • -ed
  • -ing
  • -en
  • -er
  • -est

Detecting plural markers

Determine repeating non-solo morpheme.

Prefix: “result” = [PREFIX] + stem

Suffix: “result” = stem + [SUFFIX]

Infix: “result” = stem + [INFIX] + stem

Circumflex: “result” = [PREFIX] + stem + [SUFFIX]

Drawing trees

  • Af: Affix
  • N: Noun
  • V: Verb
  • Adj: Adjective
  • Adv: Adverb


  • V
    • N
      • class
    • Af
      • -ify


  • V
    • Af
      • Re-
    • V
      • N
        • class
      • Af
        • -ify


English inflectional affixes are all suffixes.

Part of speech Suffix Example
Noun -s ‘plural’ dog(s)
Noun -es ‘plural’ mango(es)
Noun -’s ‘possessive’ Peter’s
Verb -ed ‘past tense’ miss(ed)
Verb -s ‘3rd person present tense’ help(s)
Verb -ing ‘present participle’ present(ing)
Verb -en ‘past participle’ eat(en)
Adjective -er ‘comparative’ bigg(er)
Adjective -est ‘superlative’ dumb(est)


Phrase structure rules (PSRs) notation

Noun phrase (NP) rule

NP -> (DET) (AdjP+) N (PP+)

A Noun phrase is composed of (in order):

  1. an optional determiner (DET)
  2. as many optional adjective phrases (AdjP+)
  3. a mandatory noun N
  4. as many optional prepositional phrases (PP+)

Verb phrase (VP) rule

VP -> V (NP) (PP+) (AdvP)

A verb phrase VP is composed of the following (in order):

  1. a mandatory Verb V
  2. an optional Noun Phrase (NP)
  3. as many optional Prepositional Phrases (PP+)
  4. an optional Adverb Phrases (AdvP)

Prepositional phrase (PP) rule

PP -> P NP

A prepositional phrase [PP] is composed (in order):

  1. a mandatory preposition
  2. A mandatory NP

Adverb phrase (AdvP) rule

AdvP -> (AvdP) Adv

An Adverb phrase is composed of (in order):

  1. an optional adverb phrase
  2. a mandatory adverb

If there are two adverbs,

const [adverbPhrase, mandatoryAdverb] = [firstAdverb, secondAdverb]

Adjective phrase (AdjP) rule

AdjP -> (AdvP) Adj

An Adjective Phrase is composed of (in order):

  1. an optional Adverb Phrase
  2. a mandatory adjective

Sentence (S) rule

S -> NP VP

A sentence is composed of a:

  1. Noun Phrase
  2. Verb Phrase.

Conjuction (Conj) rule

X -> X Conj X

Conjunctions connect phrases/words of equal level/hierarchy. e.g., for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Aux rule

S -> NP (Aux) VP

Modified first rule: A sentence is composed of a Noun phrase, an optional auxiliary, and a required verb phrase.

“be-verbs” (is, are, was, were, am)

“modal verbs” (shall, should, may, might)

Complementizer (Comp) phrases

CP -> Comp S

Complementizer Phrases connect structures together, but one side would be lower in the hierarchy than the other.

We will only use one complementizer in class, and that’s “that”

2nd VP rule

VP -> V CP

A verb phrase can also be composed of a Verb and a Complementizer Phrase.

  • x: parent constituent
  • ->: is composed of
  • YX: elements in specific order

“X is composed of Y followed by Z”

  • S: a sentence
  • ->: is composed of
  • NP VP: A Noun Phrase and a Verb Phrase, in that order

“A sentence is composed of a Noun Phrase followed by Verb Phrase”

  • X: X
  • ->: is composed of
  • (Y) Z: an optional Y and a Z, in that order

“X is composed of an optional Y followed by Z”

  • X: X
  • ->: is composed of
  • (Y+) Z: as many optional Y’s and a Z, in that order

“X is composed of as many optional Y’s followed by Z”

  • NP: Noun phrase
  • ->: is composed of
  • (DET) (AdjP+) N (PP+)

“A Noun phrase is composed of an optional Determiner , as many optional adjective phrases, a mandatory noun, and as many optional prepositional phrases”

“The professor taught the class”


  • S -> (NP) The professor + (VP) taught the class
  • NP -> (DET) The + (N) professor + (V) taught + (Det) the + (N) class


Prepositional phrases