By Lyn Frazier, Charles Clifton, Jr.
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Therefore, we turn to a principle favoring attachment of a phrase as an argument, and note that it is at odds with the empirical data. , a Minimal Attachment preference), not argument preferences, are observed in the earliest stages of parsing. (20) a. The saleswoman tried to interest the man in a wallet. b. The man expressed his interest in a hurry. c. The man expressed his interest in a wallet. d. The saleswoman tried to interest the man in his fifties. Sentences in which the PP must be attached as an argument or adjunct of a verb, such as (20a) and (20b), show less initial parsing difficulty than those in which the PP must be attached to an NP, as in (20c) and (20d).
In our theory, nonbranching X' nodes (a case of < previous page page_23 next page > < previous page page_24 next page > Page 24 immediate self-domination) are not entered in the phrase marker. For example, the N' node in (24b) would not be constructed unless it was needed. Since linguistic theory does not require nonbranching nodes to be present, Minimal Attachment eschews them. The result is that adding a PP modifier to a Det-Nom sequence involves the addition of a new nominal node, whether it is the node, circled in (24a) or the one circled in (24b).
For the most part, this simple account of (24a) would suffice since nonprimary phrases are indeed optional. They include adjunct clauses, secondary predicates, and noninitial conjuncts of conjoined phrases. There is a difficulty with this account of (24a), however. There exist optional arguments that fall under the class of primary relations, for example, the object of an optionally transitive verb like read or sing. Similarly, the predicate of a small clause is not obligatory in any context where its potential subject could be the direct object of the matrix verb, as in I saw Bill fall.
Construal by Lyn Frazier, Charles Clifton, Jr.