analysis, a constituent
is a word or a group of words that functions as a single unit within a hierarchical structure.Phrases
(noun phrases, verbal phrases, etc.) are usually constituents of a clause
, but clauses may also be embedded into a bigger structure. For example, in the clause "I didn't hear what you said," the subordinate clause
"what you said" is embedded into the main clause and is syntactically its object; this can be demonstrated by substituting the pronoun
"it" for the subordinate clause "what you said"; the result of this substitution is the clause "I didn't hear it."
Various constituency tests exist. Some syntacticians arrange such tests on a scale of reliability, with less-reliable tests treated as useful to confirm constituency though not sufficient on their own by Eric Bakovic
of University of California, San Diego
Failing to pass a test, however, does not always mean that the unit is not a constituent. It is best to apply as many tests as possible to a given unit in order to prove or to rule out its constituency.
Using "it" instead of the whole clause "what you said" is called substitution
, or replacement
. This is one of the tests used to determine the internal structure of a sentence
, i.e. to determine its constituents. Substitution normally involves using pronouns like... Read More