Did You Know Languages Have Constituents?

Apr 1, 2010 5:42:05 AM / by Rachel Reardon

american-flag-2One aspect of language that all languages have in common is constituents. All languages are organized in constituents, allowing more complex units to enter structures where simpler ones are also possible. The following examples in English illustrate constituents (in italics).

She sat down

The smart woman sat down

The tall, smart woman with the bright orange sweater sat down

Constituents can be replaced by other constituents and can be moved if you move the complete constituent. The complete constituent "the tall, smart woman with the bright orange sweater" can be replaced by the pronoun "she." In the examples above, the constituent is the subject of the sentence but it can also be in the predicate of the sentence.

I saw the tall, smart woman with the bright orange sweater

I saw her

Can you find the constituents in the next sentence?

The black and white squirrel that looks like a skunk ran up the tree.

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Rachel Reardon

Written by Rachel Reardon

Rachel works with some of the coolest marketers, designers, and writers around to help Mango look and sound its best. She loves bold colors, old books, the Montréal metro, and Star Trek. She has conflicting feelings about the Oxford comma.

Subscribe to Email Updates