Hi.

How would the following sentence be charted in a tree diagram?

Annie bumped into a man with an umbrella. (Annie was carrying an umbrella.)

I have drawn two diagrams for the above on paper:


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Which one is more acceptable?

I prefer the second one, but a linguist told me the first one is more acceptable in modern syntax because the projections should be binary.



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Annie bumped into a man with an umbrella.

This sentence is infelicitous for several reasons:

It's ambiguous - is it intended to mean that the umbrella did the bumping? If it does, then the PP is a means adjunct.

Or does it mean that Annie did the bumping and she happened to be carrying an umbrella at the time? -- in which case the PP is a predicative adjunct.

In speech, it would be even more ambiguous since it could also mean that it was the man who had an umbrella.



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What's wrong with it? I am just concerned with the syntax of the sentence, and I am taking the following interpretation into account:

Annie had an umbrella and she bumped into a man with it.

However, if you are not comfortable with that, I can suggest the following alternative:

Annie bumped into an old man in the street.

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Persian Learner

What's wrong with it? I am just concerned with the syntax of the sentence, and I am taking the following interpretation into account:

Annie had an umbrella and she bumped into a man with it.

However, if you are not comfortable with that, I can suggest the following alternative:

Annie bumped into an old man in the street.

It's infelicitous for the reason I gave.

Since you are asking about tree diagrams, are you going to provide one for your new example ("an old man in the street") for us to check?

BillJNeither of your trees shows that the PP "with an umbrella" modifies "Annie". Instead, you have shown it as being part of the predicate VP, but there's no alternative to diagramming it that way.

You've got a point there.

How about the following sentence?—

I killed a mouse in my pajamas.  (He was wearing pajamas when he killed the mouse.) 

Does the underlined modify the verb or subject of the sentence?

In the following video the speaker says (around 10:00) it's part of the predicate.

MPWuI9whbEY

BillJ, but an umbrella can't bump into someone

Could that sentence really convey such meaning?

I think there are just two interpretations:

1) Annie had an umbrella and she bumped into a man with it.

2) Annie bumped into a man and the man happened to be carrying an umbrella.

I am concerned with the first one.

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Persian Learner
BillJ, but an umbrella can't bump into someone

Could that sentence really convey such meaning?

I think there are just two interpretations:

1) Annie had an umbrella and she bumped into a man with it.

2) Annie bumped into a man and the man happened to be carrying an umbrella.

I am concerned with the first one.

I know which one you're asking about, and I've told you twice that it is infelicitous.

You provided a link to a YouTube video. Do you want us to show that the tutor is wrong, or something? I am not prepared to do that.

BillJYou've switched examples twice, so I'm not going to give you an answer until you decide which sentence you want to know about.

Both of the following, no matter how infelicitous they are. It is the exact sentence George Yule has used in his book (The Study of Language) to teach Syntax and structural ambiguity.

Annie bumped into a man with an umbrella.

Annie bumped into an old man on the street.

I've already provided my diagram for the first one, and here is for the second one:

BillJYou provided a link to a YouTube video. Do you want us to show that the tutor is wrong,

Yes, if he is really wrong. I provided the link since it was somehow similar to my sentence. You said that the PP modifies the subject, okay; I firstly had the same idea but after watching that video I changed my mind. Why should you hesitate to say he is wrong, if he really is. Moreover, I discussed the same sentence with a linguist in Iran and he also said that the PP should be part of the predicate, even though I told him it seemed to modify the subject (Annie who was carrying an umbrella), but he didn't change his mind. Therefore, I decided to do more research on the issue on the Internet and came across that video, which approved the linguist's opinion.

Is that enough to persuade you not to jump to conclusion easily?

I didn't jump to any conclusion, and I didn't say he was wrong.

Of course it's part of the predicate, what else could it be? But it's ambiguous as to whether it means that the umbrella bumped into him, or whether it was Annie who happened to be carrying an umbrella. A tree diagram may disambiguate, but in speech such sentences are ambiguous.

I would suggest that you don't try to analyse unnatural artificial sentences.

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