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The generation of certain time expressions in English Rodman, Lilita

Abstract

In this study a set of rules that generate certain time expressions in English is constructed. The methodology used is mainly that outlined by Noam Chomsky in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965). The discussion is confined to those time expressions that are single words, single phrases, or sequences of phrases in surface structure. These have the basic deep structure Prep + Det + N (S'), where N has the syntactic feature [+ Time]. Surface structure single word time expressions are derived from this deep structure by deleting Prep and rewriting the NP as a single lexical item; surface structure sequences of phrases are derived by applying the relative clause transformation to the embedded S. Chomsky's list of syntactic features for nouns is extended by adding some inherent features and some selectional features. The additions are needed to distinguish nouns that can occur in time expressions from those that cannot, to state the collocation restrictions between some prepositions and determiners and the time nouns, and to state certain ordering restrictions on surface structure sequences of phrases. The time expressions considered are subcategorized into Locative Time and Duration Time on the basis of collocation with some subclasses of Verb. These subcategories are formally distinct in that their prepositions are mutually exclusive. Locative Time expressions are further sub-categorized into Dynamic Time expressions, those whose collocation restrictions with Auxiliary expansions are linguistically determinable, and Static Time expressions, those whose collocation restrictions are not linguistically determinable. These two subcategories are, again, formally distinct, for their determiners are mutually exclusive.

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