A canonical declarative clause consists of a subject and a predicate, the former normally being a noun phrase (NP) and the latter mostly a verb phrase (VP). Therefore, a canonical declarative clause is divided into two large chunks: NP + VP.

In a subject-dependent inversion, on the other hand, the clause has the construction of 'dependent + verb + subject' as in:

Under the table lies a dog.

Where 'under the table' is the dependent, 'lies' is the verb, and 'a dog' is the subject.

Now, is this inverted sentence also divided into two large chunks? If so, what is the VP in this case? Is it 'Under the table lies' as follows?

Under the table lies (VP) + a dog (NP)

Or should this sentence be divided differently with a different VP?

  • 1
    I'm curious why you think this type of inversion would change anything. The dog is still under the table no matter what. – KarlG Apr 16 '18 at 10:22
  • @KarlG I'm not asking about semantics, I'm asking about syntax. Why would you think the same semantics would lead to the same syntax? – JK2 Apr 16 '18 at 10:47
  • The inversion does not change the syntax. The NP "a dog" is subject, and the VP "under the table lies" is predicate. – BillJ Apr 16 '18 at 10:50
  • @BillJ Hmmm. Ok, but to underline JK2's point, what is the VP in Is he happy? – Araucaria Apr 19 '18 at 9:37
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    Why does "Is he happy" even related to "Does he lie [under the table]? Apart from that, this could be construed as a joke: He might be lying elsewhere, too. – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 15:08

Under the table lies a dog.

Here's a suggested simplified tree:

enter image description here

  • Thanks for the requested tree diagram. But it's just unfathomable to me how a subject alone without any predicate can constitute a clause. – JK2 Apr 26 '18 at 15:40
  • But it has a predicate represented by the two GAPs, which are anaphoric to "lies" + "under the table". So the predicate is "lies under the table". That's how gapping works. – BillJ Apr 26 '18 at 16:10

Araucaria asked about the VP in the clause "Is he happy?"

Here is a tree diagram showing how the elements in a simple non-canonical clause are diagrammed. Note the functions label of 'prenucleus' for the verb which is co-indexed to the predicator function represented by 'gap':

enter image description here

  • 1
    Is there any reason that you've drawn a tree diagram of 'Is he happy?', about which @Araucaria asked about in a comment, in an answer to my question? I'm all for tree diagrams, so I'd like you to add one for my question (Under the table lies a dog.). Could you please? – JK2 Apr 19 '18 at 15:07
  • @JK2 I could, but the idea was to give you a clue about how clauses with inversion are analysed. Suppose you apply what I've demonstrated to your particular example, and I'll take a look. – BillJ Apr 19 '18 at 18:55
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    Could you transfer your answer on Araucaria's post and delete it here? – Mari-Lou A Apr 19 '18 at 19:47
  • @BillJ All inversions are not created equal. Your diagram is about subject-auxiliary inversion, which is in general analyzed with movement. Subject-dependent inversion, however, is not that easy. Some apply movement, but others disagree because you'd need movement on a massive scale, if you know what I mean. – JK2 Apr 20 '18 at 1:13
  • @JK2 Are you asking me or telling me? Who says it's not that easy? – BillJ Apr 20 '18 at 5:47

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