Phrase Structure Rules - Top Down

Top Down

An important aspect of phrase structure rules is that they view sentence structure from the top down. The category on the left of the arrow is a greater constituent and the immediate constituents to the right of the arrow are lesser constituents. Constituents are successively broken down into their parts as one moves down a list of phrase structure rules for a given sentence. This top-down view of sentence structure stands in contrast to much work done in modern theoretical syntax. In Minimalism for instance, sentence structure is generated from the bottom up. The operation Merge merges smaller constituents to create greater constituents until the greatest constituent (i.e. the sentence) is reached. In this regard, theoretical syntax abandoned phrase structure rules long ago, although their importance for computational linguistics seems to remain intact.

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