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  1. #11
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    Default Re: difference between word group and phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by whitemoon View Post
    Could anybody explain me why "cat"=noun phrase/word?
    Thank you in advance.
    Hi,

    "Cat" is a word and not a word group, because - well - there's only one word, "cat". This distinction isn't absolute either: Is "taxi driver" one word (compound), or a word group consisting of two words?

    A phrase, in linguistics, is a word group that centers around a "head" - the word that all other words in the word group relate, to.

    So:

    Cat = nounphrase. The head is cat.

    The black cat = noun phrase with "cat" = head, and with "the" and "black" relating to "cat"

    The black cat that ate all my sausages = noun phrase, with "cat" = head, etc.

    Now back to word-group vs. word vs. phrase:

    "Swimming suit"

    This can have two meanings:

    1. A suit used for swimming. In that case "swimming suit" would be a single word. The evidence lies in the pronunciation. The word has one main stress on "SWIMming suit". It's a word and not a word-group.

    It's also a noun phrase with "swimming suit" as its head (and entire content).

    2. A suit, that is currently swimming (perhaps somebody dropped it into the lake?). You'd put a main stress on both words: "SWIMming SUIT". These are two words, so it's a word group.

    It's also a noun phrase consisting of two words: "suit" is the head, and "swimming" is the word relating to the head.

    Notice that what you need for a phrase is a head (a noun for a noun phrase, and adjective for an adjective phrase...).

    Everything that is not the head can again be analysed as a phrase. So:

    "A very rare bird" has "bird" as its head; "very rare" as an adjective phrase (which in turn has "very" as an adverbial phrase); and "a" as a determiner phrase (don't worry about this term; it's very complicated with many different theories surrounding it - I just mentioned it for completeness' sake)

    ***

    A disclaimer: There are many theories about this. If your teacher says that a "phrase" is by definition a "word-group", then what I've said here doesn't really apply when you're talking to him. Sorry to be confusing.

  2. #12
    Clark is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: difference between word group and phrase

    To say what is what you need to give clear definitions for: 1) a word
    2) a phrase
    3) a word group, etc.

    Otherwise it will be "Many men many minds".

  3. #13
    whitemoon's Avatar
    whitemoon is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: difference between word group and phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Hi,


    A phrase, in linguistics, is a word group that centers around a "head" - the word that all other words in the word group relate, to.
    I appreciate your explanation.
    What I understand a word group is:
    A word group consists of more than one word. Therefore a phrase consists of more than one word. It's is whether linguistic or not, I don't know.
    "cat" is one word, I see eveytime. I never see a phrase.
    Please could you show me better explanation?
    Thank you very much.

  4. #14
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    Default Re: difference between word group and phrase

    Clark is right; without definitions (and a context) we end up talking in circles.

    You're probably thinking of traditional grammar, which is based on "parts of speech", which are word-classes. In traditional grammar, phrases are, by definition, word groups (as are clauses). So from the traditional perspective you're right:

    "Cat" is a word, but it's not a "phrase".

    I was using a different framework: structural grammar (in the wider sense, which includes both structural and transformational grammars). Structural grammars are based on structures (formal relationships) rather than words, so that "phrase" is defined as a set of relationships rather than as an "item" (so is "word", and so is "clause").

    I think the easiest way to explain this is through immediate constituents. Basically, the idea is that:

    - sentences consist of clauses
    - clauses consist of phrases
    - phrases consist of words.
    (- words consist of morphemes)

    There's still a broad range of definitions within structural grammars, and we don't have to go into that here (it would take too long). But what they have in common is a focus on the relationship between immediate constituents (on the same level, and in between levels).

    Now what's the difference between traditional grammar and structural grammar?

    In traditional grammar words and phrases are viewed as "things". So, "cat" is a word; "orange cat" is two words, a word group, a phrase.

    In functional grammar, "word" and "phrase" are ways of looking at things. "Cats" can be both a word or a phrase, depending on what level we look at it.

    Sentence: [I like cats.]

    Clause: [[I like cats].]

    phrases: [[[I][like][cats]].]

    words: [[[[I]][[like]][[cats]]].]

    So you see that just as the sentence is identical with the main clause, the word "cats" is identical with phrase "cats". If the sentence had read "I like orange cats," then the phrase would have been "orange cats" and it would have contained two words.

    You have probably noticed that I changed the example to the plural. That's because "cat" is rather rare as a phrase in English. It would be possible to say something like:

    I've never eaten cat. (Where "cat" means "cat meat".)

    Or, you might hear someone say things like: "Cat's been in the garden again." But this is at best highly informal, and probably non-standard English. Singular nouns in English usually take a determiner (an article or a pronoun), so you're very unlikely to encounter them alone in a phrase.

    Nevertheless, there are circumstances when you can point at the same "physical unit" (sounds or letters) and say "word" or "phrase" depending on what constituent-level you're currently analysing.

    I apologise for not laying open the theoretical framework earlier. Traditional and structural grammars have a very different method of looking at language (and in consequence of naming its parts).

    I realise that this can be difficult at first, but I think understanding structural grammar terminology can help you learn languages, because different languages have different structures, and with structural terminology you're forced to think about this.

    I hope this is a better explanation. It's still not what I'd call a "clear" definition; more a pointing out of the difference in approach. Thank you for helping me think this through. You're asking the right questions. :)

  5. #15
    whitemoon's Avatar
    whitemoon is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: difference between word group and phrase

    Best explanation for me.
    Thank you with all my heart.
    May you be happy, healthy and wealthy!
    Whitemoon

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