Chapter 9: Sentence Structure and Meaning

This chapter considers the connections between syntax and semantics, in other words, between how a sentence’s structure is organized in the mind, and what it means. The notion of compositionality is introduced, that is, the idea that a sentence’s meaning arises not just from the meanings of the words, but also from the way those words are combined. We also see that, even though syntax and semantics are intimately connected, there are some components of semantics that are independent of the syntax, and that this independence is reflected both in how sentences behave and in our brain responses.


When you’ve completed this chapter, you will be able to:

  • recognize the difference between structural ambiguity and lexical ambiguity,
  • determine whether a sentence is in the active or passive voice,
  • identify the thematic roles of noun phrases.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Essentials of Linguistics Copyright © 2018 by Catherine Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.