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Auxiliaries

zondag 18 maart 2012 10:48

When I add production rules I only create the ones I really need for the moment. However, I want to create them in such a way that future extensions will be easy to make. So I decided to make a little study of the structure of auxiliaries. The table below is the result of that.


A typical natural language production rule looks like this:

S => NP VP

for a declarative language, or

S => aux NP VP

for a question.

S = sentence, NP = noun phrase, VP = verb phrase, aux = auxiliary.

In this case aux is rewritten by a single word: did, can, or will. When I tried to parse more complicated sentences I stumbled over the fact that the aux part was not a simple part-of-speech, but rather a phrase on its own; it can consist of multiple words.

Be careful when using this table: I am not a language specialist. Just a programmer. Although I tried very hard not to make mistakes, some combinations of grammatical categories seemed far fetched (i.e. "John used to be being bitten by a dog") and I had to use Google to find out if such a combination is being used at all. And even though I didn't add sentences I could not find via Google, some of them were very rare and may have been errors by the users of the language.

Auxiliaries
Mood Voice Aspect Nonmodal Modal
declarative active simple
simple, progressive
perfect
perfect, progressive
habitual
habitual, progressive
prospective
prospective, progressive
A dog bites John.
A dog is biting John.
A dog has bitten John.
A dog has been biting John.
A dog used to bite John.
A dog used to be biting John.
A dog is going to bite John.
A dog is going to be biting John.
A dog may bite John.
A dog may be biting John.
A dog may have bitten John.
A dog may have been biting John.
A dog may have used to bite John.
A dog may have used to be biting John.
A dog may be going to bite John.
A dog may be going to be biting John.
passive simple
simple, progressive
perfect
perfect, progressive
habitual
habitual, progressive
prospective
prospective, progressive
John is bitten by a dog.
John is being bitten by a dog.
John has been bitten by a dog.
John has been being bitten by a dog.
John used to be bitten by a dog.
John used to be being bitten by a dog.
John is going to be bitten by a dog.
John is going to be being bitten by a dog.
John may be bitten by a dog.
John may be being bitten by a dog.
John may have been bitten by a dog.
John may have been being bitten by a dog.
John may used to be bitten by a dog.
John may used to be being bitten by a dog.
John may be going to be bitten by a dog.
John may be going to be being bitten by a dog.
interrogative active simple
simple, progressive
perfect
perfect, progressive
habitual
habitual, progressive
prospective
prospective, progressive
Does a dog bite John?
Is a dog biting John?
Has a dog bitten John?
Has a dog been biting John?
Did a dog used to bite John?
Did a dog used to be biting John?
Is a dog going to bite John?
Is a dog going to be biting John?
Can a dog bite John?
Can a dog be biting John?
Can a dog have bitten John?
Can a dog have been biting John?
Can a dog have used to bite John?
Can a dog have used to be biting John?
Can a dog be going to bite John?
Can a dog be going to be biting John?
passive simple
simple, progressive
perfect
perfect, progressive
habitual
habitual, progressive
prospective
prospective, progressive
Is John bitten by a dog?
Is John being bitten by a dog?
Has John been bitten by a dog?
Has John been being bitten by a dog?
Did John used to be bitten by a dog?
Did John used to be being bitten by a dog?
Is John going to be bitten by a dog?
Is John going to be being bitten by a dog?
Can John be bitten by a dog?
Can John be being bitten by a dog?
Can John have been bitten by a dog?
Can John have been being bitten by a dog?
Can John have used to be bitten by a dog?
Can John have used to be being bitten by a dog?
Can John be going to be bitten by a dog?
Can John be going to be being bitten by a dog?

Legend

For each color used, I give an example and the meaning of the word group.

bites = simple present (verb form)
biting
= present participle (verb form)
bitten = past participle (verb form)
bite
= infinitive (verb form)
could = modal auxilliary
is going to = primary auxiliary (italic = modify for tense, person, number)

Verb forms

A verb has different forms, and these are important with respect to these sentences.
Possible values: simple present, simple past, present participle, past participle, infinitive
Reference: Participle - Chomp chomp, Word forms (simple, participle, infinitive) - English Club

Grammatical categories

The auxiliaries in the table have been grouped by grammatical category combination. Some of these categories were new to me too, so it is probably a good idea that I explain them. And while I'm at it, I may as well name the link with their semantic counterparts.

Mood

The mood of a sentence is the main structure, and is represented by a production rule with S at the left hand.
Typical values: declarative (statement), interrogative (question), imperative (demand)
Meaning: the mood determines the speakers attitude toward that what they are saying.
Reference: Grammatical mood - Wikipedia

Voice

In which position do we find the agent of the sentence? In the subject position (active) or in the direct object position (passive)
Typical values: passive, active
Meaning: the subject position determines the focus of the sentence
Reference: Grammatical voice - Wikipedia, Examples of active and passive voice - Helping hands

Tense

When did the event or state in the sentence occur? Or: temporally when.
Typical values: past, present and future
Meaning: tense determines the time of the event, relative to the present moment
Reference: Grammatical tense - Wikipedia, Perfect tense - Wikipedia

Aspect

The the internal temporal constituency of a situation. Or: temporally how.
Typical values: simple (happens now, "a dog bites john"), progressive (ongoing: "a dog is biting John"), perfect (completed event, "a dog has bitten John"), habitual (customary, "a dog used to bit John"), prospective (future, "a dog is going to bite")
Meaning: aspect is a specification of the tense aspect, and determines the period of time within the range specified by tense
Reference: Grammatical aspect - Wikipedia

Modality

The proposition the speaker wishes to make with respect to the
Typical values: can, will, must
Meaning: will specifies that the event takes place in the future, can specifies that the event is possible, not certain, must specifies that the event is required.
Reference: Linguistic modality - Wikipedia

Conclusive remarks

When creating production rules, remember that these sentences may need to be negated as well ("John may not have been bitten by a dog"). Further, in the examples I have only used the present tense, using the third person, in the singular. An example of a first person, plural (a dog => we), past tense (bites => bit) sentence would be:

We bit John

I formatted all words that need to change to account for these three grammatical categories in italic.

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