Marking the functions of a sentence: 'She may like it'


I am reading Cambridge Grammar of English Language (CaGEL) all over again, though not cover to cover.

One page no. 215, I came across

The major functions in the structure of the clause are the predicator (P), complements of the predicator (C), and adjuncts (A), as illustrated in:

He [C] always [A] reads [P] the paper [C] before breakfast [A].

But during the end of that particular chapter, it also says like this:

In clauses containing an auxiliary verb, such as She may like it, some grammars analyse auxiliary + lexical verb as forming a 'verb group' unit realising (in our terms) a single P function. Under the analysis presented in this book, may is the predicator of the main clause, and like that of a subordinate clause functioning as complement of may. The contrast between these two analyses is discussed in Ch. 14, §4.2. In this chapter we will for the most part avoid the issue by concentrating on examples without auxiliary verbs.

Now what if I need to mark the functions of the sentence below using P C and A, how will you do it? I mean according to the concepts the book follows

She may like it.


Posted 2019-04-15T14:22:18.677

Reputation: 10 615



A CaGEL analysis would be like this:

  • She [C] may [P] like it [C]

Or to make it clearer:

  • She [C]

  • may [P]

  • like it [C]

Of course, the last Complement, like it, is itself a clause with its own internal structure. The structure is:

  • like [P]

  • it [C]

It is interesting to note that, from what we can see of the OP's excerpts, CaGEL have missed out the function Predicate here. This is interesting because the function of Predicate is a major function within the CaGEL clause system. The term Predicate means Head of the clause.

However, if they had put an extra layer of functions in then it would be difficult to show that the Subject is an external Complement of the verb. Their analysis of a clause in the book would have looked like this, where [R] is the function of Predicate:

  • The dog [C] bit me [R]

This would have been problematic, because according to their analysis, although it is external to the verb phrase, the phrase the dog (the subject) is a Complement of the Predicator. In other words, it is a Complement of the verb. It is not a Complement of the Predicate or verb phrase.

Araucaria - Not here any more.

Posted 2019-04-15T14:22:18.677

Reputation: 25 536

I don't think they omitted anything. The predicator is the head of a clause. – BillJ – 2019-04-15T18:00:21.100

@BillJ The Predicator is the ulimate head of the clause, but the Predicate is the Head. – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2019-04-15T18:02:36.507

You're complicating things unnecessarily. The analysis of the OPs example is very simple. It's my understanding that the OP seemed to be concerned about "may like" being (or not being) P. I explained that in my answer. I don't have my copy of CGEL to hand, but aren't they analysing the clause at word level? – BillJ – 2019-04-15T18:09:55.530

1@BillJ OP is quite well versed in his CamGEL, I believe. As you show in your answer, it can´t be at word level as in most sentences these functions are carried out by phrases. (Even in CamGEL´s analysis of this sentence, the subject would be an NP with an N as Head, no?) Anyhow, given OP´s seriousness about the grammar, I thought that might be an interesting observation for them :-) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2019-04-15T18:12:27.487

1Well, maybe! I've now got my copy to hand. The example on p215 [1] seems clear enough to me. Its purpose is to show the complements and adjuncts in a typical clause, i.e. the constituents below VP level. – BillJ – 2019-04-15T18:19:21.677

@BillJ Yes, that seems right. They had to make a difficult choice there. Simplicity, or finicky accuracy. Reason is that DO, for example, is a phrase which is not a constituent of a clause - or even a function within clause structure. Very technically speaking, as you note, it's a function within VP/Predicate structure! I think they went the right way, but it still has its cons, imo. :-) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2019-04-15T18:25:03.227

Btw, we usually talk of the verb as being the head word of a clause. SIEG makes this point on p63. Its function and category labels in a tree are 'head' and 'verb' respectively, at least that's how I show them! – BillJ – 2019-04-15T18:28:21.130

@BillJ Yes, but it´s Head of the VP, not the clause! – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2019-04-15T18:30:17.827

Yes, head of the VP, but it follows that it's head of the clause.Take a look at SIEG p63 at the end of the first para in the introduction. It's a tad academic really, since I agree that in a tree, the predicator is labelled 'head', and the VP is labelled 'predicate'.. – BillJ – 2019-04-16T05:52:04.163


She may [ like it ].

Traditionally "may like" has been taken as a constituent (and commonly called 'the verb’). There was a lot of argument about this in the 70s, and many have come round to the view that the auxiliary verbs are special cases of catenative verbs. This is discussed at considerable length in CGEL (pp. 1209-1220, see tree on p1218).

Thus the bracketed subordinate clause serves as catenative complement of "may", which is P in the matrix clause, while "like" is P in the catenative complement clause. "It" is of course direct object of "like".


Posted 2019-04-15T14:22:18.677

Reputation: 9 994