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IC-Model of the sentence

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Министерство образования и науки

ФГБОУ ВПО «Ишимский государственный педагогический институт

им. П. П. Ершова»

Кафедра иностранных языков


IC-model of the Sentence

Работу выполнил:

студентка 4 курса, 701 группы,

историко-филологического факультета,

отделения иностранных языков

Иванова Ксения

Работу проверил:

старший преподаватель

кафедры иностранных языков

Некоз Владимир Васильевич

Ишим, 2014



The IC method (method of immediate constituents)…………………………...4

IC-model of the sentence……………………………………………………….6




The model of immediate constituents is based on the group-parsing of the sentence which has been developed by traditional grammar together with the sentence-part parsing scheme. It consists in dividing the whole of the sentence into two groups: that of the subject and that of the predicate, which, in their turn, are divided into their sub-group constituents according to the successive subordinative order of the latter. Profiting by this type of analysis, the IC-model explicitly exposes the binary hierarchical principle of subordinative connections, showing the whole structure of the sentence as made up by binary immediate constituents. As for equipotent (coordinative) connections, these are, naturally, non-binary, but, being of a more primitive character than subordinative connections, they are included in the analysis as possible inner subdivisions of subordinative connections [1].


This method was elaborated by the head of American Descriptive Linguistics Leonard Bloomfield.The IC method aims at describing any complex form ranging from long sentences to multi-element words in terms of their constituents. The form is divided into two parts, the remaining parts are also divided into parts until ultimate indivisible pieces are arrived at un][gent]le][man][ly. The main requirement on the morphological level is that ultimate constituents (or at least one of them) should be recognizable as morphemes: book||let; let is a diminutive suffix. The word ham||let (a small village) can also be divided into 2 parts , though we do not know what ham here means.

Proceeding from the intuition of a native speaker, L.Bloomfield analyzed the sentence Poor John ran away in the following way Poor ][ John// ran ][ away.

The main requirement of the method on the syntactical level is that ultimate constituents should be words [2].

There are several varieties of diagramming of this analysis. We can represent the candelabra division (1) and the derivation tree division (2).

Poor John ran away (1) (candelabra diagram)

---------┘ └------┘



/ \

NP VP (2) This is a derivation tree division.

/ \ / \


Poor John runs away


/ \


/ \ / \


The rain falls greyly

The word greyly semantically refers to the noun rain, but the diagram doesn’t show it..

The method shows the derivation of a sentence, but it’s formalized, mechanistic, it disregards meanings and can’t be employed to analyze polysemy, homonymy, ambiguity, implicit syntactic relations, syncretism.

The IC method, introduced by American descriptivists, presents the sentence not as a linear succession of words but as a hierarchy of its ICs, as a ’structure of structures’.

Ch. Fries, who further developed the method proposed by L.Bloomfield, suggested the following diagram for the analysis of the sentence which also brings forth the mechanism of generating sentences: the largest IC of a simple sentence are the NP (noun phrase) and the VP (verb phrase), and they are further divided if their structure allows.

Layer 3 The recommending committee approved his promotion.

Layer 2

Layer 1

The deeper the layer of the phrase (the greater its number), the smaller the phrase, and the smaller its ICs. The resulting units (elements) are called ultimate constituents (on the level of syntax they are words). If the sentence is complex, the largest ICs are the sentences included into the complex construction.

The diagram may be drawn somewhat differently without changing its principle of analysis. This new diagram is called a ‘candelabra’ diagram.

The man hit the ball.


If we turn the analytical (‘candelabra’) diagram upside down we get a new diagram which is called a ‘derivation tree’, because it is fit not only to analyze sentences, but shows how a sentence is derived, or generated, from the ICs.


In linguistics, immediate constituent analysis or IC analysis is a method of sentence analysis that was first mentioned by Leonard Bloomfield and developed further by Rulon Wells. The process reached a full blown strategy for analyzing sentence structure in the early works of Noam Chomsky. The practice is now widespread. Most tree structures employed to represent the syntactic structure of sentences are products of some form of IC-analysis. The process and result of IC-analysis can, however, vary greatly based upon whether one chooses the constituency relation of phrase structure grammars (constituency grammars) or the dependency relation of dependency grammars as the underlying principle that organizes constituents into hierarchical structures.

 IC-analysis divides up a sentence into major parts or immediate constituents, and these constituents are in turn divided into further immediate constituents. The process continues until irreducible constituents are reached, i.e., until each constituent consists of only a word or a meaningful part of a word. The end result of IC-analysis is often presented in a visual diagrammatic form that reveals the hierarchical immediate constituent structure of the sentence at hand. These diagrams are usually trees. For example:

Bildbeschriftung hier hinzufügen

This tree illustrates the manner in which the entire sentence is divided first into the two immediate constituents this tree and illustrates IC-analysis according to the constituency relation; these two constituents are further divided into the immediate constituents this and tree, and illustrates IC-analysis and according to the constituency relation; and so on.

An important aspect of IC-analysis in phrase structure grammars is that each individual word is a constituent by definition. The process of IC-analysis always ends when the smallest constituents are reached, which are often words (although the analysis can also be extended into the words to acknowledge the manner in which words are structured). The process is, however, much different in dependency grammars, since many individual words do not end up as constituents in dependency grammars.

IC-analysis is much different in dependency grammars. Since dependency grammars view the finite verb as the root of all sentence structure, they cannot and do not acknowledge the initial binary subject-predicate division of the clause associated with phrase structure grammars. What this means for the general understanding of constituent structure is that dependency grammars do not acknowledge a finite verb phrase (VP) constituent and many individual words also do not qualify as constituents, which means in turn that they will not show up as constituents in the IC-analysis. Thus in the example sentence This tree illustrates IC-analysis according to the dependency relation, many of the phrase structure grammar constituents do not qualify as dependency grammar constituents:

IC-tree 2

Dependency grammar (DG) is a class of modern syntactic theories that are all based on the dependency relation and that can be traced back primarily to the work of Lucien Tesnière. The dependency relation views the (finite) verb as the structural center of all clause structure. All other syntactic units (e.g. words) are either directly or indirectly dependent on the verb. DGs are distinct from phrase structure grammars (= constituency grammars), since DGs lack phrasal nodes. Structure is determined by the relation between a word (a head) and its dependents. Dependency structures are flatter than constituency structures in part because they lack a finite verb phrase constituent, and they are thus well suited for the analysis of languages with free word order.

The IC-analysis for a given sentence is arrived at usually by way of constituency tests. Constituency tests (e.g. topicalization, clefting, pseudoclefting, pro-form substitution, answer ellipsis, passivization, omission, coordination, etc.) identify the constituents, large and small, of English sentences. Two illustrations of the manner in which constituency tests deliver clues about constituent structure and thus about the correct IC-analysis of a given sentence are now given. Consider the phrase The girl in the following trees:

IC-tree 3

The acronym BPS stands for "bare phrase structure", which is an indication that the words are used as the node labels in the tree. Again, focusing on the phrase The girl, the tests unanimously confirm that it is a constituent as both trees show:

...the girl is happy - Topicalization (invalid test because test constituent is already at front of sentence)

It is the girl who is happy. - Clefting

(The one)Who is happy is the girl. - Pseudoclefting

She is happy. - Pro-form substitution

Who is happy? -The girl. - Answer ellipsis

Based on these results, one can safely assume that the noun phrase The girl in the example sentence is a constituent and should therefore be shown as one in the corresponding IC-representation, which it is in both trees. Consider next what these tests tell us about the verb string is happy:

*...is happy, the girl. - Topicalization

*It is is happy that the girl. - Clefting

*What the girl is is happy. - Pseudoclefting

*The girl so/that/did that. - Pro-form substitution

What is the girl? -*Is happy. - Answer ellipsis

The star * indicates that the sentence is bad (i.e. it is not acceptable English). Based on data like these, one might conclude that the finite verb string is happy in the example sentence is not a constituent and should therefore not be shown as a constituent in the corresponding IC-representation. Hence this result supports the IC-analysis in the dependency tree over the one in the constituency tree, since the dependency tree does not view is happy as a constituent.

In syntactic analysis, a constituent is a word or a group of words that functions as a single unit within a hierarchical structure. The analysis of constituent structure is associated mainly withphrase structure grammars, although dependency grammars also allow sentence structure to be broken down into constituent parts. The constituent structure of sentences is identified usingconstituency tests. These tests manipulate some portion of a sentence and based on the result, clues are delivered about the immediate constituent structure of the sentence. Many constituents are phrases. A phrase is a sequence of two or more words built around a head lexical item and working as a unit within a sentence. A word sequence is shown to be a phrase/constituent if it exhibits one or more of the behaviors discussed below.

Constituency tests are diagnostics employed to identify the constituent structure of sentences. There are numerous constituency tests applied to English sentences, many of which are listed here:

1. topicalization (fronting)

2. clefting

3. pseudoclefting

4. pro-form substitution (replacement)

5. answer ellipsis (question test),

6. passivization

7. omission (deletion)

8. coordination, etc.

These tests are rough-and-ready tools that grammarians employ to reveal clues about syntactic structure. A word of caution is warranted when employing these tests, since they often deliver contradictory results. Some syntacticians even arrange the tests on a scale of reliability, with less-reliable tests treated as useful to confirm constituency though not sufficient on their own. Failing to pass a single test does not mean that the unit is not a constituent, and conversely, passing a single test does not mean necessarily that the unit is a constituent. It is best to apply as many tests as possible to a given unit in order to prove or to rule out its status as a constituent [7].

Topicalization involves moving the test sequence to the front of the sentence. It is a simple movement operation:

He is going to attend another course to improve his English.

To improve his English, he is going to attend another course.

Clefting involves placing a sequence of words X within the structure beginning with It is/wasIt was X that...

She bought a pair of gloves with silk embroidery.

It was a pair of gloves with silk embroidery that she bought.

Pseudoclefting (also preposing) is similar to clefting in that it puts emphasis on a certain phrase in a sentence. It involves inserting a sequence of words before is/are what or is/are who:

She bought a pair of gloves with silk embroidery.

A pair of gloves with silk embroidery is what she bought.

Pro-form substitution, or replacement, involves replacing the test constituent with the appropriate pro-form (e.g. pronoun). Substitution normally involves using a definite pro-form like ithethere,here, etc. in place of a phrase or a clause. If such a change yields a grammatical sentence where the general structure has not been altered, then the test sequence is a constituent:

I don't know the man who is sleeping in the car.

*I don't know him who is sleeping in the car. (ungrammatical)

I don't know him.

The ungrammaticality of the first changed version and the grammaticality of the second one demonstrates that the whole sequence, the man who is sleeping in the car, and not just the man is a constituent functioning as a unit.

The answer ellipsis test refers to the ability of a sequence of words to stand alone as a reply to a question. It is often used to test the constituency of a verbal phrase but can also be applied to other phrases:

What did you do yesterday? - Worked on my new project.

What did you do yesterday? - *Worked on. (unacceptable, so worked on is not a constituent).

Linguists do not agree whether passing the answer ellipsis test is sufficient, though at a minimum they agree that it can help confirm the results of another constituency test.

Omission checks whether a sequence of words can be omitted without influencing the grammaticality of the sentence — in most cases, local or temporal adverbials can be safely omitted and thus qualify as constituents [6].

Fred relaxes at night on his couch.

Fred relaxes on his couch.

Fred relaxes at night.

Since they can be omitted, the prepositional phrases at night and on his couch are constituents.

Passivization involves changing an active sentence to a passive sentence, or vice versa. The object of the active sentence is changed to the subject of the corresponding passive sentence:

A car driving at breakneck speed nearly hit the little dog.

The little dog was nearly hit by a car driving at breakneck speed.

In case passivization results in a grammatical sentence, the phrases that have been moved can be regarded as constituents.

The coordination test assumes that only constituents can be coordinated, i.e., joined by means of a coordinator such as and:

He enjoys [writing sentences] and [reading them].

[He enjoys writing] and [she enjoys reading] sentences.

[He enjoys] but [she hates] writing sentences.

Based on the fact that writing sentences and reading them are coordinated using and, one can conclude that they are constituents. The validity of the coordination test is challenged by additional data, however. The latter two sentences, which are instances of so-called right node raising, suggest that the sequences in bold should be understood as constituents. Most grammars do not view sequences such as He enjoys to the exclusion of the VP writing sentences as a constituent. Thus while the coordination test is widely employed as a diagnostic for constituent structure, it is faced with major difficulties and is therefore perhaps the least reliable of all the tests mentioned [5].

Structured by the IC-model, the cited sentence on the upper level of analysis is looked upon as a united whole (the accepted symbol S); on the next lower level it is divided into two maximal constituents the subject noun-phrase (NP-subj) and the predicate verb-phrase (VP-pred); on the next lower level the subject noun-phrase is divided into the determiner (det) and the rest of the phrase to which it semantically refers (NP), while the predicate noun-phrase is divided into the adverbial (DP, in this case simply D) and the rest of the verb-phrase to which it semantically refers; the next level-stages of analysis include the division of the first noun-phrase into its adjective-attribute constituent (AP, in this case A) and the noun constituent (N), and correspondingly, the division of the verb-phrase into its verb constituent (V or Vf finite verb) and object noun-phrase constituent (NP-obj), the latter being, finally, divided into the preposition constituent (prp) and noun constituent (N). As we see, the process of syntactic IC-analysis continues until the word-level of the sentence is reached, the words being looked upon as the "ultimate" constituents of the sentence.

The IC model is a complete and exact theory but its sphere of application is limited to generating only simple sentences. It also has some demerits which make it less strong than transformational models, for instance, in case of the infinitive which is a tricky thing in English.

  1. The oppositional method of analysis was introduced by the Prague School. It is especially suitable for describing morphological categories. The most general case is that of the general system of tense-forms of the English verb. In the binary opposition ‘present::past’ the second member is characterized by specific formal features – either the suffix -ed, or a phonemic modification of the root. The past is thus a marked member of the opposition as against the present, which is unmarked [4].

The obvious opposition within the category of voice is that between active and passive; the passive voice is the marked member of the op";line-height: 150%"> The transformational method of analysis was introduced by American descriptivists Z.Harris and N.Chomsky. It deals with the deep structure of the utterance which is the sphere of covert (concealed) syntactic relations, as opposed to the surface structure which is the sphere of overt relations that manifest themselves through the form of single sentences. For example: John ran. She wrote a letter.

But: 1) She made him a good wife.

2) She made him a good husband.

The surface structures of these two sentences are identical but the syntactic meanings are different, and it is only with the help of certain changes (transformations) that the covert relations are brought out:

  1. She became a good wife for him.

  2. He became a good husband because she made him one.

The transformational sentence model is, in fact, the extension of the linguistic notion of derivation to the syntactic level which presupposes setting off the so-called ‘basic’ or ‘kernel’ structures and their transforms, i.e. sentence-structures derived from the basic ones according to the transformational rules.

E.g. He wrote a letter. – The letter was written by him.

This analysis helps one to find out difference in meaning when no other method can give results, it appears strong enough in some structures with the infinitive in which the ICs are the same:

  1. John is easy to please.

  2. John is eager to please.

1) It is easy - - It is easy (for smb.) to please John

Smb. pleases John - - John is easy to please.

2) John is eager - -

John is eager to please.

John pleases smb. - -

  1. The componential analysis belongs to the sphere of traditional grammar and essentially consists of ‘parsing’, i.e. sentence-member analysis that is often based on the distributional qualities of different parts of speech, which sometimes leads to confusion.

E.g. My friend received a letter yesterday. (A+S+P+O+AM)

His task is to watch. (A+S+V)

His task is to settle all matters. (A+S+V+A+O)

The described model of immediate constituents has two basic versions. The first is known as the "analytical IC-diagrarn", the second, as the "IС-derivation tree". The analytical IC-diagram commonly shows the groupings of sentence constituents by means of vertical and horizontal lines.







ME NP-pro












*S – sentence

*NP-subj – subject noun-phrase, VP-pred – predicate verb-phrase

*net – determiner

*NP – noun-phrase

*D (DP) – adverbial (phrase)

*VP – verb-phrase

*AP (A) – adjective-attribute constituent

*N – noun constituent

*V, Vf – finite verb

*NP-obj – object noun-phrase

*prep – preposition [3]


Building up the "model of immediate constituents" is a particular kind of analysis which consists in dividing the sentence into two groups: the subject group and the predicate group, which, in their turn, are divided into their subgroup constituents according to the successive subordinative order of the constituents. The main advantage of the IC-model is that it exposes the binary hierarchical principle of subordinative connection. The widely used version of the IC-model is the "IC-derivation tree". It shows the groupings of sentence constituents by means of branching nodes: the nodes symbolize phrase-categories as unities, while the branches mark their division into constituents.


  1. Блох, М.Я. Теоретическая грамматика английского языка, под ред. Маненок, И.С. [Текст] – М.: «Высшая Школа», – 1982

  2. Theoretical Grammar Of English [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа: http://allrefs.net/c1/4akkq/p6/

  3. Immediate constituent analysis [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immediate_constituent_analysis

  4. IC-model [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа: http://dahliasagucio.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/immediate-constituent-analysis-ic/

  5. Constituent (linguistics) [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа: http://pediaview.com/openpedia/Constituent_(linguistics)

  6. Theoretical Grammar Of English [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа: http://www.studsell.com/view/2604/10000

  7. Theoretical Grammar Of English [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа: http://www.BiblioFond.ru/view.aspx?id=444934

Краткое описание документа:

The model of immediate constituents is based on the group-parsing of the sentence which has been developed by traditional grammar together with the sentence-part parsing scheme. It consists in dividing the whole of the sentence into two groups: that of the subject and that of the predicate, which, in their turn, are divided into their sub-group constituents according to the successive subordinative order of the latter. Profiting by this type of analysis, the IC-model explicitly exposes the binary hierarchical principle of subordinative connections, showing the whole structure of the sentence as made up by binary immediate constituents. As for equipotent (coordinative) connections, these are, naturally, non-binary, but, being of a more primitive character than subordinative connections, they are included in the analysis as possible inner subdivisions of subordinative connections [1].
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