Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trees and diagrams

I've had reason to draw some Reed-Kellogg diagrams lately. If you've never heard of these, you can learn straight from the original source, thanks to the magic of Google books. Click on the following to get more:

You end up with diagrams that look like this:

I found a useful tool that will draw these for your automatically, and it generally does a remarkably good job. Unfortunately, when it doesn't, or if you simply don't like the way it parses your sentence, there's no easy method for changing things, so you've either got to do some clever image editing or you're back to the start.

Modern linguists generally don't use Reed-Kellogg diagrams, preferring syntax trees, which look like this:
There's also a nice tool for these, which is generally quite flexible. It even lets you do subscripts like this:
The only problem is that I like to include both a function and a category in my trees, and there appears to be no way to turn off the subscript format, so you end up with stuff like this:
You can see that instead of Objdir:NP, you get Objdir:NP. If anybody knows how to fix this, I'd be much obliged.

More on sentence diagramming from Dave Barry: "Ask Mr Language Person":
Q: Please explain how to diagram a sentence.
A: First spread the sentence out on a clean, flat surface, such as an ironing board. Then, using a sharp pencil or X-Acto knife, locate the "predicate," which indicates where the action has taken place and is usually located directly behind the gills. For example, in the sentence: "LaMont never would of bit a forest ranger," the action probably took place in a forest. Thus your diagram would be shaped like a little tree with branches sticking out of it to indicate the locations of the various particles of speech such as your gerunds, proverbs, adjutants, etc.
Q: I don't have an ironing board.
A: Well then forget it.


strangeguitars said...

Why not just use something other than subscripts?

[Clause [Head:VP [give]] [ObjInd:NP [him]] [ObjDir:NP [Specifier:D [the]] [Head:N [book]]]]

Brett said...

Yes, that's what I've done. but it would be nice to take advantage of the subscripts. It would also be nice to have the function and categories on separate lines, but I can't do that either.