In linguistics, a phrase is called a syntactic unit, completed and " maximum " (as opposed to units to which supplements still missing) the. It is a special case of a constituent. The usual in the Germanic tradition term phrase usually refers to phrases, but is narrower in scope, because it is applied only to movable units in the sentence.

The precise definition of the phrase differs, depending on which theory of grammar will be used. In some Konstituentengrammatiken example, individual words are counted among the phrases if they require any further supplements while Dependenzgrammatiken recognize a syntactic unit only as a phrase, if it consists of more than one word.

A general theory of the phrase structure is aimed from the X -bar theory.


The following theorem is the starting point:

The following combinations of words in the sentence are referred to by most grammars as phrases:

Many grammars would also refer to the following combination of words as a phrase:

In each of these phrases, the head ( or root ) of the phrase is in italics. The head of a phrase determines the syntactic category of the entire phrase. When the head of a phrase is a noun phrase is a noun phrase; when the head of a phrase is an adjective, the phrase is an adjective phrase, etc.

But phrases are not always parts of a sentence. For example, in the above sentence, the AP no long phrase. The essential feature of a set member is that it can be moved. Since the AP is too long can not be moved, it is not a member of a sentence: * Too long we drove very quickly to the lake after the party. Furthermore, it should be noted here that all the examples from at least two words exist. Some grammars - for example, building on the X -bar theory - would both we and sea as phrases recognize because we are seen as subject of the sentence and lake as the object of a preposition.

Phrases in phrase structure grammars

The phrase term is mainly associated with the phrase structure grammars ( = Konstituentengrammatiken ). Sets can be disassembled, and many of the constituents that arise in the course of the decomposition, are phrases. These phrases are given in the specification tree ... P, eg

This tree shows only one of the possible analysis of the sentence. In the present context it is relevant that each of the above phrases is identified in the tree by the ... P as a phrase. But there is also an additional word combination (not above but ) is specified as a phrase in the tree here, namely the finite verb phrase, we are very quickly down to the lake.

Possible disagreement regarding this tree could affect the individual words. As mentioned above, some Konstituentengrammatiken the sentence would look at more of the individual words as phrases. In the tree, however, here only those word combinations are considered phrases that consist of more than one word, which is more like the traditional use of the word " phrase ".

Phrases in the Dependency

During the phrases term originally the phrase structure grammars ( = Konstituentengrammatiken ) comes from, he is quite applicable to dependenzgrammatische structures. In the tree of the phrase structure grammar above, each subtree is a phrase that consists of more than one word. In this sense, the trees of dependency grammar also contain phrases:

This tree again shows only one of the possible dependenzgrammatischen analysis of the sentence. Each sub-tree, which consists of more than one word, a phrase. In this tree, there are six phrases, and these six phrases are the same as those mentioned at the top. One of the differences between the trees, however, is that the Dependenzbaum the phrases not labeled with ... P ( the P stands for " preposition" ). However, a finite verb phrase is absent; the word combination we are very quickly drove to the lake is not considered here as a phrase because it does not form a complete subtree.