English, Modern Greek, and Spanish Phrase Structure Comparison

The following table lists some common syntactic structures. The first column describes the conceptual structure, showing its so-called head in red color. (The head is somehow the main character in the structure, while the rest gives further information, or modifies, the head.) Notice that conceptual structures are language-independent, hence there is no order assumed between the head and the rest; each specific language imposes a specific order (but I had to arrange textually the head and the rest in some order in that column, so I arbitrarily opted to put the head first). The following columns give examples in English, Modern Greek, and Spanish. The same phrase is translated in each language along each row, and heads are always marked in red. The reader may compare the placement of the head in relation to the rest in each case and language. The three columns titled “agreement” show whether there is an agreement between English vs. Greek, Greek vs. Spanish, and Spanish vs. English, regarding whether the head leads or trails the structure.


CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE English agreement En/Gr Modern Greek agreement Gr/Sp Spanish agreement Sp/En
verb direct object read the book   διαβάζω το βιβλίο   leo el libro
verb prepositional phrase hide under the table   κρύβομαι κάτω από το τραπέζι    me escondo debajo de la mesa
verb embedded clause think that he will win   νομίζω οτι θα νικήσει   creo que él ganará
verb personal pronoun gave me   μου έδωσε    me dio
verb pers. pron. (imperative) give me   δώσε μου    dame
verb modifying adverb walk quickly   περπατάω γρήγορα    camino rápidamente
adverb modifying adverb very quickly   πολύ γρήγορα    muy rápidamente
complementizer embedded clause that he will win   οτι θα νικήσει    que él ganará
auxiliary main verb have bought   έχω αγοράσει    he comprado
preposition related noun phrase in the house   μέσα στο σπίτι    en la casa
noun related prepositional phrase book under the table   βιβλίο κάτω από το τραπέζι    libro debajo de la mesa
noun modifying adjective red car   κόκκινο αυτοκίνητο    coche rojo
possessive pronoun related noun phrase my child   παιδί μου    mi hijo/hija
number related noun phrase three big bears   τρεις μεγάλες αρκούδες    tres osos grandes
tres grandes osos


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