Saturday, June 6, 2009
I recently saw a KFC ad that gave me pause: Mix it in your bucket. Why is "mix" highlighted? My guess is that their ad campaign consists of a number of similar slogans, with the initial verb highlighted. Okay, so why did this strike me as odd? Because "it in your bucket" isn't a constituent. A syntactic constituent is, narrowly, a group of words which is entirely and exhaustively dominated by a single node, i.e., there is some syntactic node which dominates all of and only that group of words. More practically the domination doesn't have to be exhaustive: we could certainly say that "mix it" is a constituent, even though the IP node also dominates "in your bucket". But "it in your bucket"? Not even close. The most general parsing of the sentences would be [mix it][in your bucket], and most narrowly would be [[mix [it]][in [your [bucket]]]]. There's no way to derive a constituent "it in your bucket".