X-bar theory = X-bar syntax


X-bar theory (= X-bar syntax) is a linguistic postulate according to which all phrases and sentences in languages are structured according to a certain (syntactic) model; this model can be made explicit through a linguistic analysis and consequently can be depicted graphically with the help of strictly hierarchical diagrams.

The X-bar theory was developed within generative (transformational) grammar. Its “generative” character is shown in that 1) all grammatically correct phrases or sentences are assumed to be structured according to certain principles (rules) and 2) all languages are assumed to have similar basic principles or rules.

Chomsky (1970) and Jackendoff (1977) are considered to be the founders of the X-bar theory.

Below is an example (see the end of the post for the explanations) of a phrase analyzed with the help of the X-bar theory.


X-bar theory conventions (terminology, abbreviations, and symbols/labelling):

  • X is the head (hence, X-bar) – the…

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