Immediate Constituent analysis aims at analysing each utterance into the smallest meaningful units possible. In this model, we begin by cutting the sentence into two natural divisions, and each of these is again cut into two, and this process of binary segmentation is continued, until we reach the smallest meaningful units, that is morphemes at the morphological level and words at the syntactic level. These units at the last level are called the ultimate constituents.

IC analysis helps us to discover how units are hierarchically layered in sentences, each lower-level unit or constituent being part of a higher level construction. Thus, a phrase or sentence (called a construction) is broken up into successive layer, each layer consisting of two constituents of the closest relationship.

Different methods are used for showing the immediate constituents. Some of these are given below.

Segmentation using vertical lines

Segmentation using brackets

Segmentation using a tree diagram

A sentence can also be represented by labelling various constituents. These labels are categorical or formal indicating the category to which each constituent belong. Functional labels like subject, predicate, object, etc. can be used to label the constituents. NP, VP, N, etc. are categorical or formal labels. Functional labels can show the relationships among the constituents which formal labels cannot. An NP, for instance, can function as subject or object. In terms of the functions of the constituents, constructions can be grouped into five types.

Structure of Coordination

In this case, the ICs in question are presented as coordinates. The structure of coordination consists of independent unit + coordinator + independent unit.

In this type of construction, we have non-binary cuts.

Structure of Predication

Predication is the relationship between a subject and a verb. A simple sentence has a single predication. A compound sentence has two or more predications connected by the structure of coordination. Structure of predication consists of subject + predicate.

Structure of Modification

Modification is the grammatical tie that exists between an adjective and its noun or a verb and its adverb. The structure of modification consists of a modifier + head (noun).

Structure of Subordination

This structure consists of a subordinator + dependent unit. This can consist of a preposition and its object or subordinating conjunction and its clause or a relative pronoun and its clause.

Structure of Complementation

Complementation has to do with the completing of the meaning of a verb. It consists of verbal + complement. Complementation can occur with a direct object, indirect object, objective complement, etc.

The constituents can also be labelled as belonging to different grammatical constituents like a noun phrase, verb phrase, adverbial and prepositional phrase.

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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.