The Phrase reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Phrase

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Informally, a phrase is a group of words in a sentence that functions somewhat like a single word.

For example the house at the end of the street (example 1) is a phrase. It acts like a noun. It contains the phrase at the end of the street (example 2), which acts like an adjective. Example 2 could be replaced by white, to make the phrase the white house. Examples 1 and 2 contain the phrase the end of the street (example 3) which acts like a noun. It could be replaced by the cross-roads to give the house at the cross-roads.

Each phrase has a word called its head which links it to the rest of the sentence. In English the head is often the first word of the phrase.

Phrases may be classified by the type of head they take

Table of contents
1 Formal definition
2 Complexity

Formal definition

A phrase is a syntactic structure which has syntactic properties derived from its head.

For example the house at the end of the street is a noun phrase. Its head is house, and its syntactic properties come from that fact. It contains prepositional phrase at the end of the street, which acts as an adjunct. At the end of the street could be replaced by another adjunct, such as white, to make the phrase the white house. Of the street, another prepositional phrase, acts as a complement of end. Each phrase has a word called its head which gives it its syntactic properties.

Complexity

A complex phrase consists of several words, whereas a simple phrase consists of only one word. This terminology is especially often used with verb phrases:

"Complex", which is phrase-level, is often confused with "compound", which is word-level.

See phrase structure rules, syntax, grammar.

See also: Proverb


As search item with regard to search features of search engines and other computer programs, a phrase is a sequence of words, as opposed to just a set of words.


In music the term phrase is used to refer to a section of music that is relatively self contained and coherent over a medium time scale. In common practice phrases are often four and most often eight barss, or measures, long. A rough analogy between musical phrases and the linguistic phrase (above) is often made, comparing the lowest phrase level to clauses and the highest to a complete sentence. Metrically, Edward Cone analyses the "typical musical phrase" as consisting of a "initial downbeat, a period of motion, and a point of arrival marked by a cadential downbeat," while Cooper and Meyer use only two or three pulse groups (strong-weak or strong-weak-weak) (DeLone et. al. (Eds.), 1975, chap. 3).

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