Network Grammar’s principles are enough to account for much of English syntax, exploding the myths of orthodox theory. The principles of Network Grammar are:

  • a mental network holds knowledge, innate and acquired
  • each node in the network is the locus of a unique concept
  • a concept is realised by progression along the paths fanning out from the node
  • proposition comprises three concepts
  • language knowledge is held as special types of proposition – words and rules
  • words and rules are connected by category nodes, of which there are probably thousands to enable a many-to-many relationship between phonological words and meanings, and to allow common words also to have idiomatic meanings
  • junction of two not-necessarily-adjacent words creates a proposition consisting of the two meanings joined by a syntactic/semantic relation
  • the words in a sentence are processed in left to right sequence, with junctions being identified by scanning backwards (right to left) from each word
  • each junction has one word as parent, the other as dependent
  • an incoming word brings activation the one-and-only time in the sentence it forms a dependent; a word may also act zero, one or more times as a parent in the sentence
  • a junction may form more than one incomplete proposition (therefore not immediately delivered to cognition), allowing completion as a result of a later junction in the left-to-right processing of the sentence; this is important for the correct allocation of words to argument roles
  • there is the possibility of a word’s category changing because of its participation in a proposition, thereby affecting the possibilities for its participation in later propositions; important for the correct allocation of words to adjunct roles.

You can explore the posts below but, be warned, some of them are currently being reworked in the interests of clarity.

NG1. Why Noam Chomsky should read this blog

56 years is a long time for doing something.  Beethoven’s age at death.  And Hitler’s.  But modern linguistics, born of Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures, is now… Read more


NG2. What does sentence structure signify?

This is the first substantive piece for LanguidSlog.  It’s quite short and should be easy for the reader.  Books on syntax typically jump straight into… Read more


NG3. What would be in a sentence structure?

Last time we looked at how sentence structure could participate in production or comprehension.  For that to happen it must exist somehow in the mental… Read more

Motice and tenon

NG4. How could a sentence structure be formed?

LanguidSlog 3 outlined the items needed in a sentence structure.  It was rather long but not too difficult to follow, I hope.  This one is… Read more

Phrenology head for architecture

NG5. Mental architecture

Transient-items-with-pointers (from the analogy with computer software in the last piece) would be a blatant straw-man if it misrepresented existing theories.  But no theory really… Read more

NG6. A transformation for grammar

Are any real syntacticians following Network Grammar?  If so, most are about to become alienated.  I hope that, for at least a few, the alienation… Read more

Scrabble - language knowledge

NG7. Language knowledge

I have no quarrel with the idea that a language user has a mental ‘lexicon’.  But I am impatient that no linguist has satisfactorily defined… Read more

Bubbles rising

NG8. Cognitive effect

Last time we looked at how a word-word junction delivers an atom of meaning to cognition.  This time we’ll see how the set of junctions… Read more

NG7x. Comments on NG7

This unscheduled post contains my responses to several points in a comment on NG7 by HK.  I’ve also included responses to points about anaphor binding… Read more

Boyhood of Raleigh

NG9. The universal data structure

NG7 claimed that all knowledge is held in the mind as propositions, each linking three concepts.  I can offer no supporting neuroscience.  Instead this piece… Read more

Mind the network

NG10. Knowledge in the mind is both program and data

We’ve said that the sharing of a concept between multiple propositions means propositions exist in a network.  After illustrating the idea, this piece shows that,… Read more

Leibnitz Medal

NG11. First principles of Network Grammar

At last we start deploying NG systematically to analyse sentences.  In this piece we look at NG’s first big assumption.  A sentence is processed in… Read more

Emperor with Poppaea

NG12. Parsing sentences with ditransitive verbs

This week we analyse sentence (5) junction by junction, showing that the correct predicate-argument propositions are delivered in a single pass. Read more


NG13. Displaying a parse

This week a format is developed for analysing sentences using NG.  Processing is shown step by step, highlighting where meaning is delivered.  The approach is… Read more

Languid Slog

NG14. Varying the sequence of theta roles

This piece looks at sequences in which the arguments of a three-place predicate can appear in an English sentence.  This leads to an improvement in… Read more

Languid Slog

NG15. Actives and passives

We finish off declaratives that use the present/continuous forms of give and also look at passives.  Most of the possible sentences are listed.  Not all… Read more

Noam Chomsky

NG16. What is linguistics for?

The last several Network Grammar posts have looked microscopically at sentences.  This time we widen the focus to show how use of NG should relate… Read more

NG17. Finite verbs

Network Grammar has shown that a workable analysis for active and passive declaratives with (auxiliary)__(give participle) is possible without assuming the mind is controlled by… Read more

Languid Slog

NG18. Non-alternating ditransitives

We move away from give and analyse sentences with other ditransitives, ones that allow either the to-dative or the double-object form but not both. Read more


NG19. Interrogatives – polar and pro-adverb

NG analysis is now applied to yes/no questions and to questions with how, why, when, where etc – i.e. where the answer would be an… Read more

William Hartnell - Doctor Who

NG20. Interrogatives – pronoun (1)

Compared with those discussed in NG19, interrogatives with who or what are much more puzzling.  The following analyses concentrate on the pronoun who, which can… Read more

Bristol Hercules engine

NG21. Mechanisms

Network Grammar’s sentence analyses are quite subtle.  A casual reader may feel that too much must be taken on trust.  Completing the discussion of WHO-interrogatives… Read more

Patrick Troughton

NG22. Interrogatives – pronoun (2)

We continue the NG analysis of WHO-interrogatives by discussing actives with a pre-verb noun. Read more

John Pertwee as Doctor Who

NG23. Interrogatives – pronoun (3)

This week completes the NG analysis of WHO-interrogatives by discussing passives with a pre-verb noun. Read more

Give up

NG24. Behaviour of ‘give up’

In the sentences already seen, a particle can follow the give form.  Depending on the sentence, the particle can appear in one particular place, or… Read more

NG25. Semantics of ‘give up’

NG24 summarised the empirical behaviour of give up.  This time we look for an explanation of the varied semantic effects.  Lexicon-driven sentence processing could account… Read more

NG26. Syntax of ‘give up’ (1)

The interplay of particle up with verb give and its arguments and possibly an adjunct present a big challenge.  NG’s solution must explain all the… Read more

NG27. Syntax of ‘give up’ (2)

This week we apply NG26’s extended model.  Tabular analyses for typical declaratives are shown.  Also included are some sentences that are similar but have up… Read more

NG28. Points on word-order

Even without inflection, English has some flexibility in the order of predicate and arguments. Recent Network Grammar pieces have shown that there is less than… Read more

NG29. Syntax of ‘give up’ (3)

We’ve already looked at give…up in declaratives.  Now is the turn of who-interrogatives. To keep some momentum we’ll skip polar and pro-adverb interrogatives.  You could… Read more

Up Up

NG30. Disambiguating particle and preposition forms (1)

In the last several Network Grammar pieces we’ve simply assumed up to be a particle.  It can of course be a preposition instead.  Indeed in… Read more

NG31. Disambiguating particle and preposition forms (2)

This completes Network Grammar’s review of particle/preposition ambiguity.  One conclusion is that, in some circumstances, NG must deliver alternative propositions and leave cognition to determine… Read more

NG32. No other theory can model sentence processing in the mind

An eminent prof has risen to the challenge of Network Grammar.  Lots of emails have gone to and fro.  I’m encouraged that the blog is… Read more

NG33. Coordination before the verb

This and several following posts look at sentences with coordination, most using explicit and.  Incremental processing, as previously described, readily adapts to sentences with AGENT,… Read more

NG34. Coordination after the verb (1)

Coordination post-verb presents a different set of problems.  Before starting to look at what is possible and what not, this post presents some final thoughts… Read more

ellipsis cow

NG35. Ellipsis in coordination

In previous posts we’ve looked at how AGENT, THEME and GOAL may encompass more than one noun and also at multiple pairings of THEME +… Read more

Battle of Waterloo

NG36. Re-use of argument structure

NG35 proposed that, after delivery of propositions from the first clause, the set of propositions for the verb is carried forward but with activation and… Read more


NG37. Ambiguity after the conjunction

More problems are thrown up by coordination.  This time the tricky sentences are undeniably grammatical and an extension to NG’s range of mechanisms is needed. Read more

NG38. Coordination after the verb (2)

This post picks up where NG34 left off.  The essential point is that sentences only need to be treated as multi-clause where subjects or verbs… Read more


NG39. Language acquisition (1)

This week we start looking at how language knowledge is acquired.  Readers should revisit NG7 to NG10 to ensure they understand what the blog means… Read more

Teddy bear

NG40. Language acquisition (2)

With its word count pushing beyond 1000, last week’s post had to finish with a question about how a word proposition gets the appropriate C… Read more

Identifying junctions

NG41. Identifying junctions (1)

Network Grammar has been showing how a sentence may be processed assuming that junctions within the sentence can be identified as it unfolds, left to… Read more

NG42. Identifying junctions (2)

At the end of last week’s post we asked ‘How can the sequence aaa-then-bbb be correctly identified as parent-then-dependent or as dependent-then-parent?’  The answer is… Read more

NG43. Centre embedding and cross-serial dependencies

Established syntacticians will dismiss NG unless it can be shown to deal with tricky phenomena found in some Germanic and other languages (but not in… Read more

Mary Queen of Scots

NG44. Noun phrases (1)

Network Grammar has slogged for nearly 10 months analysing sentences with one-word arguments – Nero, apples etc.  We now look at multi-word noun phrases and… Read more


NG45. Noun phrases (2)

NG44 showed how noun phrases must be fully analysed to find the head that forms a junction with a word elsewhere in the sentence.  This… Read more

NG46. Ambiguity (1)

A correspondent has challenged NG for being apparently deterministic (see NG42), delivering a single meaning for a sentence, with one left-to-right pass and no memory… Read more


NG47. Ambiguity (2)

Network Grammar has been asked how it would deal with the following sentences. (173) An off-duty officer warned of a potential war between rival biker… Read more

Pancake v Moon

NG48. Nouns and their referents

Yet another challenge for Network Grammar: (179) The claim was withdrawn (180) The claim that the moon is a pancake was withdrawn (181) The claim… Read more


NG49. Nesting relative clauses

We continue looking at the sentences: (179) The claim was withdrawn (180) The claim that the moon is a pancake was withdrawn (181) The claim… Read more

Storm on the Sea of Galilee

NG50. Network Grammar is not a finite state machine

It’s encouraging that none of those who have kindly commented on Network Grammar seem able to answer the objections to mainstream generative grammar set out… Read more


NG51. Attaching simple adverbs (1)

Attachment of adjuncts is a large and complex part of syntax.  This piece applies NG analysis to show how simple sentences can incorporate simple adverbs. … Read more


NG52. Attaching simple adverbs (2)

We look at coordinated objects with different adverbs applying to each, and at adverbs before the verb. Read more


NG53. Attaching simple adverbs (3)

Differences in AGENT attitude may be expressed where the relevant nouns are coordinated.  This piece discusses what is possible. Also yesterday and probably, which behave… Read more

NG54. Attaching preposition phrases

Recent Network Grammar pieces showed how attachment of simple adverbs can be explained by NG. A crucial point was that the C (category) concept for… Read more

NG55. Sentence production

So far Network Grammar has focused exclusively on comprehension.  This piece looks briefly at production.  It concludes that NG’s progression-through-network approach can represent not only… Read more

NG56. Blue skies

Among the teases of NG1 was ‘computable meaning’.  On Google the phrase barely registers so there is little risk in giving it the following definition: … Read more

Guy Fawkes

NG57. Network Grammar: so far, so good

Yes, this is number 57 of the 57 pieces promised in NG1.  The number was arbitrary, chosen for rhetorical effect and because I needed a… Read more