Let’s Diagram the Oath of Office!
Posted by Neal on January 20, 2013
Just in time for tomorrow’s inauguration ceremony, but a little bit late for the actual swearing in that took place today, here is the presidential oath of office, as written in the Constitution, put into a tree diagram just for you! Over the years, I’ve used the PHP Syntax Tree Drawer to make my diagrams, but a couple of years ago, Miles Shang’s Syntax Tree Generator came online, so now I have two phrase-diagramming apps to choose from. I couldn’t decide which one to use this time, so I chose both! Now you can decide which style you prefer. Here’s the diagram from the PHP Tree Drawer, with the familiar blue labels and red words you’ve come to love, and the top node of the tree centered horizontally. Click to embiggen.
Now here’s the diagram done with Shang’s Tree Generator, with blue node labels and green words. The top node of the diagram, like all the nodes in the tree, dominates branches of equal length, instead of making one branch reach much farther than the other, as you can see happens with the diagram above. Another nice thing about Shang’s Tree Generator is that it allows you to draw movement lines, so that if your theory of syntax has WH words actually moving from a place inside a clause to the front of the sentence (for a WH-fronting language like English), you can do that. On the other hand, the PHP Tree Drawer makes it easier to put subscripts on the labels. Look closely at my VP labels, and you’ll see that in the upper diagram, they’re subscripted to show whether they are nonfinite (headed by a verb’s base form in this sentence) or finite, but no such subscripts appear in the diagram below.
If you want to try out these apps yourself, here’s the string I used to generate the tree for both of them:
[Clause_fin [NP [Pron I]] [VP_fin [Aux do] [VP_base [Adv solemnly] [VP_base [V_base [V_base swear] [Conj or] [V_base affirm]] [Clause_that [Comp that] [Clause_fin [NP [Pron I]] [VP_fin [VP_fin [Aux will] [VP_base [Adv faithfully] [VP_base [V_base execute] [NP [Det the] [Nom [N Office] [PP [P of] [NP [N President] [PP [P of] [NP [Det the] [Nom [Adj United] [N States]]]]]]]]]]] [Conj and] [VP_fin [Aux will] [VP_base [PP [P to] [NP [Det the] [Nom best [PP [P of] [NP [Det my] [N ability]]]]]] [VP_base [V_base [V_base preserve] [V_base protect] [Conj and] [V_base defend]] [NP [Det the] [Nom [N Constitution] ][PP [P of] [NP [Det the] [Nom [Adj United] [N States]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]
In particular, you might not agree with how I’ve parsed the adverbs. For example, I’ve taken faithfully to attach to the entire VP execute the Office of President of the United States, but you could also make a case that it attaches just to the verb execute, and that this string then forms the VP with the Office of President of the United States. And as we were reminded in 2009, adverbs have some flexibility in where they can be placed in a sentence, so you could even experiment with diagramming faithfully execute the Office…; execute faithfully the Office…; and execute the Office … faithfully. Have fun!