Selectional restrictions

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Selectional restrictions are the semantic restrictions that a word imposes on the environment in which it occurs.


a verb like eat requires that its subject refers to an animate entity and its object to something concrete. A violation of the selectional restrictions of a word results in anomaly: in the mountain eats sincerity both restrictions are violated, rendering the sentence anomalous. The question whether selectional restrictions should be treated in syntax or semantics, or even outside grammar, as a matter of knowledge of the world, has been a point of debate.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Chomsky, N. 1965. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
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