Tuesday, October 18, 2011


phpSyntax is a handy online resource that allows you to draw tree diagrams.

Through a very simple interface, you are asked to enter your syntactic strings. The example given is

[S [NP phpSyntaxTree][VP [V creates][NP nice syntax trees]]]

The interface tells you if you have closed as many brackets as you have opened, and if you have then you can ask it to draw your tree diagram. The example here produces:

The options offered for the drawing are:
Font Type - Font Size - Colour (or b/w) - Smooth Lines (look better on screen) - Auto subscript (to number each token) - Triangles (or open boxes).
So, for example, from this input:
[S [NP [Det The] [NP [Adj quick] [Adj brown] [N fox] ]][VP [VP [Aux V1][V jump] [Adv over]][NP [Det the] [NP [Adj lazy] [N dog]]]]]
all the different choices produce this image:

I know I am not the world's number one fan for syntactic approaches to language (just look at this blog), but sometimes you just have to work this way and I like the great results offered by this programme. (All images are png and so can be used in a variety of programmes). But don't just take my word for it. Latest figures tell me that nearly 120,000 graphs have been drawn since November 2003. It is also possible to download the code and set up the program yourself (or with a little help, as I had) online or using a virtual php server. Thanks to Mei Eisenbach for the idea and linguistic guidance and to André Eisenbach for coding & design.

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