Descriptive framework

The Pelican grammar uses a descriptive framework that is based on immediate constituency (IC). Syntactic structures are described in terms of immediate constituents, i.e. larger syntactic units (for example sentences) are broken down into successively smaller units until the level of the individual words is reached. All constituents are labelled for their function and their category. Thus the labelling holds information both about the syntactic characteristics of a single descriptive unit which it shares with other units of the same kind (syntactic category), and about the semantico-syntactic role in a larger linguistic structure (function).

Syntactic categories are of one of the following three types: word, phrase and clause/sentence.
A word may consist of a single lexical item of a combination of lexical items. In the latter case we speak of a multi-word. Words may be grouped together in word classes. Words that belong to different word classes (i.e. have multiple class-membership) are said to be lexically ambiguous.
A phrase is a constituent which can be identified on the basis of the word class membership of at least one of its constituent words, whereas a sentence or clause is identifiable on the basis of the relations holding among its immediate constituents.

Major phrase types are noun phrase, adjective phrase, adverb phrase, verb phrase and prepositional phrase. All of these, with the exception of the prepositional phrase which is considered an exocentric construction, are endocentric constructions in which there is one obligatory (functional) constituent, the head, while other constituents are optional.