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Lectures in Theoretical Grammar

by ass. prof. L.M.Volkova,

National Linguistic University of Kiev

List of books:

1. B.Ilyish. The Structure of Modern English.

2. M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar.

3. E.Morokhovskaya. Fundamentals of Theoretical Grammar.

4. И.П.Иванова, В.В.Бурлакова, Г.Г.Почепцов. Теоретическая грамматика современного англ. яз..

5. Methods Guides.

LECTURE 1(2): THE SCOPE OF THEORETICAL GRAMMAR.

BASIC LINGUISTIC NOTIONS.

1.Theoretical grammar and its subject.

Man is not well defined as “Homo sapiens” (“man with wisdom”). For what do we mean by wisdom? It has not been proved so far that animals do not possess it. Those of you who have pets can easily prove the contrary. Most recently anthropologists have started defining human beings as “man the toolmaker”. However, apes can also make primitive tools. What sets man apart from the rest of animal kingdom is his ability to speak: he is can easily object by saying that animals can also speak Homo loquens” – “man the speaking animal”. And again, you, naturally, in their own way. But their sounds are meaningless, and there is no link between sound and meaning (or if there is, it is of a very primitive kind) and the link for man is grammar. Only with the help of grammar we can combine words to form sentences and texts. Man is not merely Homo loquens, he is Homo Grammaticus.

The term “grammar” goes back to a Greek word that may be translated as the “art of writing”. But later this word acquired a much wider sense and came to embrace the whole study of language. Now it is often used as the synonym of linguistics. A question comes immediately to mind: what does this study involve?

Grammar may be practical and theoretical. The aim of practical grammar is the description of grammar rules that are necessary to understand and formulate sentences. The aim of theoretical grammar is to offer explanation for these rules. Generally speaking, theoretical grammar deals with the language as a functional system.

2. General principles of grammatical analysis.

According to the Bible: ‘In the beginning was the Word’. In fact, the word is considered to be the central (but not the only) linguistic unit (одиниця) of language. Linguistic units (or in other words – signs) can go into three types of relations:

  1. The relation between a unit and an object in the world around us (objective reality). E.g. the word ‘table’ refers to a definite piece of furniture. It may be not only an object but a process, state, quality, etc.

This type of meaning is called referential meaning of a unit. It is semantics that studies the referential meaning of units.

  1. The relation between a unit and other units (inner relations between units). No unit can be used independently; it serves as an element in the system of other units. This kind of meaning is called syntactic. Formal relation of units to one another is studied by syntactics (or syntax).

  2. The relation between a unit and a person who uses it. As we know too well, when we are saying something, we usually have some purpose in mind. We use the language as an instrument for our purpose (e.g.). One and the same word or sentence may acquire different meanings in communication. This type of meaning is called pragmatic. The study of the relationship between linguistic units and the users of those units is done by pragmatics.

Thus there are three models of linguistic description: semantic, syntactic and pragmatic. To illustrate the difference between these different ways of linguistic analysis, let us consider the following sentence: Students are students.

The first part of the XXth century can be characterized by a formal approach to the language study. Only inner (syntactic) relations between linguistic units served the basis for linguistic analysis while the reference of words to the objective reality and language users were actually not considered. Later, semantic language analysis came into use. However, it was surely not enough for a detailed language study. Language certainly figures centrally in our lives. We discover our identity as individuals and social beings when we acquire it during childhood. It serves as a means of cognition and communication: it enables us to think for ourselves and to cooperate with other people in our community. Therefore, the pragmatic side of the language should not be ignored either. Functional approach in language analysis deals with the language ‘in action’. Naturally, in order to get a broad description of the language, all the three approaches must be combined.

3. General characteristics of language as a functional system.

Any human language has two main functions: the communicative function and the expressive or representative function – human language is the living form of thought. These two functions are closely interrelated as the expressive function of language is realized in the process of speech communication.

The expressive function of language is performed by means of linguistic signs and that is why we say that language is a semiotic system. It means that linguistic signs are of semiotic nature: they are informative and meaningful. There are other examples of semiotic systems but all of them are no doubt much simpler. For instance, traffic lights use a system of colours to instruct drivers and people to go or to stop. Some more examples: Code Morse, Brighton Alphabet, computer languages, etc. What is the difference between language as a semiotic system and other semiotic systems? Language is universal, natural, it is used by all members of society while any other sign systems are artificial and depend on the sphere of usage.

4. Notions of ‘system’ and ‘structure’. General characteristics of linguistic units.

Language is regarded as a system of elements (or: signs, units) such as sounds, words, etc. These elements have no value without each other, they depend on each other, they exist only in a system, and they are nothing without a system. System implies the characterization of a complex object as made up of separate parts (e.g. the system of sounds). Language is a structural system. Structure means hierarchical layering of parts in `constituting the whole. In the structure of language there are four main structural levels: phonological, morphological, syntactical and supersyntatical. The levels are represented by the corresponding level units:

The phonological level is the lowest level. The phonological level unit is the`phoneme. It is a distinctive unit (bag – back).

The morphological level has two level units:

  1. the `morpheme – the lowest meaningful unit (teach – teacher);

  2. the word - the main naming (`nominative) unit of language.

The syntactical level has two level units as well:

  1. the word-group – the dependent syntactic unit;

  2. the sentence – the main communicative unit.

The supersyntactical level has the text as its level unit.

All structural levels are subject matters of different levels of linguistic analysis. At different levels of analysis we focus attention on different features of language. Generally speaking, the larger the units we deal with, the closer we get to the actuality of people’s experience of language.

To sum it up, each level has its own system. Therefore, language is regarded as a system of systems. The level units are built up in the same way and that is why the units of a lower level serve the building material for the units of a higher level. This similarity and likeness of organization of linguistic units is called isomorphism. This is how language works – a small number of elements at one level can enter into thousands of different combinations to form units at the other level.

We have arrived at the conclusion that the notions of system and structure are not synonyms – any system has its own structure (compare: the system of Ukrainian education vs. the structure of Ukrainian education; army organization).

Any linguistic unit is a double entity. It unites a concept and a sound image. The two elements are intimately united and each recalls the other. Accordingly, we distinguish the content side and the expression side. The forms of linguistic units bear no natural resemblance to their meaning. The link between them is a matter of convention, and conventions differ radically across languages. Thus, the English word ‘dog’ happens to denote a particular four-footed domesticated creature, the same creature that is denoted in Ukrainian by the completely different form. Neither form looks like a dog, or sounds like one.

LECTURE 2: BASIC LINGUISTIC NOTIONS.

5. Language and speech.

The distinction between language and speech was made by Ferdinand de Saussure, the Swiss scholar usually credited with establishing principles of modern linguistics. Language is a collective body of knowledge, it is a set of basic elements, but these elements can form a great variety of combinations. In fact the number of these combinations is endless. Speech is closely connected with language, as it is the result of using the language, the result of a definite act of speaking. Speech is individual, personal while language is common for all individuals. To illustrate the difference between language and speech let us compare a definite game of chess and a set of rules how to play chess.

Language is opposed to speech and accordingly language units are opposed to speech units. The language unit phoneme is opposed to the speech unit – sound: phoneme /s/ can sound differently in speech - /s/ and /z/). The sentence is opposed to the utterance; the text is opposed to the discourse.

6.Systemic relations in language. Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic relations. A linguistic unit can enter into relations of two different kinds. It enters into paradigmatic relations with all the units that can also occur in the same environment. PR are relations based on the principles of similarity. They exist between the units that can substitute one another. For instance, in the word-group A PINT OF MILK the word PINT is in paradigmatic relations with the words bottle, cup, etc. The article A can enter into PR with the units the, this, one, same, etc. According to different principles of similarity PR can be of three types: semantic, formal and functional.

  1. Semantic PR are based on the similarity of meaning: a book to read = a book for reading. He used to practice English every day – He would practice English every day.

  2. Formal PR are based on the similarity of forms. Such relations exist between the members of a paradigm: man – men; play – played – will play – is playing.

  3. Functional PR are based on the similarity of function. They are established between the elements that can occur in the same position. For instance, noun determiners: a, the, this, his, Ann’s, some, each, etc.

PR are associated with the sphere of ‘language’.

A linguistic unit enters into syntagmatic relations with other units of the same level it occurs with. SR exist at every language level. E.g. in the word-group A PINT OF MILK the word PINT contrasts SR with A, OF, MILK; within the word PINT – P, I, N and T are in syntagmatic relations. SR are linear relations, that is why they are manifested in speech. They can be of three different types: coordinate, subordinate and predicative.

  1. Coordinate SR exist between the homogeneous linguistic units that are equal in rank, that is, they are the relations of independence: you and me; They were tired but happy.

  2. Subordinate SR are the relations of dependence when one linguistic unit depends on the other: teach + er – morphological level; a smart student – word-group level; predicative and subordinate clauses – sentence level.

  3. Predicative SR are the relations of interdependence: primary and secondary predication.

As mentioned above, SR may be observed in utterances, which is impossible when we deal with PR. Therefore, PR are identified with ‘language’ while SR are identified with ‘speech’.

7. General characteristics of the grammatical structure of language.

The grammatical structure of language is a system of means used to turn linguistic units into communicative ones, in other words – the units of language into the units of speech. Such means are inflexions, affixation, word order, function words and phonological means.

Generally speaking, Indo-European languages are classified into two structural types – synthetic and analytic. Synthetic languages are defined as ones of ‘internal’ grammar of the word – most of grammatical meanings and grammatical relations of words are expressed with the help of inflexions (Ukrainian - зроблю, Russian, Latin, etc). Analytical languages are those of ‘external’ grammar because most grammatical meanings and grammatical forms are expressed with the help of words (will do). However, we cannot speak of languages as purely synthetic or analytic – the English language (Modern English) possesses analytical forms as prevailing, while in the Ukrainian language synthetic devices are dominant. In the process of time English has become more analytical as compared to Old English. Analytical changes in Modern English (especially American) are still under way.

8. Morphology and syntax as two parts of linguistic description.

As the word is the main unit of traditional grammatical theory, it serves the basis of the distinction which is frequently drawn between morphology and syntax. Morphology deals with the internal structure of words, peculiarities of their grammatical categories and their semantics while traditional syntax deals with the rules governing combination of words in sentences (and texts in modern linguistics). We can therefore say that the word is the main unit of morphology.

It is difficult to arrive at a one-sentence definition of such a complex linguistic unit as the word. First of all, it is the main expressive unit of human language which ensures the thought-forming function of the language. It is also the basic nominative unit of language with the help of which the naming function of language is realized. As any linguistic sign the word is a level unit. In the structure of language it belongs to the upper stage of the morphological level. It is a unit of the sphere of ‘language’ and it exists only through its speech actualization. One of the most characteristic features of the word is its indivisibility. As any other linguistic unit the word is a bilateral entity. It unites a concept (поняття, ідея) and a sound image and thus has two sides – the content and expression sides (план змісту та план вислову): concept and sound form.

LECTURE 3: GRAMMATICAL MEANING.

GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIES.

  1. The notion of ‘grammatical meaning’.

The word combines in its semantic structure two meanings – lexical and grammatical. Lexical meaning is the individual meaning of the word (e.g. table). Grammatical meaning is the meaning of the whole class or a subclass. For example, the class of nouns has the grammatical meaning of thingness. If we take a noun (table) we may say that it possesses its individual lexical meaning (it corresponds to a definite piece of furniture) and the grammatical meaning of thingness (this is the meaning of the whole class). Besides, the noun ‘table’ has the grammatical meaning of a subclass – countableness. Any verb combines its individual lexical meaning with the grammatical meaning of verbiality – the ability to denote actions or states. An adjective combines its individual lexical meaning with the grammatical meaning of the whole class of adjectives – qualitativeness – the ability to denote qualities. Adverbs possess the grammatical meaning of adverbiality – the ability to denote quality of qualities.

There are some classes of words that are devoid of any lexical meaning and possess the grammatical meaning only. This can be explained by the fact that they have no referents in the objective reality. All function words belong to this group – articles, particles, prepositions, etc.

  1. Types of grammatical meaning.

The grammatical meaning may be explicit and implicit. The implicit grammatical meaning is not expressed formally (e.g. the word table does not contain any hints in its form as to it being inanimate). The explicit grammatical meaning is always marked morphologically – it has its marker. In the word cats the grammatical meaning of plurality is shown in the form of the noun; cat’s – here the grammatical meaning of possessiveness is shown by the form ‘s; is asked – shows the explicit grammatical meaning of passiveness.

The implicit grammatical meaning may be of two types – general and dependent. The general grammatical meaning is the meaning of the whole word-class, of a part of speech (e.g. nouns – the general grammatical meaning of thingness). The dependent grammatical meaning is the meaning of a subclass within the same part of speech. For instance, any verb possesses the dependent grammatical meaning of transitivity/intransitivity, terminativeness/non-terminativeness, stativeness/non-stativeness; nouns have the dependent grammatical meaning of contableness/uncountableness and animateness/inanimateness. The most important thing about the dependent grammatical meaning is that it influences the realization of grammatical categories restricting them to a subclass. Thus the dependent grammatical meaning of countableness/uncountableness influences the realization of the grammatical category of number as the number category is realized only within the subclass of countable nouns, the grammatical meaning of animateness/inanimateness influences the realization of the grammatical category of case, teminativeness/non-terminativeness - the category of tense, transitivity/intransitivity – the category of voice.

GRAMMATICAL MEANING

EXPLICIT IMPLICIT

GENERAL DEPENDENT

  1. Grammatical categories.

Grammatical categories are made up by the unity of identical grammatical meanings that have the same form (e.g. singular::plural). Due to dialectal unity of language and thought, grammatical categories correlate, on the one hand, with the conceptual categories and, on the other hand, with the objective reality. It may be shown with the help of a triangle model:

Conceptual reality Conceptual category



Objective reality Lingual reality Objective category Grammatical category

It follows that we may define grammatical categories as references of the corresponding objective categories. For example, the objective category of time finds its representation in the grammatical category of tense, the objective category of quantity finds its representation in the grammatical category of number. Those grammatical categories that have references in the objective reality are called referential grammatical categories. However, not all of the grammatical categories have references in the objective reality, just a few of them do not correspond to anything in the objective reality. Such categories correlate only with conceptual matters:

Conceptual correlate

Lingual correlate

They are called significational categories. To this type belong the categories of mood and degree. Speaking about the grammatical category of mood we can say that it has modality as its conceptual correlate. It can be explained by the fact that it does not refer to anything in the objective reality – it expresses the speaker’s attitude to what he says.

  1. The notion of opposition.

Any grammatical category must be represented by at least two grammatical forms (e.g. the grammatical category of number – singular and plural forms). The relation between two grammatical forms differing in meaning and external signs is called opposition – book::books (unmarked member/marked member). All grammatical categories find their realization through oppositions, e.g. the grammatical category of number is realized through the opposition singular::plural.

Taking all the above mentioned into consideration, we may define the grammatical category as the opposition between two mutually exclusive form-classes (a form-class is a set of words with the same explicit grammatical meaning).

Means of realization of grammatical categories may be synthetic (near – nearer) and analytic (beautiful – more beautiful).

  1. Transposition and neutralization of morphological forms.

In the process of communication grammatical categories may undergo the processes of transposition and neutralization.

Transposition is the use of a linguistic unit in an unusual environment or in the function that is not characteristic of it (He is a lion). In the sentence He is coming tomorrow the paradigmatic meaning of the continuous form is reduced and a new meaning appears – that of a future action. Transposition always results in the neutralization of a paradigmatic meaning. Neutralization is the reduction of the opposition to one of its members : custom :: customs – x :: customs; x :: spectacles.



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