English Theoretical Grammar

3. It is doubtful whether the grammatical category of gender exists in Modern English for it is hardly ever expressed

English Theoretical Grammar

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Owing to the scarcity of synthetic forms the order of words, which is fixed in English, acquires extreme importance: The fisherman caught a fish.

A deviation from the general principle of word order is possible only in special cases.

Point 2. Peculiarities of the structure of English in the field of accidence (word-building and word-changing).


Affixes, i.e. prefixes and suffixes, in the English language have a dual designation some are used in word-building, others in word-changing. Word-building is derivation of new words from basic forms of some part of speech. Word-changing is derivation of different forms of the same word. Word-building and word-changing have their own sets of affixes: their coincidence may only be pure accidental homonymy (cf.=confer er in agentive nouns writer, and er in the comparative degree of adjectives longer). There may be occasional cases of a word-changing suffix transformation into a word-building one: I am in a strong position to know of her doings.

English prefixes perform only word-building functions, and are not supposed to be considered in this course. As for suffixes, they are divided into word-building and word-changing ones; the latter are directly related to the grammatical structure.


Point 3. Peculiarities of the English language in the field of syntax.


English syntax is characterized by the following main features:

  1. A fixed word order in the sentence;
  2. A great variety of word-combinations;
  3. An extensive use of substitutes which save the repetition of a word in certain conditions (one, that, do);
  4. Availability of numerous form-words to express the grammatical relations between words in the sentence or within the word-combination;
  5. Plentiful grammatical constructions.

Point 4. Functional and semantic connection of lexicon and grammar.


The functional criterion of word division into parts of speech presupposes revealing their syntactic properties in the sentence. For notional words, it is primarily their position-and-member characteristics, i.e. their ability to perform the function of independent members of the sentence: subject, verbal predicate, predicative, object, attribute, adverbial modifier. In defining the subclass appurtenance of words, which is the second stage of classification, an important place is occupied by finding out their combinability characteristics (cf., for example, the division of verbs into valency subclasses). This is the level of analysis where a possible contradiction between substantive and lexical, and between categorial and grammatical, semantics of the word, is settled. Thus, in its basic substantive semantics the word stone is a noun, but in the sentence Aunt Emma was stoning cherries for preserves the said substantive base comes forward as a productive one in the verb. However, the situational semantics of the sentence reflects the stable substantive orientation of the lexeme, retained in the causative character of its content (here, to take out stones). The categorial characteristics of such lexemes might be called combined objective and processional one. Unlike this one, the categorial characteristics of the lexeme go in the utterance Thats a go will be defined as combined processional and objective. Still, the combined character of semantics on the derivational and situational, and on the sensical level, does not deprive the lexeme of its unambiguous functional and semantic characterization by class appurtenance.


Point 5. Functional and semantic (lexico-grammatical) fields.


The idea of field structure in the distribution of relevant properties of objects is applied in the notion of the part of speech: within the framework of a certain part of speech a central group of words is distinguished, which costitutes the class in strict conformity with its established features, and a peripheral group of words is set off, with the corresponding gradation of features. On the functional level, one and the same part of speech may perform different functions.



Point 1. The main notions of accidence.


Accidence is the section of grammar that studies the word form. In this study it deals with such basic notions as the word, the morpheme, the morph, the allomorph, the grammatical form and category of the word, as well as its grammatical meaning, and also the paradigm, the oppositional relations and the functional relations of grammatical forms.


Point 2. The notion of the morpheme. Types of morphemes. Morphs and



  1. One of the most widely used definitions of the morpheme is like this: The morpheme is the smallest linear meaningful unit having a sound expression. However, there are other definitions:
  2. L.Bloomfield: The morpheme is a linguistic form which bears no partial resemblance to any other form.
  3. B. De Courtenay: The morpheme is a generalized name for linear components of the word, i.e. the root and affixes.
  4. Prof. A.I.Smirnitsky: The morpheme is the smallest language unit possessing essential features of language, i.e. having both external (sound) and internal (notional) aspects.
  5. Morphemes, as it has been mentioned above, may include roots and affixes. Hence, the main types of morphemes are the root morpheme and the affix morpheme. There also exists the concept of the zero morpheme for the word-forms that have no ending but are capable of taking one in the other forms of the same category, which is not quite true for English.

As for the affix morpheme, it may include either a prefix or a suffix, or both. Since prefixes and many suffixes in English are used for word-building, they are not considered in theoretical grammar. It deals only with word-changing morphemes, sometimes called auxiliary or functional morphemes.

  1. An allomorph is a variant of a morpheme which occurs in certain environments. Thus a morpheme is a group of one or more allomorphs, or morphs.

The allomorphs of a certain morpheme may coincide absolutely in sound form, e.g. the root morpheme in fresh, refreshment, freshen, the suffixes in speaker, actor, the adverbial suffix in greatly, early. However, very often allomorphs are not absolutely identical, e.g. the root morpheme in come-came, man-men, the suffixes in walked, dreamed, loaded.

Point 3. The grammatical form of the word. Synthetical and analytical forms.

  1. The grammatical form of the word is determined by its formal features conveying some grammatical meaning. The formal feature (flexion, function word, etc.) is the exponent of the form, or the grammatical formant, the grammatical form proper being materialized by the unification of the stem with the formant in the composition of a certain paradigmatic row. Therefore, the grammatical form unites a whole class of words, each expressing a corresponding general meaning in the framework of its own concrete meaning. (E.g. the plural form of nouns: books-dogs-cases-men-oxen-data-radii, etc.) Thus the grammatical form of the word reflects its division according to the expression of a certain grammatical meaning.

(b) Synthetic forms are those which materialize the grammatical meaning through the inner morphemic composition of the word. Analytical forms, as opposed to synthetic ones, are defined as those which materialize the grammatical meaning by combining the substance word with the function word.

Theme 3. ACCIDENCE (continued).


Point 4. The grammatical category.


The grammatical category is a combination of two or more grammatical forms opposed or correlated by their grammatical meaning. A certain grammatical meaning is fixed in a certain set of forms. No grammatical category can exist without permanent formal features. Any grammatical category must include as many as two contrasted forms, but their number may be greater. For instance, thre are three tense forms Present, Past and Future, four aspect forms Indefinite, Perfect, Continuous, Perfect Continuous, but there are only two number forms of nouns, two voices, etc.


Point 5. The grammatical meaning. Categorial and non-categorial meanings in grammar.


  1. The grammatical meaning is a generalized and rather abstract meaning uniting large groups of words, being expressed through its inherent formal features or, in an opposition, through the absence of such. Its very important property is that the grammatical meaning is not named in the word, e.g. countables-uncountables in nouns, verbs of instant actions in Continuous (was jumping, was winking), etc.

The grammatical meaning in morphology is conveyed by means of:

  1. Flexion, i.e. a word-changing formant which may be outer (streets, approached) or inner (foot-feet, find-found).
  2. Suppletive word forms (to be-am-was, good-better-best).
  3. Analytical forms (is coming, has asked).
  4. The most general meanings conveyed by language and finding expression in the systemic, regular correlation of forms, are thought of as categorial grammatical meanings. Therefore, we may speak of the categorial grammatical meanings of number and case in nouns; person, number, tense, aspect, voice and mood in verbs, etc. Non-categorial grammatical meanings are those which do not occur in oppositions,e.g. the gr

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