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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ammatical meanings of collectiveness in nouns, qualitativeness in adjectives, or transitiveness in verbs, etc.


Point 6. The notion of the paradigm in morphology.


An orderly combination of grammatical forms expressing a certain categorial function (or meaning) constitutes a grammatical paradigm. Consequently, a grammatical category is built up as a combination of respective paradigms (e.g. the category of number in nouns, the category of tense in verbs, etc.).


Point 7. Oppositional relations of grammatical forms.


The basic method of the use of oppositions was elaborated by the Prague School linguists. In fact, the term opposition should imply two contrasted elements, or forms, i.e. the opposition should be binary. The principle of binary oppositions is especially suitable for describing morphological categories where this kind of relations is more evident.

For example, the tense-forms of the English verb may be divided into two halves: the forms of the present plane and those of the past. The former comprises the Present, Present Perfect, Present Continuous, Present Perfect Continuous, and the Future; the latter includes the Past, Past Perfect, Past Continuous, Past Perfect Continuous, and the Future-in-the-Past. The second half is characterized by specific formal features either the suffix ed (or its equivalents) appear, or a phonemic modification of the root. The past is thus a marked member of the opposition present::past as against the present sub-system, which is the unmarked member. The same may be applied to perfect and non-perfect forms, active and passive forms, singular and plural forms in class nouns, etc.

Point 8. Functional transpositions of grammatical (morphological) forms.


In context functioning of grammatical forms under real circumstances of communicating, their oppositional categorial features interact so that a member of the categorial opposition may be used in a position typical of the other contrasted member. This phenomenon is referred to as the functional transposition. One must bear in mind that there are two kinds of functional transpositions: the one with a partial loss of the functional property, and the one with a complete loss of the functional property. The former may also be defined as the functional transposition proper where the substituting member performs the two functions simultaneously. E.g. the unusual usage of the plural form of a unique object (cf.: …that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with bonnets, veils and mittens against hot Georgian suns. (M.Mitchel)


Point 9. Neutralization of the opposition.


The second kind of functional transposition where the substituting member completely loses its functional property, is the actual neutralization of the opposition. Such neutralization itself does not possess any expressive meaning but is generally related to the variations of particular meanings (cf.: A man can die but once.(proverb) The lion is not so fierce as he is painted.(proverb)


Point 10. Polysemy, synonymy and homonymy in morphology.


Morphological polysemy implies representations of a word as different parts of speech, e.g. the word but may function as a conjunction (last, but not least), a preposition (there was nothing but firelight), a restrictive adverb (those words were but excuses), a relative pronoun (there are none but do much the same), a noun in the singular and plural (that was a large but; his repeated buts are really trying).

Morphological synonymy reflects a variety of representations by different parts of speech for the same meaning, e.g. due to (adjective), thanks to (noun), because of (preposition), etc.

Morphological homonymy may be described as phonetic equivalents with different grammatical functions, e.g. He looks her looks; they wanted the job wanted; smoking is harmful a smoking man; you read we saw you, etc.


Point 11. The main problems of functional morphology.


The problems of functional morphology are many, the main and most disputed being:

  1. the functions of formal morphemes (affixes) and allomorphs;
  2. the functional correlation, i.e. connection of phenomena differing in certain features but united through others (import-to import, must-should);
  3. the functional classification of words as parts of speech.



Point 1. The problems of the parts of speech.


The whole lexicon of the English language, like the one of all Indo-European languages, is divided into certain lexico-grammatical classes traditionally called parts of speech. The existence of such classes is not doubted by any linguists though they might have different points of view as to their interpretation. Classification of the parts of speech is still a matter of dispute; linguists opinions differ concerning the number and the names of the parts of speech.


Point 2. The principles of division into the parts of speech. Issues of discussion in the classification of words into the parts of speech. Notional and functional parts of speech. Conversion of the parts of speech.


  1. The main principles of word division into certain groups, that had long existed, were formulated by L.V.Shcherba quite explicitly. They are lexical meaning, morphological form and syntactic functioning. Still, some classifications are based on some of the three features, for any of them may coincide neglecting the strict logical rules.
  2. In linguistics there have been a number of attempts to build up such a classification of the parts of speech (lexico-grammatical classes) that would meet the main requirement of a logical classification, i.e. would be based on a single principle. Those attempts have failed.

H.Sweet, the author of the first scientific grammar of the English language, divides the parts of speech into two main groups the declinables and the indeclinables. That means that he considers morphological properties to be the main principle of classification. Inside the group of the declinables he kept to the traditional division into nouns, adjectives and verbs. Adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections are united into the group of the indeclinables. However, alongside of this classification, Sweet proposes grouping based on the syntactic functioning of certain classes of words. This leads to including nouns, pronouns, infinitives, gerunds and some other parts of speech into the same class, which is incorrect.

The Danish linguist O.Jespersen suggested the so-called theory of three ranks (primary, secondary and tertiary words), e.g. furiously barking dog where dog is a primary word, barking secondary, and furiously tertiary.

Another attempt to find a single principle of classification was made by Ch.Fries in his book The Structure of English. He rejects the traditional classification and tries to draw up a class system based on the words position in the sentence; his four classes correspond to what is traditionally called nouns (class 1), verbs (class 2), adjectives (class 3) and adverbs (class 4). Besides the four classes he set off 15 groups. And yet, his attempt turned out to be a failure, too, for the classes and groups overlap one another.

  1. Words on the semantic (meaningful) level of classification are divided into notional and functional.

To the notional parts of speech of the English language belong the noun, the adjective, the numeral, the pronoun, the verb and the adverb.

Contrasted against the notional parts of speech are words of incomplete nominative meaning and non-self-dependent, mediatory functions in the sentence. These are functional parts of speech. To the basic functional series of words in English belong the article, the preposition, the conjunction, the particle, the modal word, the interjection.

  1. From the point of view of their functional characteristics lexical units may belong to different lexico-grammatical classes. This kind of syntactic transition is called conversion and represents a widespread phenomenon as one of the most productive and economical means of syntactic transpositions. E.g. She used to comb her hair lovingly. Here is your comb. They lived up north a few years ago. You must be ready to take all these ups and downs easy.

Theme 4. THE PARTS OF SPEECH (continued).


Point 3. The parts of speech in the onomasiologic light.


Comparing the class division of the lexicon at the angle of functional designation of words, we first of all note a sharp contrast in language of two polar types of lexemes, the notional type and the functional one. Being evaluated from the informative-functional point of view, the polar distribution of words into completely meaningful and incompletely meaningful domains appears quite clear and fundamental; the overt character of the notional lexical system and the covert one of the functional lexical system (with the field of transition from the former to the latter being available) acquire the status of the most important general feature of the form.

The notional domain of lexicon is divided into four generalizing classes, not a single more or less. The four notional parts of speech defined as the words with a self-dependent denotational-naming function, are the noun (substantially represented denotations), the verb (processually represented denotations), the adjective (fea

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