Problem of meaning ambiguity in a language

Sometimes one meaning of a word is derived from another. For example, the cognitive sense of 'see' seems derived from

Problem of meaning ambiguity in a language


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universally acceptable conclusion concerning it."

The category of Mood expresses the relations between the action, denoted by the verb, and the actual reality from the point of view of the speaker. The speaker may treat the action/event as real, unreal or problematic or as fact that really happened, happens or will happen, or as an imaginary phenomenon.

It follows from this that the category of Mood may be presented by the opposition

obligue mood - direct mood

= unreality = reality.

The former is the strong member.

The latter is the weak member.

Mood relates the verbal action to such conditions as certainty, obligation, necessity, and possibility.

The most disputable question in the category of mood is the problem of number and types of Oblique Moods. Oblique Moods denote unreal or problematic actions so they can't be modified by the category of tense proper. They denote only relative time, that is simultaneousness or priority. Due to the variety of forms it's impossible to make up regular paradigms of Oblique Moods and so classify them.

Some authors pay more attention to the plane of expression, other to the plane of content. So different authors speak of different number and types of moods. The most popular in Grammar has become the system of moods put forward By Prof. Smirnitsky. He speaks of 6 mood forms:

The Indicative Mood

The Imperative Mood

Subjunctive I

Subjunctive II

The Conditional Mood

The Suppositional Mood

Subjunctive I expresses a problematic action. Subjunctive I is used in American English and in newspaper style. Subjunctive I coincides with the Infinitive without the particle to. Ex.: Ring me up if he would be there.

This mood is expressed in English to a very minor extent (e.g.: So be it then!). It is only used in certain set expressions, which have to be learned as wholes:

Come what may, we will go ahead.

God save the Queen!

Suffice it to say that...

Be that as it may...

Heaven forbid that...

So be it then.

Long live the King!

Grammar be hanged!

This Mood is also used in that clauses, when the main clause contains an expression of recommendation, resolution, demand, etc. The use of this subjunctive I occurs chiefly in formal style (and especially in Am E) where in less other devices, such as to - infinitive or should = infinitive.

It is necessary that he be there.

It is necessary that he should be there.

It is necessary for him to be there.

Subjunctive II denotes an unreal action and it coincides in the form with the Past Indefinite Tense (Subjunctive II Present) or Past Perfect (Subjunctive II Past). Ex.: I wish he had told the truth. If only he were here!

Mood is expressed in English to a much greater extent by past tense forms. E.g.:

If you taught me, I would learn quickly.

If she was/were to do smth like that.

He spoke to me as if I was/ were deaf...

I wish I was/were was


1) “Was” is more common in less formal style

2) Only “were” is acceptable in "As it were" (= so to speak)

3) “Were” is usual in "If I were you".

The Conditional Mood denotes an unreal action and is built by the auxiliary verb "world" + any Infinitive a non-perfect infinitive expresses simultaneousness while a perfect infinitive expresses priority. E.g.: But for the rain we would go for a walk. But for the rain we would have gone...

The Suppositional Mood also expresses a problematic action and is formed with the help of the auxiliary verb "should" for all the persons + Infinitive. E.g.: Ring me up if he should be there.

This mood can be used with any verb in subordinate that - clauses when the main clause contains an expression of recommendation resolution, demand etc. (demand, require, insist, suggest...) E.g.: It is necessary that every member should inform himself of these rules = It is necessary for every member to inform... It is strange that he should have left so early.

Subjunctive I and the Suppositional Mood are differentiated only by their form but their meaning is the same.

Taking into consideration the fact that the forms of the Oblique Moods coincide in many cases with the forms of the Indicative Mood, there arises a problem of homonymy or polysemy. E.g.: He lived here. (The indicative Mood, Past Tense, Priority, real action).

If only he lived! (Subjunctive II, simultaneousness, unreal action)

The meaning of each necessary grammatical abstraction makes itself clear only in the course of its usage.

Compare also the following patterns with the verb should:

Had I known about it, I should have come yesterday. (should + Infinitive II used with reference to a non-fact).

That science in the USSR should have attained so high a level of development is but natural (should + Infinitive II expressing a real action in the past with special emphasis laid upon its realisation).

The variety of meaning as potentially implicit in a grammatical form, we naturally associate with the development of synonymy in grammar.


8. Synonymy in Grammar


Synonymic forms in grammar are not exactly alike, they commonly have fine shares of difference in style and purpose, and students need to be alive to these differences. There is always selection in the distribution of grammatical forms in actual speech. They must harmonise with the context as appropriate to a given situation.

The change in synonymous grammatical forms is often a change in style, and the effect on the reader is quite different. Even a slight alteration in the grammatical device can subtly shift the meaning of the utterance. Examine the following sentence:

"... Have you been wounding him?"

"It is my misfortune to be obliged to wound him", said Clara.

"Quite needlessly, my child, for marry him you must". (Dreiser)

Ellen had wrung her hands and counseled delay, in order that Scarlett might think the matter over at greater length. But to her pleadings, Scarlett turned a sullen face and a deaf ear. Marry she would! And quickly, too. Within two weeks. (Mitchell)

Cf.: Marry she would! and She would marry.

We cannot fail to see that there is a marked difference in style between the two verb forms: the former is neutral, the latter is highly expressive.


"But, no matter when her foot healed she would walk to Jonesboro. It would be the longest walk she had ever taken in her life, but walk it she would". (Mitchell)

Cf.: walk it she would she would walk it

As synonyms in grammar express different shades of the grammatical meaning, one should be careful in the choice of the right forms, the best to convey the subtler nuances of that meaning.

Knowledge of synonymic differentiation between the grammatical forms permits a systematic, objective investigation and description of style.

With regard to the methodology employed in our description of synonymy in grammar there are certain observations which are pertinent tо a summary statement. It will be helpful to distinguish between a) paradigmatic synonyms and b) contextual synonyms or synonyms by function in speech.

In English morphology synonyms of the first group are very few in number. Such are, for instance, synthetical and analytical forms in the Subjunctive and Suppositional Mood, e. g.:

...'I now move, that the report and accounts for the year 1886 be received and adopted". (Galsworthy)

(be received and adopted = should be received and adopted)

Paradigmatic synonyms with similarity in function and structural features may also be exemplified by the following:


Non-emphatic EmphaticPresent IndefiniteI knowI do knowHe knowsHe does knowPast indefiniteI knewI did knowImperative MoodComeDo come

Analytical verbal forms with the intensive do can express a whole variety of subjective modal meanings: pleasure, admiration, affection, surprise, anger, mild reproach, encouragement, admonition, etc., e. g.

Oh! darling, don't ache! I do so hate it for you. (Galsworthy) There was so much coming and going round the doors that they did not like to enter. Where does he live? I did see him coming out of the hotel. (Galsworthy)

Eagerly her eyes searched the darkness. The roof seemed to be intact. Could it be could it be ? No, it wasn't possible. War stopped for no-thing, not even Tara, built to last five hundred years. It could not have passed over Tara. Then the shadowy outline did take form. The white walls did show there through the darkness. Tara had escaped. Home! (Mitchell)

But Swithin, hearing the name Irene, looked severely at Euphemia, who, it is true, never did look well in a dress, whatever she may have done on other occasions. (Galsworthy)

Strong emphasis is also produced by using pleonastic patterns with segmentations, e. g.: He ne

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