Morphemes

Sentences are at the top of the hierarchy, so they are the largest unit which we will be considering (though some grammars do look beyond the sentence). At the other end of the hierarchy, morphemes are at the lowest level.

My brother won the lottery

The words and word groups in the sentence are syntagmatically related. Morphemes within the words are also connected syntagmatically. This is a simple sentence (S), consisting of a matrix clause (MC):

[S/MC My brother won the lottery]

We can subdivide the clause into an NP and a VP:

[S/MC [NP My brother] [VP won the lottery]]

The VP contains a further NP within it:

[S/MC [NP My brother] [VP won [NP the lottery]]]

So we have a total of three phrases. Each phrase consists of individual words:

[S/MC [NP [Det My] [N brother]] [VP [V won] [NP [Det the] [N lottery]]]]

Each of the bracketed units here is a word, a phrase, or a clause. We refer to these asconstituents.

A constituent is defined as a word or a group of words, which acts syntactically as a unit.

Linguists prefer to employ a visual method, the TREE DIAGRAM.

A tree diagram is a visual representation of syntactic structure, in which the grammatical hierarchy is graphically displayed. Here's the tree diagram for our sentence, My brother won the lottery:

A tree diagram contains exactly the same information as its corresponding labelled bracketing, but it is much easier to interpret.

At the clause level and at the phrase level, two points should be noted:

1.Although clauses are higher than phrases in the hierarchy, clauses can occur within phrases:

The [man [who lives beside us]] is ill

Here we have a relative clause who lives beside us within the NP the man who lives beside us.

2. Clauses can occur within clauses, and phrases can occur within phrases.

The other types of relations, opposed to syntagmatic and called “paradigmatic” are such as exist between elements of the system outside the strings where they co-occur. These intra-systemic relations and dependencies find their expression in the fact that each lingual unit is included in a set or series of connections based on different formal and functional properties. Unlike syntagmatic relations, paradigmatic relations cannot be directly observed in utterances, that is why they are referred to as relations "in absentia"" ("in the absence"). Grammatical paradigms express various grammatical categories.



The grammatical category is the system of expressing a generalized grammatical meaning by means of paradigmatic correlation of grammatical forms.

The Notions of Form, Function and Meaning

FormThe notion of form refers to the essential observable components that make an object what it is. In the study of parts of speech, the form of a word comprises its observable properties. Its formal features include the following:

  • Actual and potential inflectional elements
  • Actually occurring derivational elements
  • Stress
  • Potential position in grammatical structures
  • Potential for grammatical operations such as movement, deletion, or substitution.
  • These features will serve as fundamental means for the identification of parts of speech.

    Function The functional view of language, in contrast to the formal, doesn't ask the question "What is it?" but "How is it used?" In grammar, function designates the way in which a word or larger unit is used in a sentence; i.e., function expresses the relationship of the unit in question to other parts of the sentence. Also, most linguistic forms have a variety of functions, some of them primary, some secondary.

    The third perspective on grammar is that of semantics, or meaning. In this context, we include the meaning of words, phrases, and whole sentences. The lexical items of a grammar, which are often equivalent to words, have specific meanings. By meaning we do not mean the individual meaning of each separate word (its lexical meaning) but the meaning common to all the words of the given class and constituting its essence. Sentence patterns and sentence categories have also meaning. In English, for example, there is considerable difference in meaning between the syntactic patterns NP Aux V and Aux Np V, as in the utterances I may go and May I Go?

    The notion of ‘grammatical meaning’.

    The word combines in its semantic structure two meanings – lexical and grammatical. Lexicalmeaning is the individual meaning of the word (e.g. table). Grammaticalmeaning 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.

    Types of grammatical meaning.

    The grammatical meaning may be explicit and implicit. The implicitgrammatical meaning is not expressed formally (e.g. the word table does not contain any hints in its form as to it being inanimate). The explicitgrammatical 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

    The grammatical category is the system of expressing a generalized grammatical meaning by means of paradigmatic correlation of grammatical forms. The ordered set of grammatical forms expressing a categorical function constitutes a paradigm. The minimal paradigm consists of two form-stages. This kind of paradigm we see, for instance, in the expression of the category of number: boy — boys. The paradigmatic correlations of grammatical forms in a category are exposed by the so-called “grammatical oppositions”.

    The opposition may be defined as a generalized correlation of lingual forms by means of which a certain function is expressed. The correlated elements (members) of the opposition must possess two types of features: common features and differential features. Common features serve as the basis of contrast, while differential features immediately express the function in question. The oppositional theory was originally formulated as a phonological theory. Three main qualitative types of oppositions were established in phonology: “privative”, “gradual”, “equipollent”. By the number of members contrasted, oppositions were divided into binary (2) and more than binary (ternary, quaternary). The most important type of opposition is the binary privative opposition; the other types are reducible to the binary privative opposition. The binary privative opposition is formed by a contrastive pair of members in which one member is characterizes by the presence of a certain differential feature (“mark”), while the other member is characterized by the absence of this feature. The member in which the feature is present is called the “marked”, or “strong”, or “positive” member in which the feature is commonly designated by the symbol +; the member in which the feature is absent is called the “unmarked”, or “weak”, or “negative” member, and is commonly designated by the symbol - .:[b, d, g – p, t, k] – the differential feature – “voice”. The gradual opposition is formed by a contrastive group of members which are distinguished not by the presence or absence of a feature, but the degree of it. [i: - I – e - ee] - a quarternary gradual opposition since they are differentiated by the degree of their length. The equipollent opposition is formed by a contrastive pair or group in which the members are distinguished by different positive features: [m] and [b] both bilabial consonants form an equipollent oppositions, [m] being sonorous nasalized, [b] being plosive.

    Unlike phonemes which are monolateral lingual elements, words as units of morphology are bilateral; therefore morphological oppositions must reflect both the plane of expression (form) and the plane of content (meaning). The most important type of opposition in morphology, the same as in phonology, is the binary privative opposition (the expression of the verbal present and past tenses is based on a privative opposition the differential feature of which is the dental suffix –(e)d.). the meanings differentiated by the oppositions of signemtic units are referred to as “semantic features”, or “semes”: cats – cat (plurality).

    Equipollent oppositions in the system of English morphology constitute a minor type and are mostly confined to formal relations only: am – are – is.

    Gradual oppositions in morphology are not generally recognized – sometimes only on the semantic level: strong – stronger – strongest.

    A grammatical category must be expressed by at least one opposition of forms.

    The means employed for building up member-forms of categorical oppositions are traditionally divided into synthetical and analytical; accordingly, the grammatical forma themselves are classed into synthetical and analytical too (look at the previous lecture).

    The grammatical categories which are realized by the described types of forms organized in functional paradigmatic oppositions, can either be innate for a given class of words, or only be expressed on the surface of it, serving as the sign of correlation with some other class: the category of number is organically connected with the functional nature of the noun: it directly exposes the number of the referent substance - one ship / several ships. The category of number in the verb, however, by no means gives a natural meaningful characteristic to the denoted process, so it is the numeric featuring of the subject-referent. Thus, from the point of view of referent relation, grammatical categories should be divided into “immanent” categories and “reflective” categories.

    Another essential division of grammatical categories is based on the changeability factor of the exposed feature. Namely, the feature of the referent expressed by the category can be either constant (category of gender) or variable (number (news – is intermediary), degrees of comparison).

    The nature of grammar as a constituent part of language is better understood in the light of explicitly discriminating the two planes of language, namely, the plane of content and the plane of expression.

    The plane of content comprises the purely semantic elements contained in language, while the plane of expression comprises the material (formal) units of language taken by themselves, apart from the meanings rendered by them. The two planes are inseparably connected, so that no meaning can be realised without some material means of expression. Grammatical elements of language present a unity of content and expression (or, in somewhat more familiar terms, a unity of form and meaning). In this the grammatical elements are similar to the lingual lexical elements, though the quality of grammatical meanings, as we have stated above, is different in principle from the quality of lexical meanings.

    On the other hand, the correspondence between the planes of content and expression is very complex, and it is peculiar to each language. This complexity is clearly illustrated by the phenomena of polysemy, homonymy, and synonymy.

    In cases of polysemy and homonymy, two or more units of the plane of content correspond to one unit of the plane of expression. For instance, the verbal form of the present indefinite (one unit in the plane of expression) polysemantically renders the grammatical meanings of habitual action, action at the present moment, action taken as a general truth (several units in the plane of content). The morphemic material element -s/-es (in pronunciation [-s, -z, -iz]), i.e. one unit in the plane of expression (in so far as the functional semantics of the elements is common to all of them indiscriminately), homonymically renders the grammatical meanings of the third person singular of the verbal present tense, the plural of the noun, the possessive form of the noun, i.e. several units of the plane of content.

    In cases of synonymy, conversely, two or more units of the plane of expression correspond to one unit of the plane of content. For instance, the forms of the verbal future indefinite, future continuous, and present continuous (several units in the plane of expression) can in certain contexts synonymically render the meaning of a future action (one unit in the plane of content).

    Taking into consideration the discrimination between the two planes, we may say that the purpose of grammar as a linguistic discipline is, in the long run, to disclose and formulate the regularities of the correspondence between the plane of content and the plane of expression in the formation of utterances out of the stocks of words as part of the process of speech production.

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