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THE PROBLEM OF NOTIONAL AND FORMAL WORDS

In giving a list of parts of speech, we have not so far mentioned the terms "notional" and "formal". It is time now to turn to this question. According to the view held by some grammarians,[8] words should be divided into two categories on the following principle: some words denote things, actions, and other extralinguistic phenomena (these, then, would be notional w,ords), whereas other words denote relations and connections between the notional words, and thus have no direct bearing on anything extralinguistic (these, then, would be the formal words, or form words). Authors holding this view define prepositions as words denoting relations between words (or between parts of a sentence), and conjunctions as words connecting words or sentences.[9]

However, this view appears to be very shaky. Actually, the so-called formal words also express something extralinguistic. For instance, prepositions express relations between things. Cf., e. g., The letter is on the table and The letter is in the table: two different relations between the two objects, the letter and the table, are denoted by the prepositions. In a similar way, conjunctions denote connections between extralinguistic things and phenomena. Thus, in the sentence The match was postponed because it was raining the conjunction because denotes the causal connection between two processes, which of course exists whether we choose to express it by words or not. In the sentence It was raining but the match took place .all the same the conjunction but expresses a contradiction between two phenomena, the rain and the match, which exists in reality whether we mention it or not. It follows that the prepositions on and in, the conjunctions because and but express some relations and connections existing independently of language, and thus have as close a connection with the extralinguistic world as any noun or verb. They are, in so far, no less notional than nouns or verbs.

Now, the term "formal word" would seem to imply that the word thus denoted has some function in building up a phrase or a sentence. This function is certainly performed by both prepositions and conjunctions and from this point of view prepositions and conjunctions should indeed be singled out.

But this definition of a formal word cannot be applied to particles. A particle docs.-not do anything in the way of connecting words or building a phrase or a sentence.

There does not therefore seem to be any reason for classing particles with formal words. If this view is endorsed we shall only have two parts of speech which are form words, viz. prepositions and conjunctions.[10]

It should also be observed that some words belonging to a particular part of speech may occasionally, or even permanently, perform a function differing from that which characterizes the part of speech as a whole. Auxiliary verbs are a case in point. In the sentence / have some money left the verb have performs the function of the predicate, which is the usual function of a verb in a sentence, In this case, then, the function of the verb have is precisely the one typical of verbs as a class. However, in the sentence / have found my briefcase the verb have is an auxiliary: it is a means of forming a certain analytical form of the verb find. It does not by itself perform the function of a predicate. We need not assume on that account that there arc two verbs have, one notional and the other auxiliary. It is the same verb have, but its functions in the two sentences are different. If we take the-verb shall, wo see that its usual function is that of forming the future tense of another verb, e. g. I shall know about it to-morrow. Shall is then said to be an auxiliary verb, and its function differs from that of the verb as a part of speech, but it is a verb all the same.



After this general survey of parts of speech we will now turn to a systematic review of each part of speech separately.

 

 

B. Ilyish The Structure of Modern English. Moscow, Leningradskoye Prosvescenie, 1971. Pp. 27 - 35

 


[1] We do not consider here the functions of the infinitive, participle, and gerund.

[2] Some scholars took a different view of the prohlcm. Thus, Academician A. Shakhmatov held that parts of speech should be treated in Syntax. (See . . , , 1941.)

[3] In the prevailing Modern English terminology the terms "noun" and "substantive" are used as synonyms. According to an earlier view, the term "noun" was understood to cover all nominal parts of speech, including substantives, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals, thus corresponding to the Russian term .

[4] The property may be either permanent or temporary; cf. a red tie and. a face red with excitement. Thus the idea of permanence should not be mentioned in defining the meaning of the adjective as a part of speech.

[5] The term "stative" is used by English philologists to denote a special category of verbs in Hebrew (see, for instance, Webster's New International Dictionary).

[6] See Chapters VIII, X, and XI.

[7] See. . Fries,The Structure of English, 1961, pp. 76104.

[8] See, for instance, . . , . . , . . , , 1956, . 1617.

[9] See, for instance, . . , . . , . . ,O. cit., . 193, 202.

[10] If we should think it fit to unite prepositions and conjunctions together as one part of speech, as hinted above (see p. 3233), we should of course have only one part of speech as form words.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 1046


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