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THE MORPHEMIC STRUCTURE OF ENGLSIH VERBS

 

Verb stems can be:

(1) simple (e.g. go, take, read). Simple stem verbs are not numerous in English. Conversion of nouns into verbs, which is one of the most productive ways of forming verbal lexemes in English, expands the number considerably;

(2) sound-replacive, which are formed from the corresponding nouns by the sound change (e.g. food – to feed, blood – to bleed) and stress-replacive, which are marked by the change of the stress pattern (e.g. 'import – to im'port, 'object – to ob'ject). These ways of verb formation are non-productive in English;

(3) derivative, which comprise verbs formed by:

- suffixation: -ate (e.g. cultivate); -en (e.g. broaden); -ify (e.g. clarify); -ize (e.g. normalize), etc.;

- prefixation: be- (e.g. belittle); en-/em- (e.g. engulf, embed); re- (e.g. restore); under- (e.g. undergo); over- (e.g. overestimate); sub- (e.g. submerge); mis-(e.g. misunderstand); un- (e.g. undo), etc.;

(4) composite-compound, which are etymologically derived and afterwards conversed (e.g. blackmail, proof-read);

(5) phrasal, which are formed according to the following models:

- have/give/take + N (e.g. to have a smoke, to give a smile, to take a ride);

- V + a postposition (e.g. to stand up, to go on).

 

4. The categories of English verbs

 

The categories which form the paradigm of the English verb are subdivided into substance-relational (person and number), action-relational (tense and aspect) and substance/action-relational (voice and mood). Besides, there is a functional/semantic category of finitude based on the distinctions between the finite and non-finite forms of English verbs (the infinitive, the gerund, the participle).

 

4.1. The categories of person and number in the grammatical system of the English verb are closely connected since they both reflect characteristic features of the subject, which, in its turn, relates to substance that exists in the unity of quality and quantity.

The categories of person and number of English verbs are confined to the following grammatical subsystems:

(1) present indicative singular forms:

- the verb to be (e.g. I am; you are; he/she/it is);

- the rest of English verbs, which are inflected for the third person singular. Modal verbs are an exception here: with them the category of person is neutralized;

(2) future forms: shall/will;

The categories of person and number in the present-day English language are alien to the past forms of verbs.

 

4.2. The category of aspect is a grammatical reflection of the inherent properties of the process denoted by the verb. It should be remembered that the latter can be expressed lexically as well. The category of aspect is represented by two aspect subcategories: development and retrospect.

The aspect subcategory of development presents the action as developing or not developing in time. It is represented by the opposition CONTINUOUS :: NON-CONTINUOUS. The strong member of the opposition is marked with the discontinuous morpheme be +…ing.



The aspect subcategory of development has a verbid representation (e.g. to work :: to be working), which is neutralized with the following lexemic subsets of English verbs:

- unlimitive verbs (e.g. The night is wonderfully silent. The stars shine);

- statal verbs (e.g. I see that you've bought a new car);

- the perfect forms of verbs in the passive voice (e.g. It will have been done by 4 a.m);

- introductory verbs in participial constructions (e.g. The man stood smoking a pipe);

- "Emphatic Continuous" (e.g. She is always grumbling);

- anticipated future (e.g. I'll be seeing you soon).

The aspect subcategory of retrospective coordination (or just retrospect) relates two actions by establishing the order of their succession in time. Besides, it expresses the connection of the preceding action with the time limit set by the action which follows. Reflecting both inherent and temporal features of verbal semantics, retrospect is a complex category – temporal aspect.

The aspect subcategory of retrospect finds its expression in English in the opposition of PERFECT :: NON-PERFECT. The strong member of this opposition is marked with the discontinuous morpheme ha …+ …ed.

The grammatical meaning of retrospective coordination can combine with purely aspect meaning of development, e.g. in Perfect Continuous forms.

 

4.3. The category of tense is a grammatical reflection of temporal characteristics of the action denoted by a verb.

It should be borne in mind that these characteristics can be rendered lexically as well (absolutive: present-oriented, past-oriented, future-oriented; non-absolutive: relative, factual). Lexical denotations of time can combine with one anther in speech contexts, providing a detailed many-sided temporal characterization of the action described.

Traditionally, the category of tense of the English verbs is presented as a three-member opposition: PRESENT :: PAST :: FUTURE. However, this three-tense model presents a theoretical problem. A. I. Smirnitsky was the first to point out the contradictory nature of the so-called "future-in-the-past" forms of English verbs. The term runs counter the principle of mutual exclusiveness of the members of an opposition, which runs that two members of one and the same opposition cannot appear in a language form together. The explanation that this scholar offers is that "future-in-the-past" forms of English verbs are a variety of mood (the conditional mood), and not of tense.

The paradox of the "future-in-the-past" forms of English verbs has stimulated a number of attempts to overcome it. Thus B. S. Khaimovich and B. I. Rogovskaya introduce the category of posteriority represented in the oppositions SHALL/WILL COME :: SHOULD/WOULD COME; SHALL/WILL BE WRITING :: SHOULD/WOULD BE WRITING. The left-hand members of the oppositions, which refer the action to the moment of speech, are said to express absolute posteriority, while the right-hand members, which refer the action to some moment in the past, are said to express relative posteriority. This explanation, however, is not plausible since both members of the opposition are analytical forms, and they are both marked for posteriority. It stands to reason to consider that the contrast between the members of the opposition is that of NON-PAST :: PAST.

The forms of the English verb denoting time relations can be arranged into the following system of categories represented by binary oppositions:

 

The category of tense (primary time) PAST worked was working NON-PAST works is working
The category of retrospect (time correlation) PERFECT has worked had worked has been working NON-PERFECT works worked is working
The category of prospect FUTURE will work will be working would work NON-FUTURE works is working worked

 

4.4. Voice. This grammatical category of the English verb relates to the perspective at which the speaker views the situation described by an objective verb, which may be that of the doer of the action or the experience of the latter. Thus voice forms of the English verb are relevant for the study of cognitive structures and mental processes involved in speaking as well as for the status of the information rendered as given or new (the syntactic category of Functional Sentence Perspective)

The category of voice is represented in Modern English by the two-member opposition ACTIVE:: PASSIVE (e.g. love :: is loved; loving :: having loved; has loved :: has been loved).

The category of voice in English is still in the process of its development. The forms of Passive Continuous became standard in the XIXth century only, and currently there are no Perfect Continuous forms in the passive.

There have been attempts to extend the content of the category of voice of the English verb, namely by postulating the existence of the following varieties of the passive:

- the stative: B. S. Khaimovich and B. I. Rogovskaya maintain that the passive forms of the English verb and the combinations of the auxiliary verb to be with Participle II should be viewed separately, e.g. The device is broken (=does not work, stative) vs. The devise has been broken by John (=has been subject to some influence, passive). Yet this distinction can be drawn only at the syntactic level, since the corresponding meanings are actualized in context;

- the "new" passive (e.g. he got drowned; a wrong person gets punished). This hypothesis is not consistent with language facts since the verb to get preserves its lexical meaning "attainment" and thus cannot be viewed as an auxiliary; hence it seems logical to treat these forms as lexical synonyms of grammatical (passive) forms;

- reflexive voice (e.g. He cut himself); it is obvious, though, that here the corresponding meaning is expressed by the pronoun;

- middle voice (e.g. The new paper-backs are selling excellently); it stands to reason to treat such instances as metaphorical (transposed) usage of the active verb-forms into the sphere of the passive.

 

4.5. Mood is a variety of a broader category, which is called modality (the speaker's evaluation of the referent situation, i.e. the situation described by the sentence). Modality can be expressed by lexical or grammatical means.

Grammatical/objective modality, or mood, is expressed by the form of the verb, which presents the referent situation, i.e. the situation described by the sentence, as real or unreal.

Lexical/subjective modality attends grammatical modality, hence it is secondary to the latter.

Secondary modal meanings can be introduced by complicating the structure of the predicate with the help of modal verbs or their equivalents.

The number of moods of the English verb, according to different scholars, differs from 2 to 17. In this connection O. Jespersen remarks that one can find an even greater number of moods in English if one takes into consideration semantics only.

There have been attempts to reduce the traditional three-mood model of the English verb (Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive) to a two-mood model.

Structuralists (for example, R. Long, L. S. Barkhudarov) maintain that there is no Subjunctive mood in the present-day English since there are no corresponding grammatical markers with the exception of the relics of the present and past tenses of the Old English Subjunctive. Focusing exclusively on the form and distribution of English verbs, structuralists ignore their semantic aspects, hence their argument could hardly be taken as plausible.

Semanticists (for example, L. S. Yermolayeva), on the contrary, advocate the view that the category of mood embraces only indicative and imperative forms of the verb since imperative forms do not express modality – just the intention of the speaker to elicit some action form the listener. This argument is fairly convincing, yet it has not taken in linguistic theory, though certain scholars (G. G. Pocheptsov, in particular) speak of a syntactic category of pragmatic orientation.

 

5. THE VERBIDS (individual work)

 

6. THE SYNTACTIC FUNCTIONS OF ENGLISH VERBS

 

The finite verbs function as predicates, while the verbids perform the syntactic functions of objects, modifiers or predicative complements.

 

 


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 1215


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