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The emphatic and communicative functions of word order


114. The words in an English sentence are arranged in a certain order, which is fixed for every type of the sentence, and is therefore meaningful. We find several principles determining word order in a sentence, so that word order fulfils several functions -grammatical, emphatic, orcommunicative, andlinking. These functions are manifested in different arrangements of the parts of the sentence.

The grammatical function of word order

115. The main function of word order is to express grammatical relations and determine the grammatical status of a word by fixing its position in the sentence. There exist two ways of arranging words - direct word order and inverted word order.

Direct word order

116. The most common pattern for the arrangement of the main parts in a declarative sentence isSubject - Predicate - (Object), which is called direct word order. Direct word order is also employed in pronominal questions to the subject or to its attribute.

Direct word orderallows of only few variations in the fixed pattern, and then only for the secondary parts. Thus if there are two objects, the indirect one precedes the direct one, or the prepositional follows the direct one. Thus the pattern has the following form:

Subject - Predicate - Indirect object - Direct object Direct object - Prepositional object

The birds have come.

Ann has seen this film.

The boy gave me no answer.

The boy gave no answer to me.

As to other secondary parts of the sentence, such as attributes and adverbial modifiers, their position is less fixed. Usually those words that are closely connected tend to be placed together. Accordingly secondary parts referring to their headwords are placed close to them, or are incorporated into, or else frame them up. Thus attributes either premodify or postmodify or frame up their headwords: a bright morning, the problems involved, the scene familiar to us, the happiest man alive, the best skier in the world.

Adverbials and different form words seem to be the most movable parts in the sentence. Their mobility is partly accounted for by their varied reference to different parts of the sentence.


Inverted word order

119. Another common pattern of word order is the inverted one (or inversion). We distinguish full inversion (when the predicate precedes the subject, as in Here comes the lady of the house) and partial inversion (when only part of the predicate precedes the subject, as in Happy may you be!). Some grammarians also distinguish double inversion (when parts of the predicate are placed separately before the subject, as in Hanging on the wall was a picture).

In some cases inversion may be taken as a normal order of words in constructions with special communicative value, and is thus devoid of any special colouring. In other cases inversion is a sort of reordering for stylistic effect or for emphasis. First we enumerate those cases where inversion is a normal word order.

1. Inversion is usedto distinguish between the communicative types of sentences. With this function it is employed in:


a) General questions, polite requests and in tag questions.

Is it really true?

Wont you have a cup of tea?

You are glad to see me, arent you?

b) Pronominal questions, except questions to the subject and its

attribute, where direct word order is used.

What are the police after?

c) There-sentences with the introductory non-local there, followed

by one of the verbs denoting existence, movement, or change of

the situation .

Therehas been an accident.

Thereis nothing in it.

Thereappeared an ugly face over the fence.

Thereoccurred a sudden revolution in public taste.

Therecomes our chief.


d) Exclamatory sentences expressing wish, despair, indignation, or other strong


Long live the king! Come what may!


e) Exclamatory sentences which are negative in form but positive

in meaning.

Have I not watched them! (= I have watched them.)

Wouldnt that be fun! (= It would be fun.)

f) Negative imperative sentences.

Dont you do it.

2. Inversion is used asa grammatical means of subordination in some complex sentences joined without connectors:

a) In conditional clauses.

Were you sure of it, you wouldnt hesitate.

Had she known it before, she wouldnt have made this mistake.

b) In concessive clauses.

Proud as he was, he had to consent to our proposal.

c) In the second part of a sentence of proportional agreement

(although inversion is not obligatory in this case).

The more he thought of it, the less clear was the matter.

3. Inversion is usedin sentences beginning with adverbs denoting place.This usage is traditional, going back to OE norms.

Here is another example.

There goes another bus ( , ).

4. Inversion is usedin stage directions, although this use is limited to certain verbs.

Enter the King, the Queen.

Enter Beatie Bryant, an ample blond.

5. Inversion may be usedin sentences indicating whose words or thoughts are given as direct or indirect speech. These sentences may introduce, interrupt, or follow the words in direct or indirect speech, or may be given in parenthesis.

Thats him, said Tom (Tom said).

How did he know, thought Jack, miserably.

Direct word order can also be used here.

6. Inversion is usedin statements showing that the remark applies equally to someone or something else.

I am tired. - So am I.

He isnt ready. - Neither is she.



If the sentence is a corroboration of a remark just made, direct word order is used.


You promised to come and see me. - So I did.

We may meet him later. - So we may.

The emphatic and communicative functions of word order


121. The second function of word order is to make prominent or emphatic that part of the sentence which is more important or informative in the speakers opinion. These two functions (to express prominence or information focus, and emphasis) are different in their purpose, but in many cases they go together or overlap, and are difficult to differentiate.

Prominence and emphasis are achieved by placing the wordin an unusual position: words normally placed at the beginning of the sentence (such as the subject) are placed towards the end, whereas words usually occupying positions closer to the end of the sentence (such as objects and predicatives) are shifted to the beginning.

End position is always emphaticfor the subject. Very often this reordering results in the detachment of the subject.

Must have cost a pretty penny, this dress of yours!

Fronting of an object or a predicative is also often accompanied by detachment.

Horrible these women are, ugly, dirty.

Many and long were the conversations they held through the prison wall.

For debt, drink, dancers he had a certain sympathy; but the pearls - no!

If the object is prepositional, the preposition may be put after the verb or verb-group, or else after the whole sentence.

This nowadays one hears notof.

However, front position of an object does not always mean that this part is emphasized. In some cases this sort of reordering is employed to get the predicate (or what is left of it) emphasized. Talent Mr. Macowber has, capital Mr. Macowberhas not.

Front position is emphatic for adverbials (of time, manner, degree) usually attached to the predicate. It is often accompanied by inversion.

Well do I remember the day.

Many a time has he given me good advice.

Withwords functioning now as adverbs, now as postpositions, front position reveals their adverbial nature most distinctly, as postpositions are never placed here. With this reordering the emphasis is thrown upon the predicate.

Off hewent.Up theyrushed.

Forattributes emphasis may be achieved by putting them after their headword. In this way the modifier becomes the focus and has the principal stress of the word-group.


The day following was to decide our fate.



In assessing the emphatic effect of a postmodifying attribute we should bear in mind that for certain attributes this position is normal (see 86).

However, the fixed patterns in English limit the opportunities to shift prominence or emphasis from one part of the sentence to another, especially for main parts. Therefore prominence and emphasis are generally achieved not by reordering, but by using special constructions. One such construction used for emphasizing the subject is the introductory non-local there + verb + noun, followed by an attributive clause.

There wasa girl whom he loved.

There comesa time when one should make up ones mind.


Another device for shifting emphasis is the construction with the introductory it, the main information being supplied by the subordinate clause. By means of this construction emphasis may be thrown upon any part of the sentence, except the predicate. Such sentences are called cleft sentences. This can be illustrated by the following:


It wasshe who opened the door.

It isnot easy to find a position.

It wasto Moscow that she went.


Special emphasis on words functioning as direct or indirect object may be achieved by the use of the passive construction, in which the words to be emphasized are moved either to front position or closer to the end.

Compare the sentences:


The teacher gave the children an easy task.

The children were given an easy task by the teacher.

An easy task was given to the children by the teacher.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1795

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