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Grammatical category. Grammatical meaning. Grammatical form

Lecture 1

Fundamentals of grammar

1. Grammatical category. Grammatical meaning. Grammatical form.

2. Theory of oppositions. Types of oppositions. Oppositions in morphology.

3. Morpheme. Derivation morphemes and inflection morphemes.

4. Distributional analysis. Morphemic analysis. IC-analysis.

Grammatical category. Grammatical meaning. Grammatical form

The general notions of grammar which determine the structure of language

and find their expression in inflection and other devices are generally called

grammatical categories. As is known, a grammatical category is generally

represented by at least two grammatical forms, otherwise it cannot exist. A simple

case of oppositions in pairs of grammatical forms will be found, for instance,

between the Singular and the Plural in nouns, or between Active and Passive in

verbs. A grammatical categoryis a unit of grammar based on a morphological

opposition of grammatical meanings presented in grammatical forms.

It is more or less universally recognised that word-meaning is not

homogeneous but is made up of various components the combination and the

interrelation of which determine to a great extent the inner facet of the word. These

components are usually described as types of meaning. The two main types of

meaning that are readily observed are the grammatical and the lexical meanings to

be found in words and word-forms.

The most general meanings rendered by language and expressed by systemic

correlations of word-forms are interpreted in linguistics as grammatical meanings.

Grammatical meaningsare very abstract, very general. Therefore the

grammatical form is not confined to an individual word, but unites a whole class of

words, so that each word of the class expresses the corresponding grammatical

meaning together with its individual, concrete semantics. Grammatical meanings

ranged in oppositions and presented in grammatical forms build grammatical


Grammatical formscan be morphemes, synthetic forms, and grammatical

word combinations, which are analytical forms. Synthetic forms unite both lexical

and grammatical meanings in one word. In analytical forms there two or more

words in which at least one element is an auxiliary. The auxiliary is a constant

element of an analytical structure, which is devoid of lexical meaning (it renders

grammatical meanings and is a purely grammatical element). Analytical structures

must be differentiated from free syntactical word combinations. In free syntactical

word combinations all the elements possess both lexical and grammatical


Cf. waiter and waitress

The distinctions of gender in Russian are universal. They refer to all the

vocabulary of the language. In English this distinction is not a grammatical

phenomenon. The grammatical category of gender is lost. What we have now is

some gender distinctions existing as the remnant of history. The distinction “waiter

vs. waitress” is not universal enough to build up a grammatical category. It does

not possess the level of grammatical abstraction characterized by an unlimited

range of occurrence.

Cf. book and books

-s is a form-building morpheme that builds a grammatical form because it is

characterized by the level of grammatical abstraction realized in an unlimited range

of occurrence.

Types of word-form derivation

These fall under two main headings:

(a) those limited to changes in the body of the word, without having

recourse to auxiliary words (synthetic types),

(b) those implying the use of auxiliary words (analytical types).

Besides, there are a few special cases of different forms of a word

being derived from altogether different stems.

Synthetic Types

The number of morphemes used for deriving word-forms in Modern

English is very small (much smaller than either in German or in Russian,

for instance.

There is the ending -s (-es), with three variants of pronunciation and

the endings -en and -ren, in one or two words each, viz. oxen, brethren

(poet.), children.

There is the ending -'s, with the same three variants of pronunciation as

for the plural ending, used to form what is generally termed the genitive case of


For adjectives, there are the endings -er and -est for the degrees of


For verbs, there is the ending -s (-es) for the third person singular

present indicative, with the same three variants of pronunciation noted above

for nouns, the ending -d (-ed) for the past tense of certain verbs (with three

variants of pronunciation, again), the ending -d (ed) for the second participle

of certain verbs, the ending -n (-en) for the second participle of certain other

verbs, and the ending -ing for the first participle and also for the gerund.

Thus the total number of morphemes used to derive forms of words is

eleven or twelve, which is much less than the number found in languages

of a mainly synthetical structure.

It should also be noted that most of these endings are mono-semantic,

in the sense that they denote only one grammatical category and not two or

three (or more) at a time, as is the case in synthetic languages. For

example, the plural -s (or -es) denotes only the category of plural number, and

has nothing to do with any other grammatical category, such as case.

Sound Alternations

Sound alternations are a way of expressing grammatical categories which

consists in changing a sound inside the root. This method appears in Modern

English, for example, in nouns, as when the root vowel [au] of mouse is

changed into [aı] in mice, etc.

This method is much more extensively used in verbs, such as write

wrote written, sing — sang sung, meet — met met, etc. On the whole,

vowel alternation does play some part among the means of expressing

grammatical categories, though its part in Modern English has been much

reduced as compared to Old English.

Analytical Types

These consist in using a word (devoid of any lexical meaning of its

own) to express some grammatical category of another word.

There can be no doubt in Modern English about the analytical character of

such formations as, e. g., has invited or is invited, or is inviting, or does not

invite. The verbs have, be, and do have no lexical meaning of their own in

these cases. The lexical meaning of the formation resides in the participle or

infinitive following the verb have, be or do. Some doubt has been expressed

about the formations shall invite and will invite. There is a view that shall

and will have a lexical meaning.

While the existence of analytical forms of the English verb cannot be

disputed, the existence of such forms in adjectives and adverbs is not

nowadays universally recognised. The question whether such formations as

more vivid, the most vivid, or, again, more vividly and most vividly are or

are not analytical forms of degrees of comparison of vivid and vividly, is

controversial. We can only say here that if these formations are recognised as

analytical forms of degrees of comparison, the words more and most have to

be numbered among the analytical means of morphology.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 3093

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