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CHAPTER 3. THE VERB AND ITS GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIES 1 page

"It is enough to take up some single leading
grammatical relation. I select for this purpose the verb as
the most important part of speech, with which most of
the others come into relation, and which completes the
formation of the sentence, the grammatical purpose of all
language" Wilhelm vonHumboldt

1. The position of the verb in the system of parts of speech.

2. Subclasses of verbs.

3. The grammatical category of tense.

4. The grammatical category of aspect.

5. The grammatical category of time correlation.

6. The grammatical category of mood.

7. The grammatical category of voice.

1. With the analysis of the nouns we have covered a large area of English grammar. Nouns as we have stated play the primary role in giving names to various phenomena of the world. In nouns we can very clearly observe the nominating function of the language. Now we must turn our attention to the other major part of speech, the verb. Some linguists (e.g. E.Sapir) believe that the noun and the verb are the only two really universal parts of speech. Whereas the noun plays the main role in naming the objects of the world, the verb fulfils a no less important function in language. It occupies a very special place in the system of parts of speech which is predetermined by the syntactic nature of the verb. The verb is the only part of speech which has a unique feature called valency. Valency is the ability of the verb to determine the number and the character of other parts of the sentence.The nature of the verb is actually responsible for the rest of the sentence, i.e. what nouns and other parts of speech will accompany it and how they will be semantically specified. E.g. if we take the verb to give, we can see that the act of giving presupposes three participants: the giver, the object of giving and the recipient of this object. Accordingly the semantics of the verb give requires the use of the subject to denote the giver (i.e. who gives), a direct object to denote what is given and an indirect object to denote the addressee of the act of giving, i.e. to whom the object was given. So the realization of the valency of give results in the sentential structure: He gave me an apple or He gave an apple to me. Another example: the semantics of the verb to behave presupposes two participants: who and how. and the valency of the verb requires two obligatory parts of the sentence: the subject and the adverbial modifier' of manner which results in the sentential structure: He behaved beautifully (like a real gentleman).

So we see that the sentence is actually built around the verb on the basis of its valency. Wallace Chafe is absolutely right in stating: "What we may call for convenience a sentence is either a verb alone, or a verb accompanied by one or more nouns, or a configuration of this kind to which one or more coordinate or subordinate verbs have been added" [Chafe 1970, 98].

In some languages (e.g. Hungarian) subject and object pronouns are usually incorporated into the verb form itself and as the result sentences can occur without any overt noun phrase but the verb is never optional. It is always used in the sentence whereas the other actants presupposed by the verb's valency may not be overtly presented in the sentence. This can be illustrated by the following Russian poem written by Lyubov Voropaeva:



Bcnopxuyjia. Omdbiiuanacb. Upoytceeana.

OmMemwacb. Bsdoxuyna, UpuHecanacb.

HaKpacwiacb. Cnpocuna. Paccnpocwa.

BcruiaKuyjia. UoKypwia. Paccmenjiacb.

fi,ocmana. Pacnycmuna. floexsana.

npuMepwa. Bsanmyjia. OmnoDtciuia.

Haxmypunacb. PacKpuna. UpoHumcuia.

3eenyjia. UoseoHWia. Omjioztcuna.

Yloena. Uomymiuia. Omnpocunacb.

Cxeamuna. TIocMompenacb. Uodejfcajia.

Veudejia. Kynwia. Hapndiuiacb.

Bepnynacb. PaccKasana, UoKasana.

UoMOpufwiacb. Uocmpuznacb. HaKpymunacb.

Omeemuna. Btuuomuia. BcKunamiuia.

O6udejiacb. Ct^enmiacb. UoMupwacb. flocmojia. Pasjioytciuia. PacKpouna.

TIpuMepiuia. Uooxcuia. CMemcuia.

Cjio^fctuia. UoKypwia. UoMpcmHena.

...Pa6onuu denb okohhujicx. Ycmana.

3a ijejibiu deHb hu pasy ne npucejia (quoted from: [The Sentence and the Phrase 1989, 12-13]).

In general verbs carry a great deal of information: they describe actions, events and states and place them in time, they tell us whether these actions are real or unreal, whether they have been completed or are still going on, they allow us 'to perform various speech acts ( to state, to request, to inquire, to command etc.). In fact, the verb used in the position of the predicate reflects all our cognitive activities and our thoughts about the world.

Thus we may conclude that the verb plays the most important role in constituting the structure of the sentence, it presents the pivot, or the semantico-syntactic centre of the sentence. And as the sentence is the main unit of

 

 

communication, we may conclude that through the verb, in the process of its combining with other parts of speech to make a sentence the language fulfils its communicative function. Basically the verb is a must for any sentence and verbless utterances are usually the results of the verb's deletion in the structure of discourse but the meaning of the deleted verb is easily restored from the context which means that semantically (if not syntactically) the verb is always present in the sentence. E.g. Where are you going? - Class. Utterances which semantically have no verb (e.g. Oh\ Gee! Ouch!) are not sentential structures and they do not give information about situations of reality, they usually accompany 'true' sentences and express the emotional attitude of the speaker to the information contained in these sentences.

The verb is a complicated and capacious part of speech. Its complicated character, is manifested in the fact that it has the largest number of grammatical categories. To produce an utterance the speaker has to make a number of grammatical choices: to choose the appropriate form of the tense, aspect, time correlation, number, person, voice and mood. In fact learning a language is to a large extent learning to operate its verbal forms and most of the mistakes in a second language performance are made on the use of the verbal forms. Its capacious character is manifested in the fact that the verb as a part of speech is presented in two subsystems: finite and non-finite form. Its finite forms make up the centre of this part of speech and they participate in the processes of making sentences. The non-finite forms - the Infinitive, the Gerund and the Participle make up the periphery in the class of verbs. They are characterized by a contamination of some verbal (morphological) and some syntactic (positions in the sentence) features of other parts of speech: the noun, the adjective,and the adverb. By means of the non-finite forms the verb interacts with the other cardinal parts of speech.

The class of verbs gets enriched by means of affixation, conversion and compounding. The most productive verb-building suffixes are: -ate (e.g. cultivate, activate}, -/ze(e:g. realize, monopolize, colonize, napoleonize), -ify (e.g. verify, ratify, magnify, simplify], -en (e.g. soften, widen, strengthen). Prefixes like over- , under-, re-, dis/mis, en-, be-, un- are also very productive (e.g. to overestimate, to undermine, to reread, to misquote, to enlarge, to befriend, to unbreak ( unbreak my heart - a popular song).

Conversion is also very productive in the sphere of verb-building. Verbs may be derived from words of any part of speech and also from phrases.

E.g.

1) / conference with parents -when children first come to school (D.Dickson)

2) tfe machine-guns questions (S. Turow).

3)Morel rarely thee 'd his son (D.H.Lawrence).

4) The fellows were out Saturday-nighting (D.Lessing). '

dust? " "The char dusts. I garden... " (I.Murdoch). 6)The families oohed and aahed (A.Miller).

The great productivity of conversion in the sphere of verb-building is best seen in the two most flexible areas of language — the language of mass media and advertising, e.g. She would not try to stiff-upper-lip it through (Time magazine). Johnson's baby your baby.

Very often to understand the meaning of verbs newly coined by means of conversion one needs not only linguistic, but extralinguistic, or the world-knowledge. Cf. My sister Houdini 'd her way out of the locked closet (E. Clark and H. Clark). Unless the reader knows who Harry Houdini was and what features are ascribed to him he/she may find it difficult to understand the meaning of the occasional verb to. Houdini which means 'to escape by trickery'.

In the sphere of compounding the most productive type is adding to the verb a postpositive adverb (G.Curme calls such formations separable compounds [Curme 1947, 24]), e.g. to give in, to take up, to bring up, to make up etc. For some of such compound verbs there exist synonymic simple or suffixational verbs (e.g. set up - organize, make up for- compensate, do smb. in - kill smb. , make up with smth. - reconcile, pass out - faint, put up - tolerate, take off- remove, come about - happen, take in - deceive etc.) and such pairs of synonyms differ in their sphere of usage. The compounds "verb + postpositive adverb" are more colloquial as compared to their suffixational synonyms. Such combinations of a verb with a postpositive adverb add an idiomatic power to the language. The ability to easily use such compounds in an informal conversation is usually a sign of one's good knowledge of colloquial English. Here again we often come across cases of homonymy between the verbal and nominal compounds. The following joke is based on such a case of homonymy.

A policeman says to and old lady who is driving a bicycle in the middle of the road and knitting: "Pull over!"-"No, socks", comes the answer.

2, Verbs are classified in grammar according to three main aspects: form, function and grammatical semantics. According to their formal properties English verbs are divided into two classes: regular and irregular. The differentiation of verbs into these two classes is a relict of the old English systems of strong and weak verbs which became confused in the course of the language development and makes systematization of irregular verbs very difficult. As a result of this confusion there is a lot of chaos and idiosyncrasy in the class of irregulars which makes the use of their past form and participle form quite difficult. Richard Lederer even wrote a poem about irregular verbs which start with the following:

The verbs in English are a fright.

How can we learn to read and write?

Today we speak, but first we spoke;

Some faucets leak, but never loke.

Today we write, but first we wrote;

We bite our tongues, but never bote.

Each day I teach, for years I taught,

And preachers preach, but never praught.

This tale I tell; this tale I told;

I smell the flowers, but never smold.

If knights still slay, as once they slew,

Then do we play, as once weplew?

If still I do as once I did,

Then do cows moo, as once they mid? [Lederer 1990].

The class of irregular verbs in English is not very large. There are about 180 irregular verbs all in all [Pinker 2000, 16], but they are the verbs most frequently used because they name everyday routines and activities. Due to the lack of systematicity, mistakes on the use of irregular verbs may occasionally be made not only by non-native speakers but also by native speakers, especially children, • because children often tend to make all verbs regular ( e.g. He *breaked my toy) or make wrong analogies ( e.g. Grandma *book a cake (on analogy with take, took). Therefore the best way to master the use of irregular verbs is perhaps to learn their forms and use them frequently until they become habitual.

According to their function (which is basically determined by the character of their meanings) verbs are subdivided into notional and functional. In between these two subclasses there are the so-called semi-notional verbs. Here belong modal (can, may, must, should, ought etc.), modalized (seem, appear, happen, chance, turn out, prove}, aspective verbs (begin, continue, stop etc.). Unlike notional verbs which have a full nominative value, semi-notional verbs possess a partial nominative value. They do not name actions as notional verbs do but just add either modal or aspective characteristics to the notional verbs they accompany. Functional verbs are further subdivided into auxiliaries, links, substitutes and intensifiers. Each of these classes of functional verbs presents a limited number of units. Yet they are open classes and each of them may be joined by other members. Thus, alongside with "pure" auxiliaries like have or be or shall/will there are semi-auxiliary verbs like to be going which is regularly used to denote future actions, or the combination let-Prn-Inf which may be treated as a half-analytical form of the Imperative mood to express inducement addressed not to the second person but to the other participants of the situation (Go there - Let him go there). Besides prototypical links of being( seem, look, sound, smell, taste and feel), remaining and becoming (be, remain, keep, continue, become, get, grow, turn) there are less regular link verbs like run, make or go, e.g. This little river runs dry every summer. This girl -will make a good wife. Once he goes -wild there is no stopping him. Alongside with the regular verb substitute do (I don't think they miss their father much, but I'm afraid I do them (E.Segal)) other verbs with wide lexical meanings {make, fix, set) may also be used as substitutes, e.g. Hurry up, or we won't make it. Or: It took her just a few minutes to fix dinner. The four of us -Colin, June and Joyce and I - had supper together. It made all the Washington papers (J.Susann).

In addition to the regular intensifier do the speakers of English occasionally use such verbs as go and try. E.g. He mustn 't catch cold - the doctor had declared, and he had gone and caught it (J. Galsworthy). Or: Try and come in time (compare with the Russian: A oh essui da npocmydujica. CMompu, ne onosdau).

Discussing the peculiarities of the grammatical structure of English we stated that English is permeated with polysemy and homonymy on all levels of its structure. It is best observable in the sphere of verbs and their subclasses. Many of the verbs in English are polyfunctional. E.g., the verb have has five functions: it may be a notional verb (/ have a new car), an auxiliary verb for building perfect forms (/ have sent him a letter), a semi-auxiliary in the structure of a verbal-nominal predicate (Have a look!) and in the causative construction (/'// have you regret your words) and also a modal verb (I have to go now). The cases of homonymy are observed in the case of shall and will (modal and auxiliary), would (modal, auxiliary and aspective. Cf. He said he would come. I tried to talk to him but he would not listen to me. When I was a little kid my father would take me to the circus every Sunday).

There are also cases of syncretism when a functional verb fulfils two functions simultaneously, e.g.

1)7? wasn 't snowing in the morning, but clear, blue and cold (I. Shaw).

2)She imagined she was hiding what she felt, but in fact she was frowning and fidgety (D.Lessing).

In these two examples the verb 'be' fulfils a double function, that of a link verb and an auxiliary.

According to their grammatical semantics verbs are divided into dynamic and static, transitive and intransitive, durative and terminative. These semantic characteristics, as we shall see later on in this chapter, are related to the grammatical categories of aspect, time correlation and voice. As many verbs in English are polysemantic these features refer not to the whole of the verbal lexeme, but to its concrete meanings. A verb may be transitive in one of its meaning and intransitive. in the other. E.g. He ran for his life. This is how a good society must be run. Sometimes the two grammatical characteristics of a verb in its different meanings are skillfully employed by writers. Cf. ...it's no trouble to run the ranch because the ranch doesn 't run never has (J. Steinbeck).

Similarly a verb may be terminative in one meaning and durative in another. E.g. He worked in the local bakery. I made a remark but it did not •work. Besides, a lot of English verbs have a dual aspective nature and their aspective characteristic is always context-dependent. Cf. He seldom drank anything except a pint of beer. Now drink this and go to bed at once.

A verb may also be static in one of its meanings and dynamic in another. This is best observed in the class of verbs denoting mental activity. Thus, if the verb think realizes the meaning of mental activity it has a dynamic character and may be used in the Continuous aspect, e.g. "What do you think of, Hicky, when you are thinking? " (E.Q'Brieri). But when the same verb exposes the meaning have an opinion, it has a static character and its usual form is noncontinuous, e.g. / don't think for a moment that you are in love with you husband. I think you dislike him (S.Maugham).

3. Nouns present the projection of various objects perceived by the human mind and verbalized by language and they are primarily connected with the concept of location in space which finds its linguistic manifestation in the category of case and in their combinability with various prepositions of location. Verbs denote actions and they are related both to the concept of space (where?) and to the concept of time (when?). In fact the concepts of time and space are very closely connected. The idea of their unity found its expression in the theory of chronotope which considers them as two different aspects of one whole [BaxTHH 1975]. The close interrelation of these two concepts - time and space is also reflected in the interpretation of the category of tense in terms of the viewer's perceptual space, which will be discussed later in this chapter.

Time plays a very important role in human life and the concept of time occupies a very important place in the conceptual picture of reality and in the semantic space of language though languages may vary greatly in expressing this concept. In most European languages the expression of time is primarily associated with the grammatical category of tense which includes three grammatical tenses: present, past and future. These three grammatical tenses correspond to the three planes of ontological time. But this rule is not universal. Many non-European languages do not use this time scale. For example, Buzarra, an Australian aboriginal language has one tense form indication for both 'happening now' and 'happened recently' and another form indication 'happened today' and 'happened a long time ago' [Garner 1989,66]. Hopi have a different concept of time - there are no straightforward past, present and future and their language is marked by the overriding grammatical importance of aspect and mood. There are languages (e.g. Burmese) where time does not find a grammatical expression at all [Comrie 1985, viii, 48]. There are also languages in which the verb is concerned with spatial rather than temporal relations.

In English, as well as in most European languages, the concept of time finds a very elaborate expression. It is presented by units of various lingual levels: grammatical forms, nouns, adjectives and adverbs of time, prepositions and conjunctions of general temporal semantics, prefixes and word combinations. Taken together they constitute the functional-semantic category of temporality. The centre of this category is taken by the grammatical category of tense in which this concept finds the most specified and regular expression. Besides the grammatical category of tense the concept of time is also represented in two other verbal categories of English: aspect and time correlation though in a different way which will be specified later.

The grammatical category of tense is a category which expresses the relation between the time of the action and the moment of speech (now) or any other point of reference taken for the basis of temporal relations (then).Strictly speaking, the word moment in this definition is not very precise as both now and then denote not only points in time but rather stretches of time and the boundaries of these stretches are not clearly outlined (compare the use of present in universal statements like "Experience fades. Memory stills (Ch. Romney-Brown) where the 'now' actually occupies the whole of the time axis, it refers to all times, so time eventually stills in such utterances). The presence of the words now and then in the characteristic of the category suggests that it has a deictic character, the now and then are not stable but shifting because they present the speaker's moment of speech (for this some scholars introduce the term 'the time of communication' to replace the 'the moment of speech' [King 1983,104-106]). In this respect tense may be compared to the most prototypical deictic words - the pronouns. This fact differentiates the category of tense from the other two verbal categories in which the concept of time also finds its representation - the categories of aspect and time correlation. Only the category of tense has a deictic character. It locates situation in time with reference to the time of communication, the speaker's time. Aspect involves different ways of "viewing the internal temporal constituency of a situation" [Comrie 1976, 5], whereas time-correlation places the action on the time axis with reference to its correlation with another action or another indication of time on the time axis as prior to them.

Due to its complexity the problem of the grammatical category of tense has always been in the focus of linguistic discussions. Linguists differ greatly in the questions related to the scope of this category and, consequently, to the number of categorial forms they find in English This number varies from two to twelve in various interpretations. The controversy of opinions is related to two main factors: 1) the relations between tense and the other two verbal categories in which the concept of time is represented (aspect and time correlation) and 2) the status of shall/will + Infinitive, i.e. the problem of Future tense. Let us dwell on these two problems in more detail.

We have already stated that the concept of time, being of great importance for the speakers of English (and many other languages), finds its representation in three grammatical categories: tense, aspect and time correlation, but in each of these categories it is represented differently, different aspects of this concept are foregrounded: tense represents the relation of the action to the moment of speech (the speaker's now),aspect reflects the internal temporal structure of the situation as presented by the speaker, the speaker's 'vision' and interpretation of the temporal situation and time correlation presents the action in its correlation to another action or point in time as prior to it. Thus, these three categories present three ways of interpreting the concept of time and representing it in the grammatical system of the verb.

The close interrelation of these three categories finds its iconic expression in the form of the verb where they are presented simultaneously (syncretically). E.g. the grammatical form It has been raining for hours expresses an action which began prior to the moment of speech, has been going on for a certain period of time up to the moment of speech and is still going on, i.e. simultaneous to the moment of speech. This syncretism finds its reflection in the name of the grammatical form - Present Perfect Continuous. In practical grammars of English all such complex forms are usually referred to as tenses.

The fact of their close interrelation gives grounds to interpret such forms as various 'tenses' and in this case the number of tenses in English invariably grows. E.g., A.V.Korsakov presents the grammatical category of tense in English as a complex system which includes absolute and anterior tenses (based on the opposition of Indefinite and Perfect forms), and static and dynamic tenses (based on the opposition of Indefinite and Continuous forms) [Korsakov 1969]. This view is somewhat similar to the presentation of tenses in the grammars of French, where the system of tenses is also based on several oppositions and the authors speak about simple and complex tenses, point and continuous tenses etc.( for more detail see: [Fax 2000, 339-342]).

However, for the sake of theoretical clarity in this question it is necessary to bring to mind the postulates of the grammatical category suggested by A.I.Smirnitsky. According to one of the main postulates a categorial form cannot express simultaneously several meanings of the same grammatical category though it can express several meanings of different grammatical categories [cmhphhijkhh 1959, 9]. In fact it appears a very simple and very logical postulate when it is applied to other grammatical categories. Indeed, if the form of a noun expresses singularity, it cannot express plurality at one and the same time. If the form of a verb is passive, it cannot express an active meaning at one and the same time. Applied to the grammatical form it has been raining this postulate invariably brings us to a conclusion that the meanings of present, perfect and continuous, expressed by this form must be referred to three different categories, but not to one and the same, though they do coexist in the form (which is just one of the many cases of syncretism in the language).

Another disputable question concerns the fate of the future tense in English. Many scholars, following the opinion expressed by OJespersen [Ecnepcen 1958, 304-306] deny the combination shall/will + Infinitive the status of a grammatical form of future. Their main argument is that the verbs shall and will in these combinations have not lost their modal meanings completely and cannot be treated as pure auxiliaries and, consequently, the combinations shall/will +Infinitive belong to modal constructions and must be studied together with other modal expressions which also have a reference to the future (see, for example: [Palmer 1987, 37-38]). The proponents of this view conclude that morphologically English has no future form of the verb and the meaning of futurity is expressed by a variety of means including the present tense, the semi-auxiliary to be going - to Inf. and the combinations of modal verbs with infinitives [Greenbaum 1996, 253-260]. L.S.Barkhudarov who also denies the existence of a special future form in English adds another argument. He says that the combination, shall/will -^Infinitive does not meet the requirements of an analytical form because it is not based on a discontinuous morpheme [Bapxy^apoB 1975, 126- 127].

The voices in defense of the future form in the tense paradigm of English are no less numerous. Now let us consider some arguments in favour of the future.

First, there is a marked tendency in Modern English to unify the formation of the future and to use -will with all persons. The modal verbs shall and will however differ considerably in their modal meanings. The wide use of the contracted forms (/'// go there; he'll do it) also speaks in favour of the auxiliary status of the verb,-as the modal verbs are usually not contracted.

Second, there are a lot of cases when the combination shall/will ( or the unified will) with the Infinitive expresses mere futurity and is devoid of any modal meanings . Let's analyze the following example: "Then I went into the cinema next door. They'll probably remember - they had to get me change" (G. Greene). The modal meaning of probability is expressed by the modal word probably^ which makes us suppose that the verb will (and the form is contracted!) expresses pure futurity.

Third, since the grammatical category of tense is related to objective time and its conceptualization by the human mind and this conceptual category (at least in the European mentality) has three planes: present, past and future, it is logical to believe, that the grammatical category of tense also has a trichotomous structure and includes special grammatical forms for the present,


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 1760


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