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CHAPTER 4. THE COMMUNICATIV ASPECT OF THE SENTENCE AND ITS ACTUAL DIVISION

1. Classification of sentences according to the purpose of communication

2. The problem of exclamatory sentences.

3. Transposition on the level of communicative types of sentences.

4. The actual division of the sentence. The central notions of the actual division: the theme and the rheme. Dirhemic and monorhemic utterances.

5. Means of expressing the components of actual division.

 

6. The peculiarities of actual division in different communicative types of sentences. The text forming function of actual division.

1. From the point of view of its role in discourse the sentence is defined as a minimum unit of communication. Every sentence is uttered with a certain communicative aim: either to share information with the listener, or to ask for information, or to induce the listener to some action.

According to their communicative aim sentences are divided into three types: declarative, interrogative and imperative. As a rule one communicative type differs from another not only in the purpose of communication, but also in structure, intonation and the listener's response.

Let us have a closer look at each communicative type. The declarativesentence expresses a statement, either affirmative or negative. Declarative sentences are characterized by a direct word order, a falling tone and are correlated with the listener's responding signal of attention, which may express agreement, disagreement, sympathy, approval, appraisal etc, e.g.

1) "You look well, Dad " - "Middling". (J. Galsworthy)

2) "Why, this is porridge, cold porridge. " "Real Scotch porridge. You should appreciate it, with your Scotch name. " ( G. Greene)

3) "She has left me. "- " My dear boy, my little boy. " (J. Galsworthy)

The interrogativesentence presents a request for information wanted by the

speaker from the listener. It also differs structurally from the declarative sentence by

an inverted word order.

The usual response to an interrogative sentence is an answer which, together with the

question, forms a question - answer dialogue unity, e.g. "Are there any letters for

me?" "Three."

In the process of communication the interrogative communicative purpose, like

any other, is not always fulfilled, in such cases the response to a question may be

silence, a verbal refusal to give an answer or another question, e.g.

1) "Then why did Ted Driffield marry her? " "Ask me another " (S. Maugham)

2) "How are you, Mr Bosinney? " He turned his back and walked away. (J. Galsworthy)

3) "What do you think of my new star? " "Who gave it to you? "

(J. Galsworthy)

Traditionally interrogative sentences are subdivided into several subclasses: general, special, alternative and so called disjunctive (or tag) questions. This classification, however, is more structural than communicative in its essence, it reflects the difference in the structure of the questions more than the difference in the communicative intention of the speaker. The analysis of the interrogative sentences in the communicative aspect allows us to make just a few additions to the traditional classification. Thus, a closer look at the general and alternative questions shows that they do not differ much in their communicative aim. The communicative aim of both



the questions is to get information about the whole event whereas in special questions the speaker needs information about the details, or particulars, thus asking 'who', 'where', 'what', 'why' etc. When asking about the event (whether it really did, does or will take place) we always have an alternative in our minds, i.e. we expect a lyes' or a 'no' answer. This alternative is implied, but is not presented explicitly in the structure of the general question. In the alternative question as the name suggests the alternative is expressed explicitly and this seems to be the only difference between general and alternative questions. Taking this into consideration we may regard general questions as compressed variants of alternative questions with the alternative implied (not presented in the structure of the question), and alternative questions, in their turn, may be regarded as extended variants of general questions with the alternative expressed explicitly in the structure of the question. As for the so called disjunctive questions the term 'disjunctive' reveals the structure of the question rather than its aim in communication. The analysis of question-answer unities with this type of questions shows that their communicative function is not a request for information as in general questions but rather confirmation of the information that the speaker already has and just wants the listener to confirm, e.g. He arrived last night, didn't he? So the best term for these question from the point of view of their role in the process of communication is confirmative questions. These questions have a high, frequency in English and carry out several pragmatic functions. They are often used as a means of subjective modality intended to make the utterance less assertive (This isn't the best of your answers, is it?). They also carry out a contact- forming function as they involve the listener in the conversation (Fine day, isn 't it?). They may be used as an effective means of making the speaker share your opinion or carry out the promise ^'You'll never go back, will you"? -"No." "Youpromise?"- "Ipromise". (G.Greene).

As it was pointed out by Ch. Bally, a sentence contains two parts: modus which expresses the attitude of the speaker to the information presented in the sentence, and dictum which contains this information. E.g. in the sentence / think we 'II reach the final solution tomorrow the principal clause / think presents the modus and the subordinate clause is the dictum. In accordance with the theory of modus and dictum linguists differentiate between two types of questions: modal (referring to the modus) and dictal (referring to the dictum) [ApyxioHOBa 1970]. The latter are aimed at getting factual information about the event of reality presented by the sentence, the former - at finding out the listener's opinion about the event. Compare the following dialogues:

1) "I have to leave early today ".

"Why?"

"I have to see off a friend. "

2) "Do you really have to leave now? "

"Yes, and why? "

"I wanted to take you for a ride ".

 

In the first dialogue the question refers to the dictum (Why do you have to leave?) and in the second - to the modus {Why do you ask me!). In the processes of communication we may come across dialogues that are mostly dictal (e.g. questions asked at the inquiry office, interrogations, interviews) or mostly modal ( used in discussions, debates etc), but in most cases these two types of questions occur side by side and may even be combined in one question, e.g. When do you think it's going to finish!

The imperativesentence expresses inducement, either affirmative or negative (prohibition) and its communicative function is to induce the listener to perform (or not to perform) an action. Structurally imperative sentences are usually subjectless and the verb is used in the form of the Imperative mood. They are correlated with the listener's verbal or nonverbal response showing whether the inducement is carried out or rejected . E.g.

1) "Let's go and see how the money's gone ".

"Very well", assentedBosinney. (J. Galsworthy)

2) "Come, come back, Irene!" The footsteps died away. (J. Galsworthy)

The development of pragmatics and the theory of speech acts made it possible to elaborate on the traditional classification of sentences according to the aim of communication and to give a more detailed classification. The speech act is considered to be the minimal unit of communication. If we analyze our speech from this aspect we shall see that all communication can be dissected into such minimal units: when we communicate we inform, state, promise, ask, beg, order, warn, invite, suggest and perform other communicative acts. So all our speech consists of such minimal units which are speech acts (for more details about the theory of speech acts see: [octhh 1986; Cepjib 1986; HoHermoB 1989]). Each communicative type of sentence is best suited for a number of speech acts. Thus with the help of declarative sentence we merely state a fact (This is the best day for fishing), make a promise (/ will come back and marry you), threaten (You shall regret your words}, perform a speech act (Ipronounce you man and wife); with the help of the imperative sentences we may give an order ( Come back at once), make a request {Please, give me your hand). Applying the theory of speech acts some authors give a more detailed classification of communicative types of sentences [IloHermoB 1981, 271 -280].

2. In some grammar books, mostly in practical grammar manuals the authors point out one more communicative type - exclamatory sentences. However, a closer look at exclamatory sentences shows that they can hardly be placed on the same level with the three basic communicative types because they differ in their communicative status. The function of the declarative sentence is to give information, the function of interrogative sentences is to ask for information, the function of imperative sentences is to induce the speaker to an action whereas the function of exclamatory sentences is just to express the speaker's emotions. The emotive charge, expressed by exclamatory sentences presents an additional feature that may accompany the basic communicative types. So each communicative type of the sentence may be

exclamatory and non-exclamatory.

Non-exclamatory: Exclamatory:

It was a silly mistake. What a silly mistake it was!

Why did you keep it back from me? Why on earth did you keep it back

from me?!
Try to speak sensibly. Do try to speak sensibly!

Consequently, exclamatory sentences cannot be regarded as a fourth communicative type because their function is different - they are used to express the emotional state of the speaker.

3. The analysis of communicative types of sentences from the aspect of syntactic
structures in which the communicative aims are realized reveals a fundamental
parallelism between a communicative type of the sentence and its syntactic structure.
Yet this parallelism is not absolute and in the process of real communication each
of the communicative types of sentences may carry out secondary communicative
functions, i.e. be transposed into the sphere of other communicative types.
D.Bolinger is absolutely right in supposing that grammatical functions probably
started as social (communicative - L.K.) functions thousands of years ago, but as
societies grew more and more complex, the simple social functions became
diversified and the old forms had to be adopted for new purposes [Bolinger 1975,
157]. As a result we have questions that do not really ask, statements that do not
really assert, imperatives that do not really command, that is we observe the use of
one communicative type of sentences in the function of another communicative type,
i.e. we observe the phenomenon of transposition on the level of communicative types
of sentences. , .

Transpositions on the level of communicative types occur quite frequently and embrace all communicative types of sentences. Thus, a declarative sentence may be used as a request for information when it is supported by the proper intonation, e.g. "So you are familiar with the town? " "I spent a winter here some years ago. " This type of questions is called 'suggestive' and in their communicative function they are often close to confirmative questions.

Declarative sentences are often transposed into the sphere of imperative sentences.E.g. I want you to be quiet - the meaning of inducement in this sentence is expressed lexically - by the semantics of the verb to want which imparts an imperative meaning to the whole sentence. Other examples: I'd thank you to leave me alone. You can keep out of this! And now we shall produce our licenses! (a road policeman saying to a driver). All these sentences contain various markers of inducement: a modal verb, a verb in the future tense, a verb of volition and the appropriate intonation. Of special interest are the sentences which do not contain any specific markers of inducement and present implicit requests, e.g. There is no bread in the house (an implicit request to go and buy some bread); Someone hasn 't washed

his hands (an implicit reminder to go and wash the hands). Such implicit inducements are often preferred to direct ones as they conform to the norms of Anglo-American speech etiquette. They make the inducement less assertive, more tentative and thus help to avoid communicative failures.

Interrogative sentences can be transposed into the sphere of declarative and imperative. The most typical example of an interrogative sentence transposed into the sphere of a declarative sentence is the so called rhetorical question which from the point of view of its communicative function presents an emphatic statement and the formal proof to it is the absence of an answer to such questions, e.g. If the fellow could build houses what did his clothes matter? (J. Galsworthy). Rhetorical questions often occur in familiar quotations and proverbs, e.g. Can a leopard change his spots? What does the moon care if the dogs bark at her? Why ask the Bishop if the Pope's around?

Interrogative sentences of the "Will (would) you..' type are regularly used to express inducement and in this sphere, especially in women's speech, they occur perhaps more frequently than the forms of the Imperative mood, which is in exact accordance with the rules of speech etiquette. E.g. Will you come near the fire, please? Won 'tyou have some more coffee?

Interrogative sentences of other types can also occur in imperative contexts, e.g. Why don't you eat something? (Please, eat something); How can you say such a thing (Don Y say such a thing!); Why can 'tyou keep quiet (Keep quiet, please); Why not go there right now? (Let's go there right now!).

Transposition of imperative sentences into the sphere of interrogative takes place with verbs of speech activity, e.g. "Tell me your name!" communicatively does not differ much from "What'syour name?', and the verbal request to them is the same. When transposed into the sphere of declarative sentences imperative sentences become functional equivalents of conditional clauses, e.g. Let women into your plans and you never know where it'll end; Tell me how mush a nation knows about its own language and I will tell you how much that nation cares about its own identity (J. Ciardi).

As is always the case with transposition, the primary communicative meaning of the sentence does not disappear completely but is shifted to the background giving way to the secondary meaning. This interplay of two meanings creates the effect of transposition and makes them an effective means of expressive syntax. Transpositions on the level of communicative types of sentences enrich the syntactic means of expressing various communicative intentions of the speaker. On the other hand, the processes of transposition reveal the flexibility and dynamism of the language and the absence of hard and fast lines between its various subsystems. Taking this into consideration it is possible to point out intermediate types of communicative sentences (declarative- interrogative, declarative - imperative etc.), as it was suggested by M.Y.Blokh (for detailed treatment see: [Bnox 1976]).

The dynamic character of relations between a communicative type of sentence and its ability to actualize both its primary and its secondary communicative

functions is presented in the following scheme where the straight lines correspond to
the primary functions and the dotted lines - to the secondary functions:
Communicative function Type of sentence

1. Statement 'Cc-r----_.----,--"-"'^ Declarative sentence

2. Question '"'--'._~~,~-->''---,..----'-'" Interrogative sentence

3. Inducement "^^^~ Imperative sentence

The phenomenon of transposition on the level of communicative types of sentences can be correlated to the theory of speech acts where it is described in terms of direct and indirect speech acts ( for more detail see: [Cepjit 1986]).

4. In the process of communication one and the same sentence may be used for making different utterances. Thus the sentence William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon may produce three utterances. If it is used as an answer to the question ""Where was William Shakespeare born? " it is pronounced with the logical stress on the adverbial modifier and the other parts of the sentence may be deleted. If it is used as an answer to the question "Did William Shakespeare live all his life in London?" it is pronounced with the logical stress on the predicate, or the particle only is introduced before the predicate. And finally, if it is used as an answer to the question "Who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon?" it has the logical stress on the subject, and the other parts of the sentence may be deleted. These utterances, though identical in their syntactic and semantic structures and their communicative functions (all of them are declarative) carry out different functions in the process of communication. They differ in their informative value. This aspect in the sentence analysis is known as the actual division, or the functional perspective of the sentence. The study of this aspect of the sentence is historically connected with the traditional logical analysis of the sentence. H.Paul and F. F. Fortunatov opposed the psychological subject and predicate to their syntactic counterparts; A.I.Smirnitsky differentiated between lexical and grammatical subjects and predicates. A consistent and thorough study of this phenomenon was carried out by the Czech scholar V.Mathesius who is considered the founder of the theory of actual division. A great contribution to this theory was made by the Czech scholars J. Firbas, B.Trnka and the Russian linguists O.Lapteva, N.Slyusareva, M. Blokh and some others.

Analyzed in the aspect of its actual division most of the utterances may be divided into two parts that have been given different names: the topic and the comment, the starting point and the nucleus, the given and the new and, finally, the theme and the rheme, which are most widely accepted. The theme is defined as the part of the utterance that contains given, familiar information which serves as the starting point of the utterance. It denotes an object or a phenomenon about which something id stated. The rheme is accordingly defined as the part of the

utterance that presents new information for the sake of which the utterance is made, it is the focus of the utterance, its communicative centre. The information contained in the rheme may not be objectively new, but it is the most important for the speaker: E.g. "If you want a divorce, it's not very wise to go on seeing her. " "I haven't made up my mind yet. " ' 'She has. " (J. Galsworthy).

How can we identify the rheme? As Professor T.Lomtev pointed out, the rheme is the part of the utterance which presupposes a question or negation. This may serve as a formal test for identifying the rheme. Another formal test for identifying the rheme was suggested by M.Blokh. It is the so called logical super-position. It consists in transforming the utterance in such a way as to place the rheme in the position of the logically emphasized predicative, e.g. It was Shakespeare who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. The theme is the part of the utterance that may be deleted or substituted by pronouns.

It must be taken into consideration that in most cases the transition from the theme to the rheme is not abrupt, but gradual and the parts of the sentence that form the transitional zone possess different degree of informative value.

the theme proper transitional zone the rheme proper
The man listened to the conversation with a hardly visible smile.

The majority of utterances contain both the components of actual division and such utterances are called dirhemic. But there are also utterances that contain only the rheme and they are called monorhemic , e.g. Don't do it. It's late.

5. The system of any language possesses various means of expressing the components of actual division. They are numerous and may be expressed by units of different lingual levels: phonological, morphological, syntactic, and lexical. These means are generally used not isolatedly but in combination with one another. The most universal means is the logical stress with the help of which the speaker accentuates the focus of information. It should be treated as the primary means if only because the primary form of the language existence is its oral form. With the help of logical stress the speaker may accentuate any part of the utterance, both the notional and functional words, e.g. But accidents, he said, will happen. In written speech logical stress is often represented by italics. Among the morphological means the most important role in actual division belongs to the articles. The definite article is usually identified with the theme and the indefinite - with the rheme. The change of the article serves as the signal of the change in actual division, e.g. He bought a new house. The house is small but comfortable. The use of the Passive voice is also often caused by the need to make the doer of the action very prominent, e.g. The conference was attended by the President and his wife.

Syntax also plays an important role in the actual division of the sentence. The components of actual division are first of all accentuated by the word order.First of all it is the word order. It has long been noticed that the word order generally corresponds to the order of our thoughts .When we are calm, not agitated, our thoughts proceed from the familiar to the new. When we are emotional or agitated this usual order may be broken. This finds its reflection in two types of word order:

objective and subjective. In the former the theme precedes the rheme, and in the latter the rheme comes first. Thus the emphatic inversion serves to accentuate the rheme of the sentence. E.g. On this subject Norah could utter only blasphemies. And utter them she did (I.Murdoch)

Besides inversion there are also special syntactic structures in English that serve the needs of actual division. The rheme is introduced by the emphatic construction It - be - Rheme - who/that, e.g. It's the silences that hurt (R. Kipling) ; by the construction 'There is/are... e.g. There was no doubt a rational explanation for the sudden return of his rational faculties (E. Segal). The theme is introduced by the structures 'as for, as to ', e.g. As for the debt, just forget about it.

Among other syntactic means of expressing the rheme we find repetition, e.g. You and only you can make me happy, ellipsis, when the thematic part is deleted thus making the rheme or the peak of the rheme very prominent, e.g. What is it you want? - The truth, parcellation which often introduces a secondary rheme, e.g. "Sam, could I have a word with you? Privately. Outside " (F. Forsyte).

Among the lexical means an important role in the promotion of the rheme belongs to emphatic particles which do not have a fixed position in the sentence and are usually placed before the rheme. E.g. Only he came yesterday. He came only yesterday.

6.Each communicative type of the sentence is characterized by its own peculiarities in the expression of actual division. The majority of declarative sentences and general questions are dirhemic and the rheme is identified with the help of the tests mentioned above. In special questions the position of the rheme is open and they present a request for information about the rheme. Imperative sentences are mostly monorhemic.

If a sentence is analyzed in isolation from the context it is rather difficult to identify the components of actual division. Let us analyze the following example. "I am Dr Manson." If we look at the sentence taken isolatedly from the context, we will most probably think that the rheme is Dr Manson and will accentuate it by logical stress. "/ am Dr Manson" In the context from which the sentence is taken, the rheme of the sentence is the link verb to be and the sentence reads 'As a matter of fact I am Dr Manson'. Thus we may conclude that the actual division of the sentence is always context-bound and can be best studied in the frame of the sypersyntax.lt carries out a very important text-forming function. The text as a unit of sypersyntax is characterized by communicative integrity which is created by the components of actual division. The theme promotes the communicative cohesion of the text whereas the rheme introducing new information promotes its communicative progression.

 

 


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 2389


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