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CHAPTER 6 THE SYNTAX OF THE PHRASE

1. The definition of the phrase and the main problems in the study of phrases.

2. The problem of phrase classification.

3. Nominalization and its functions in the language.

4. Grammatical means of expressing syntactic relations between the components of the phrase.

If we look attentively at the structure of a sentence we shall see that in fact it is not composed of separate words but rather that words are first grouped into phrases and then these phrases serve as prefabs for making a sentence. E.g. The little man looked in our direction. The prefabs for making the sentence are: the noun phrases the little man and in our direction, then the verb phrase looked in our direction and then the noun phrase and the verb phrase are combined to produce a sentence. Thus if we compare a sentence with a building we may conclude that it is built not from bricks (words) but rather from prefabs (phrases). The phrase is a group of two or more syntactically related notional words within the structure of the sentence based on certain grammatical relations between its components, which itself is not a sentence.This definition of the phrase is based on the understanding of the phrase shared by many scholars on the material of different languages (V.V.Vinogradov, L.S.Barkhudarov). The definition points out two most important specific features of the phrase:

1) it is a combination of two or more notional words, from which it follows that a combination of notional word with a functional word ( e.g. in the yard, from the town etc.) is not a phrase, but a syntactic form of the word (see a different opinion in: [Ilyish 1971, 171]) We consider that functional words (or grammatical lexicon, as. they are called by S.D.Katsnelson) do not establish phrases with notional words but they participate in establishing grammatical relations between the components of a phrase as we shall see later;

2) the phrase is basically different from the sentence. The principal difference between the phrase and the sentence lies in the fact that the sentence a unit of communication whereas the phrase is not. The sentence has a nominating function (it names an event or a situation of reality) and a communicative function (it is used with a certain communicative aim) whereas the phrase has only a nominating function - it names some phenomena or processes and in this respect it is closer to a word. There are a lot of phrases which are equivalent to words, e.g. a new born child - a baby, a new born dog - a puppy, an unmarried man - a bachelor, an unnaturally small person - a dwarf, a very cheap and lucky buy - a steal, a very beautiful girl -a stopper etc. This principle of equivalence between a phrase and a word is employed in lexicography for defining words in dictionaries. Yet there is a certain correlation between certain phrases and sentences. There are phrases in the language that are derived from sentences and which are equivalent to sentences in their nominating function. E.g. the phrase the president's arrival is derived from the sentence the president arrived and they are equivalent in their nominating function -both name an event of reality, but the sentence places this event in time and presents it as real, whereas the phrase just names the event.



Phrases present the object of study both forvlexicology and grammar though the two branches of linguistics deal with different aspects of the phrases. Lexicology is concerned with the study of the words' meanings and how these meanings are exposed in different combinations of words. E.g., one and the same adjective may expose different meanings in combinations with different nouns ( compare: green leaves where green means colour, green years where green means age, green winter where green means mild, snowless). Grammar deals with the classification of phrases on different grammatical principles and grammatical means of combining words into phrases. It also studies the rules of combining words into phrases and the regularities of forming different types of phrases. The knowledge of these rules is important for understanding the specific structure of English. Let's have just one example. In English noun phrases a single attribute is placed in postposition to the head noun, but if it has modifying words it can be placed only in postposition to the head noun, e.g. a singing bird, but a bird singing in the bushes whereas in Russian an attribute can be used in preposition to the head noun even it has accompanying words, e.g. notoufue e mepHoenuKe nmuifbi. Such specific features of combining words into phrases are important for learning and teaching English because the difference in the structural organization of phrases is necessary for overcoming mistakes caused by the interference of the mother tongue. Because of the strict rules of placing words to constitute a phrase any misplacement results either in an error or an ambiguous, often funny sentences, as in the following advertisements: Wanted -zinc bath for adult -with strong bottom. Sports leather coat for lady in perfect condition (quoted from [Garner 1989, 146]).

2. There are several ways of classifying phrases based on different principles. Let us consider some of the classifications.

The structural, or formal classification. It is based on the presence or absence of a head word in the phrase. Accordingly, all phrases fall into two types: headed, or endocentric ( e.g. a fishy story, fish soup, live abroad, smile sweetly, very anxious etc.) and non-headed, or exocentric ( e.g. side by side, neither fish nor flesh, to make or to mar etc.). The terms endocentric and exocentric were introduced by L. Bloomfield who worked out the structural classification of phrases.

The morphological classification is based on the belonging of a head word in an endocentric phrase or the components of an exocentric phrase to a certain part of speech. Accordingly phrases are classified into nominal, or substantive ( e.g. a silver spoon, room at the top, three chapters, neck or nothing}, verbal ( run quickly, live happily, build castles, forget and forgive), adjectival ( e.g. exceedingly greedy, Minnesota nice, stone silent), adverb phrases (e.g. too seldom, very briefly ). This principle of classifying phrases is most widely spread.

The semantic classification is based on the semantics of a headword which serves to unite words derived from the same root, e.g. to love books, love for books, a lover of books, a book lovert loving books.

A classification of phrases may be complex, based on several principles. L.S. Barkhudarov in his book "The Structure of the Simple Sentence in Modern English" presents a 'classification of phrases based on several principles. He starts his classification on the basis of syntactic relations between the components of a phrase. He points out three types of syntactic relations: coordination, subordination and predication and accordingly classifies phrases into coordinate (e.g. ladies and gentlemen, strict but just etc.) subordinate (cold water, a sunny place, to read thrillers etc.) and predicative: gerundial, infinitival and participial phrases, i.e. those which are based on secondary predication only, because primary predication establishes a sentence, not a phrase. Further stages of classification carried out by L.S. Barkhudarov involve some more principles and each of the three classes is subdivided into several subclasses. Thus, subordinate phrases are further subdivided on the morphological principle into nominal, verbal, adjectival, adverbial etc.; on the quantitative principle - into simple ( e.g. cold water) and complex ( exceedingly cold water); on the distributional principle - into continuous ( say sadly} and discontinuous ('He's gone, - said Sybil sadly). Coordinate phrases are subdivided into syndetic ( made up with the help of a conjunction, e.g. a warm and sunny day) and asyndetic ( e.g. old stone houses). Predicative phrases are subdivided into gerundial, infinitival and participial ( for more detail see [Barkhudarov 1966, 44-140]). As we can see even from a brief review this classification employs several principles: morphological, syntactic, distributional and it is very detailed and exhaustive.

The development of generative and semantic syntax brought about one more approach to the classification of phrases based on their derivational history. In this classification all phrases fall into two large classes: primary, or non-derivational and secondary, or derivational (H.O.HpxeHteBa). Primary phrases are those which are not derived from sentences, they are not results of transformation of sentences. Primary phrases can be classified on the morphological principle into verbal, adjectival, adverbial, pronominal and partially substantive. The primary substantive phrases include : a)noun phrases which consist of a determiner and noun (every child, any boy , three books etc.); b) noun phrases which consist of a noun and an adjective with an evaluative, identifying or an intensifying meaning ( dear friend, old Jolyon, a mere child, a perfect idiot). Such phrases are not derived from sentences which is easily verified by the fact that they cannot be used in the position of predicatives, e.g. * the child is mere, * the idiot is perfect.

Secondary, or derivational phrases are phrases derived from sentences by means of the syntactic process of nominalization and are correlated structurally and semantically with the sentences from which they are derived. Nominalization is defined as a process of changing a sentence into a form that can appear in the position of NP in another sentence. E.g. He is ill - His being ill; his illness I did not know about his being ill (about his illness). The theory of nominalization was worked out by the representatives of generative syntax R.Lees, Z.Harris, N.Chomsky in the 60s of the last century. But in fact the close correlation between sentences and certain types of noun phrases had long been observed by Russian scholars. The eminent Russian scholar V.A.Bogoroditsky wrote: "CjiOBOcoHeTaHHH "6enwH iiotojiok", "cjiaflKHH caxap", "nepnBie canorn" KoppejinpyiOT c

b npeflJio>KeHHH. "Ha stom cbctc Bee npocTo: hotojiok canorn nepHBie, caxap cjia^KHH" (AJI.HexoB)... Taxaa cy6cTHxyii,Ha noxpeGHOcTBK) BBipasHTB coflep»aHHe npe,o,JTO>KeHHfl hmchhbim Hxo6Bi bbccth nocneflHee b Kanecxse xoro hjth hhofo HJiena b hoboc This idea is also supported by an opinion that attributive relations are secondary to predicative relations, that an attribute is "a degraded predicative" (H.Paul).

The secondary, or derivational phrases fall into two groups according to the degree of nominalization: completely nominalized and partially nominalized. Completely nominalized phrases are those in which the verb of the basic sentence is deleted, e.g. The smile is sweet - a sweet smile, the sweetness of the smile; the wall is of stone - a stone wall. Partially nominalized phrases include infinitival, gerundial and participial structures. E.g. You are wise - to be wise, being wise. It's easy for you to be wise. I rely on your being wise in this situation.

3 . Nominalization plays a very important role in the grammatical structure of English. The English language has a marked tendency towards nominalization. Robert Lees called English "a nominalizing language" and pointed out that due to nominalization the English language is 25% more economical than German [Lees, I960]. To this we may add that English is also more economical than Russian due to the tendency towards nominalization.

So, nominalization serves as a means of compression in English. A sentence with a gerundial or an infinitival structure is always more economical than a corresponding complex sentence. Compare: That he left so suddenly was a surprise to all of us. His leaving so suddenly was a surprise for all of us. I stepped aside so that he might pass. I stepped aside for him to pass.

Nominalization enriches the synonymic potential of the language. Infinitival, gerundial and participial and infinitival phrases serve as functional synonyms of the corresponding subordinate clauses, so the speaker has at his/her disposal a variety of syntactic means to express the same idea. The choice of these means is determined by many factors: the functional style, the needs of the actual division, the syntactic arrangement of the paragraph, the personal preferences of the speaker etc. Thus sentences with complex object constructions are more characteristic of a written style, whereas clauses are more frequent in oral conversation. Compare: Everything was done for the experiment to go smoothly. What shall I do so that you were happy?

Very often nominalization fulfils a compensating function in the language. We know very well that the number of objects and phenomena of reality and the number of thoughts exceed greatly the number of nouns which give names to them in any language and this quantitative gap is compensated by means of nominalization. Very often when there is no noun derivative from a verb or an adjective. When there is a gap in the lexical paradigm of nomination a gerundial or an infinitival phrase is used to fill in this gap. Compare in Russian: Qua nacmo zicajiyemcR na sanHmocmb. In English there is a noun derivative from the adjective busy, but it has a different meaning, it does not denote a state of being busy. So, to fill in this gap a gerundial construction can be used: She often complains of being busy.

Nominalization is also a means of enriching the vocabulary of the language. Many compound nouns are traceable back to sentences, i.e. they can be treated as results of nominalization and their meaning can be interpreted only with the help of sentences with which they are structurally and semantically correlated. E.g. a long -liver - a person who lives long; a stay-at-home - a person who prefers to stay at home; a beer-drinker - a person who drinks beer etc. This correlation reveals the interaction between syntax and wordbuilding. Paraphrasing V.Vinogradov's words we can in fact say : there is nothing in wordbuilding that has not been in syntax before.

4. In the process of building a phrase the components of a phrase are not just put together but the relations between them are based on certain types of grammatical relations characteristic of a particular language. There are four grammatical means of expressing syntactic relations between the components of a phrase: agreement, government, adjoining and connection (the arrangement of a phrase with the help of functional words). The distribution and the significance of these four types varies across languages and depends on the type of the language. In inflectional languages with highly developed morphology the most important role is played by agreement and government. The difference between the agreement and government consists in the following: in the case of agreement the subordinated word has the same grammatical form(s) as the subordinating word. Compare in Russian: eony6ou eazon, zonydoH uauiKa, zony6oe ne6o, zonydbie danu or in German: ein blaues Kleid, ein blauer Wagen, eine blaue Tasse. In the case of government the form of the subordinated form is not the same as that of the subordinating word, but it is determined by the subordinating word. Compare in Russian: uumamb Kuuzy, padomamb ynumeneM etc. In English due to the loss of inflections agreement and government have a relict character and are limited to just a few cases: agreement exists between the head noun and demonstrative pronouns: this table- these tables; that boy - those boys and government is limited to the choice of Objective Case in personal and interrogative pronouns: He saw them - They saw him; Who saw you? Who did you see? ( ' Who did you see?' is also possible and frequent in less formal speech).

Language as a system presents an integral whole in which everything is interconnected and interdependent, so nothing can happen in one place without echoing in another. The loss of the significance of agreement and government as the grammatical means of expressing syntactic relations between the components of a phrase which was the result of the loss of inflections was compensated by the growing significance of the two other means: adjoining and connection [>Ipu,eBa 1961, 17, 23]. Adjoining and connection became the leading grammatical means of expressing syntactic relations in English. In Russian adjoining is actually defined negatively as absence of both agreement and government whereas in English the essence of adjoining consists in the position of the subordinated word (preposition or postposition) and is actually related to the fixed word order which as we already know came to replace the free word order after the loss of inflections. It is worthwhile to return to the problem of case. If case is understood as a category of deep syntax expressing the relations between the action and its participants (see ch. 4), then adjoining is one of the means to express case relations: an object is placed in postposition to the head verb, the indirect nonprepositional object precedes the direct object, the adverb of manner and degree follows the verb etc. Of special importance is one variety of adjoining called enclosure (saMtiKamie) which arranges the relations in a noun phrase. Its essence consists in the fact that any part of speech, a phrase and even a whole sentence placed in between (enclosed) the determiner and the head noun becomes an attribute to the head noun. We have already spoken about it in the previous chapter. Now let us just have a few examples of enclosure: a yes man, a carrot-and stick policy, a know-nothing face, a head-in-the-sand attitude, a little-eaten lunch. Yet, despite the length of such attributes the general rule of attribute placement is observed here: single attributes are placed in preposition and extended attributes - in postposition to the head noun. Despite their length, prepositive attributes enclosed in between the determiner and the head noun are perceived as single attributes and for this reason they are always hyphenated to look like one word, even if a prepositive attribute is expressed by a sentential structure. E.g. It seemed a gesture designed largely for its effect, a listen-to-me-young-man movement worthy of the schoolteacher she had once been (E. George).

Connection, i.e. the expression of syntactic relations with the help of functional words is another very important means of expressing syntactic relations between the components of a phrase. The role of connection also grew after the loss of inflections when the morphological means of expressing grammatical relations were replaced by syntactic means: position in the sentence and prepositions. In Russian prepositions just accompany morphological expression of case and modify the case meanings (compare: menezpoMMa cecmpbi, mejiezpOMMa om cecmpbi}, and in English prepositions serve as the main markers of the semantic role of the word, e.g. to write with a pencil, to work as a waitress, to live in Paris etc. As prepositions came to replace the morphological markers of case, i.e. morphological government, it is probably possible to speak about prepositional government in English, especially in the case of the so called verbs with inherent prepositions, e.g. look at, approve of, remind of, depend on etc. Connection and adjoining are interrelated as the use of a preposition is related with the position of components within a phrase. These two means of expressing syntactic relations play the main role in the English language as. a language with marked isolating and analytical tendencies.


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 5461


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