Студопедия — Basic units of language and speech
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Basic units of language and speech

The distinction between language and speech, which was first introduced by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) in his book on general linguistics, has become one of the cornerstones of modern linguistics. Most generally these two notions are understood in the following way:

language is the system of units used in the process of speaking by all members of a community;

speech is the process of using articulate (distinctly uttered) sounds to convey information.

Broader definitions of the notions are as follows:

Language is the system, phonological, lexical, and grammatical, which lies at the base of all speaking. It is a source which every speaker and writer has to draw upon (rely on) if he/she is to be understood by other speakers of the language.

Speech, on the other hand, is the manifestation of language, or its use by various speakers and writers of the given language. Thus any material for analysis we encounter, orally or in a written form, is always a product of speech, namely something either pronounced or written by some individual speaker or writer, or a group of speakers or writers. There is no other way for a scholar to get at language than through its manifestation in speech.

In the process of speech we use many language units to code the information we are going to convey, therefore any instance of speech is a particular realization of a language. As we are concerned with grammar only we will not dwell on the problem of language system in phonology and lexicology, but we will concentrate on the system of grammar and its manifestation in speech where, of course, it can never appear isolated from phonology and lexicology. Actual sentences pronounced by a speaker are the result of organizing words drawn from the word stock according to a pattern drawn from its grammatical system.

Thus, in stating that English nouns have a distinction of two numbers, singular and plural, and that there are several ways of expressing the category of plural number in nouns, we are stating facts of language, that is, elements of that system which a speaker or a writer of English has to draw on (to draw on – to make use of supply of smth.). But, for instance, a concrete phrase very fine weather, is a fact of speech, created by the individual speaker for his own purposes, and founded on knowledge, (a) of a syntactical pattern in question “adverb+adjective+noun”, and (b) of the words which he/she arranges according to the pattern [8; 6–7].

The basic units of language and speech are: the phoneme, the morpheme, the word and the sentence. The definitions of these units have never been generally agreed on, yet the following can serve as some brief functional characteristics.

The phoneme is the smallest distinctive unit. The phoneme [b], for instance, is the only distinctive feature marking the difference between tale [teil] and table [teibl].

The morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit. Un-fail-ing-ly, for instance, contains four meaningful parts, that is four morphemes.

The word is the smallest naming unit. Though the words terror, terrible, terrific, terrify contain more than one morpheme each, they are the smallest units naming a certain feeling, certain properties and a certain action respectively.

The sentence is the smallest communication unit which expresses a complete thought or an idea. It rains is a sentence because it communicates a certain particular idea. Though a sentence contains words, it is not merely a group of words (or other units), but something integral, a structural unity built in accordance with one of the patterns existing in a given language. All the sounds of a sentence are united by typical intonation. All the meanings are interlaced according to some pattern to make one communication. And a communication is a directed thought [24; 11, 220]. It is exactly the ability to express the complete idea or some meaningful thought that makes a sentence a sentence and distinguishes it, for example, from a phrase.

The mentioned units (the phoneme, the morpheme, the word and the sentence) are units of different levels of language structure. The phoneme is a unit of the lowest level, the sentence – of the highest. A unit of a higher level usually contains one or more units of the preceding level. But the higher unit cannot be reduced to the sum of those lower units since it has a quality not inherent in the units of the lower level. For example, the naming power of the word length is not inherent in the two morphemes it contains. The communicating power of the sentence It rains is not inherent in the two words it contains.

Vice versa, a combination of units of a certain level does not make a unit of a higher level unless the combination acquires the properties of the units of that higher level. The combination of morphemes -ing-ly is not a word since it names nothing. The combination of words of the teacher is not a sentence as long as it communicates nothing [24; 7–8].

The units of each level can be analyzed as to their inner structure, the classes they belong to in the language system (otherwise, their paradigmatic relations), and the combinations they form in speech (or their syntagmatic relations). In the light of all the above mentioned we shall assume that the structure of various units and the classes they form (paradigmatic relations) are the sphere of language, while the combinations the same units form in the process of communication (syntagmatic relations) are the sphere of speech.

It goes without saying that language and speech are interdependent and interpenetrating. The combinability of every unit depends upon its properties as an element of the language system. On the other hand, the properties of every unit develop in the process of speech. Combinations of units may become stable and develop into new units, as in the case of motor-bicycle, has written, at last etc. [24; 9–10].

The structure, classification and combinability of phonemes is studied by a branch of linguistics called phonology.

The structure, classification and combinability of words is the object of morphology.

Syntax deals with the structure, classification and combinability of sentences.

Morphology and syntax are both parts of grammar. Morphology is a part of grammar that treats meaning and use of classes of words – parts of speech, as they are traditionally referred to. Syntax is another subdivision of grammar that deals with the structure of speech utterances that makes a sentence or a part of a sentence.

The term grammar is used to denote:

1) the objective laws governing the use of the word classes, their forms and their syntactic structures based upon their objective content;

2) the laws of a language as they are understood by a linguist or a group of linguists.

In other words, grammar (Wikepedia Internet Source) is the study of rules governing the use of language. The set of rules governing a particular language is also called the grammar of the language; thus, each language can be said to have its own distinct grammar. Grammar is a part of the general study of language called linguistics. The subfields of modern grammar are phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Traditional grammars include only morphology and syntax.

There can also be differentiated several types of grammar. Thus, we may speak of a practical grammar and a theoretical grammar. A practical grammar is the system of rules explaining the meaning and use of words, word forms, and syntactic structures in a way as understood by its author or authors. A theoretical grammar treats the existing points of view on the content and use of words, word forms, syntactic structures and gives attempts to establish (if necessary) new ones.

2. Word as a basic language unit. The structure of words

One of the main properties of a word is its double nature. It is material because it can be heard or seen, and it is immaterial or ideal as far as its meaning is concerned. Therefore, the material aspects of the word (written and oral) will be regarded as its forms, and its meanings (ideal or immaterial aspects ) as its content. When defining the word as “the smallest naming unit” the reference was made primarily to its content, whereas in pointing out the most characteristic features of words we deal chiefly with the form.

The word books can be broken up in two parts: book - and - s. The content of the first part can be rendered as “a written work in a form of a set of printed pages fastened together inside a cover, as a thing to be read” and the meaning of the second part is “plurality”. So, each of the two parts of the word books has both form and content. Such meaningful parts of a word are called morphemes. If we break up the word in some other way, e.g. boo-ks, the resulting parts will not be morphemes, since they have no meanings. The morphemes book - and - s differ essentially:

1) In their relations to reality and thought. Book - is directly associated with some object of reality, even if it does not name it as the word book does (compare bookish). The morpheme - s is connected with the world of reality only indirectly, through the morpheme it is linked with. In combination with the morpheme book - it means “more than one book”. Together with the morpheme table - it refers to “more than one table”. But alone it does not remind us of the notion “more than one” in the same way as, for instance, the morpheme plural - does.

2) In their relations to the word which they are part of. Book - is more independent than - s. Book - makes a word book with a zero morpheme, with the meaning of “singular number”, added, whereas - s cannot make a word with a zero morpheme. It always depends on some other morpheme.

3) In their relations to similar morphemes in other words. The meaning of - s is always relative. In the word books it denotes “plurality”, because books is opposed to book with the zero morpheme of “singularity”. In the word newss has no plural meaning because there is no “singular” opposite to news. Compare other examples, the morpheme -s shows the meaning of “present tense” in relation to the morpheme - ed in wanted, but at the same time it shows the meaning of the “third person, singular” in relation to the zero morpheme of want. Now we cannot say that book - has one meaning when compared with chair - and another when compared with table -.

Summing up, we can state that, the meanings of the morphemes -s, -ed, being relative, dependent and only indirectly reflecting reality, are grammatical meanings of grammatical morphemes.

Morphemes of the book- type and their meanings are called lexical.

It is a common phenomenon in English that the function of a grammatical morpheme is fulfilled by an apparent word standing separately. The lexical meanings of the words invite, invited and the combination shall invite are the same. The main difference in content is the “present” meaning in invite, the “past” meaning in invited and the “future” meaning in shall invite. These meanings are grammatical. By comparing the relations of invite – invited and invite – shall invite we can see that the function of shall is similar to that of the grammatical morpheme - ed. Thus, being formally a word, since it is characterized by a separate loose position in a sentence (e.g. I shall come tomorrow.), in regard to its content shall is not a word, but a grammatical morpheme. Therefore, since shall has the properties of both a word and a grammatical morpheme, it can be called a grammatical word-morpheme.

Let us now compare the two units: invites and shall invite. They contain the same lexical morpheme invite - and different grammatical morphemes - s and shall. The grammatical morpheme - s is a bound morpheme: it is rigidly connected with the lexical morpheme. The grammatical morpheme shall is a free morpheme or a word-morpheme: it is loosely connected with the lexical morpheme. Owing to the difference in the forms of the grammatical morphemes, there is a difference in the forms of the units invites and shall invite. Invites has the form of one word, and shall invite that of the combination of words.

Units like invites, with bound grammatical morphemes, are called synthetic words. They are words both in form and in content.

Units like shall invite, with free grammatical morphemes, or grammatical word-morphemes, are called analytical words. They are words in content only. In the form they are combinations of words.

Since the difference between synthetic and analytical words is a matter of form, not content, we may speak of synthetic (синтетична або проста форма) and analytical (аналітична або складена форма) forms.

Analytical forms are much more characteristic of English than of Ukrainian. Especially rich in analytical forms is the English verb where they greatly exceed the synthetic forms in number.

Owing to the prevalence of analytical forms, English is usually spoken of as an analytical language, and Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, Latin etc., in which synthetic forms prevail, as synthetic languages.

Besides lexical and grammatical morphemes there exist some intermediate types.

The first morphemes in the words de-part, for-give, and the second morphemes in the words fly-er, home-less resemble grammatical morphemes in their dependence on the lexical morphemes. But they differ from grammatical morphemes in not being relative. Thus, for example, in pairs merciful – merciless, and homeless, jobless, etc., -less retains its meaning (“the absence of smth.”) even if it is not contrasted. Like grammatical morphemes, de-, for-, -er, -less are attached only to some classes of lexical morphemes, but like lexical morphemes they determine the lexical meanings of words. Compare: part and depart, job and jobless. Thus, owing to their double or intermediate nature, they will be called lexico-grammatical morphemes.

De-, for-, -er, -less are bound morphemes. English also possesses free lexico-grammatical morphemes, or lexico-grammatical word-morphemes.

Units of the type stand up, give in, find out resemble analytical words in each having the forms of a combination of words and the content of a word. But there is an essential difference between shall give and give in. Shall does not introduce any lexical meaning, while in does. Shall give differs from give grammatically, while give in differs from give lexically. In this respect give in is similar to forgive. Thus, in is an example of a lexico-grammatical word morpheme.

A word has at least one lexical morpheme. It may also have grammatical and lexico-grammatical morphemes. The lexical morpheme is regarded as the root of the word, all the other bound morphemes as affixes: prefixes, suffixes and infixes.

Position is not the only difference between prefixes and suffixes. Suffixes play a much greater role in the grammatical structure of both English and Ukrainian languages. Firstly, they include grammatical morphemes besides lexico-grammatical ones, whereas prefixes are only lexico-grammatical. Secondly, the lexico-grammatical suffixes are more closely connected with grammatical morphemes than prefixes are. Adding a suffix to the root mostly changes the set of grammatical morphemes attached, which is not typical of prefixes.

Words without their grammatical morphemes (mostly suffixes, often called endings or inflections) are known as stems. In accordance with their structure the following four types of stems are usually distinguished:

1. Simple (прості основи), containing only the root, as in day, dogs, write, wanted, etc.

2. Derivative ( похідні основи), containing affixes or other stem-building elements, as in boyhood, rewrite, strength, etc.

3. Compound (складні основи), containing two or more roots, as in white-wash, pickpocket, appletree, motor-car, brother-in-law, etc.

4. Composite (складені основи), containing free lexico-grammatical word-morphemes or otherwise having the form of a combination of words, as in give up, two hundred and twenty five, at last, in spite of, etc. [24; 12–18].


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