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The combinability of words

As already mentioned, only those combinations of words (or single words) which convey communication are sentences – the object of syntax. All other combinations of words regularly formed in the process of speech are the object of morphology as well as single words. Like separate words they name things, phenomena, actions, qualities, etc., but in a complex way, for example: manners and table manners, blue and dark blue, speak and speak loudly. Like separate words they serve as a building material for sentences.

The combinability of words is as a rule determined by their meanings, not their forms. Therefore not every sequence of words may be regarded as a combination of words. In the sentence Frankly, my friend, I have told you the truth neither Frankly, my friend nor friend, I … are combinations of words since their meanings are detached and do not unite them.

On the other hand, some words may be inserted between the components of a word combination without breaking it. Compare:

a) read books; b) read many books; c) read very many books.

In case (a) the combination read books is uninterrupted. In cases (b) and (c) it is interrupted, or discontinuous (read … books).

The combinability of words depends on their lexical, grammatical and lexico-grammatical meanings. It is owing to lexical meanings of the corresponding lexemes that the word hot can be combined with the words water, temper, news, dog and is hardly combinable with the words ice, square, information, cat.

The lexico-grammatical meanings of -er in runner (a noun) and -ly in quickly (an adverb) do not go together and prevent these words from forming a combination, whereas quick runner and run quickly are regular word combinations.

The combination *students writes is impossible owing to the grammatical meanings of the corresponding grammemes (Remark: with “*” we mark grammatically incorrect word-combinations or sentences).

Thus one may speak of lexical, grammatical and lexico-grammatical combinability, or the combinability of lexemes, grammemes and parts of speech.

Each word belonging to a certain part of speech is characterized by valency (валентність) or, in other words, the combinability of lexical units. For example, in the sentence I tell you a joke the verb tell is two valent, and in the sentence I will tell you a joke about a Scotchman – three valent. We can also say that modal verbs are valent for infinitives and not valent for gerunds, e.g. I can’t sing; nouns are valent for an article, e.g. a (the) table, that is modal verbs are combined with infinitives not gerunds, and nouns are practically the only part of speech that can be combined with articles.

It is convenient to distinguish right-hand and left-hand connections or combinability. In the combination my friend the word my has a right-hand connection with the word friend and the latter has a left-hand connection with the word my.

With analytical forms inside and outside connections are also possible. In the combination has already done the verb has an inside connection with the adverb and the latter has an outside connection with the verb.

It will also be expedient to distinguish unilateral, bilateral and multilateral combinability (одностороння, двостороння та багатосто­роння сполучуваність). For instance, we may say that the articles in English have unilateral right-hand connections with nouns: a book, the boy. Such linking words as prepositions, conjunctions, link verbs and modal verbs are characterized by bilateral combinability: book of John, John and Marry, this is John, the boy must leave. Most verbs may have:

– zero (Go!),

– unilateral (boys jump),

– bilateral (I did it),

– and multilateral (Yesterday I saw him there) connections. In other words, the combinability of verbs is variable.

One should also distinguish direct and indirect connections. In the combination Look at him the connection between look and at, between at and him are direct, whereas the connection between look and him is indirect, though the preposition at [24; 28–31].


5. The notions of grammatical opposition
and grammatical category

There is essential difference in the way lexical and grammatical meanings exist in the language and occur in speech. Lexical meanings can be found in a bunch only in a dictionary or in a memory of a man, or, scientifically, in the lexical system of a language. In actual speech a lexical morpheme displays only one meaning of the bunch in each case, and that meaning is singled out by the context or the situation of speech (in grammar terms, syntagmatically). As mentioned already, words of the same lexeme convey different meanings in different surroundings.

The meanings of a grammatical morpheme always come together in the word. In accordance with their relative nature they can be singled out only relatively in contrast to the meanings of other grammatical morphemes (in grammar terms, paradigmatically).

Supposing we want to single out the meaning of “non-continuous aspect” in the word runs. We have then to find another word which has all the meanings of the word runs except that of “non-continuous aspect”. The only word that meets these requirements is the analytical word is running. Run and is running belong to the same lexeme and their lexical meanings are identical. As to the grammatical meanings the two words do not differ in tense (“present”), number (“singular”), person (“third”), mood (“indicative”), etc. They differ only in aspect. The word runs has the meaning of “non-continuous aspect” and is running – that of “continuous aspect”.

When opposed, the two words, runs and is running, form a particular language unit. All their meanings but those of aspects counterbalance one another and do not count. Only the two particular meanings of “non-continuous” and “continuous” aspect united by the general meaning of “aspect” are revealed in this opposition or opposeme. The general meaning of this opposeme (“aspect”) manifests itself in the two particular meanings (“non-continuous aspect” and “continuous aspect”) of the opposite members (or opposites) [24; 22–24].

Thus, the elements which the opposition/opposeme is composed of are called opposites or members of the opposition. Opposites can be different: 1) non-marked, 2) marked. Compare the pair of noun forms table – tables. Together they create the “number” opposeme, where table represents the singular number expressed by a zero morpheme that is why it is called the non-marked member of the opposition, and tables – the plural number expressed by the positive morpheme -s is called the marked member of the opposition. Non-marked opposite is used more often than the marked opposite is. The marked opposite is peculiar by its limited use.

Ferdinand de Saussure claimed that everything in language is based on opposition. On phonetic level we have opposition of sounds. On all levels of the language we have opposition. Any grammatical form has got its contrast or counterpart. Together they make up a grammatical category.

A part of speech is characterized by its grammatical categories manifested in the opposemes (the elements of the opposi­tion – оппозема, член опозиції) and paradigms of its lexemes. Nouns have the categories of number and case. Verbs possess the categories of tense, voice, mood etc. That is why paradigms belonging to different parts of speech are different. The paradigm of a verb lexeme is long: write, writes, wrote, will write, is writing etc. The paradigm of a noun lexeme is much shorter: sister, sister’s, sisters, sisters’. The paradigm of an adjective lexeme is still shorter: cold, colder, coldest. The paradigm of an adverb always consists only of one word.

Thus, the paradigm of a lexeme shows what part of speech the lexeme belongs to.

It must be borne in mind, however, that not all the lexemes of a part of speech have the same paradigms. Compare:

sister book information

sister’s books –

sisters – –

sisters’ – –

The first lexeme has opposemes of two grammatical categories: number and case. The second lexeme has only one opposeme – that of number. It has no case opposemes. The third lexeme is outside both categories: it has no opposemes at all. We may say that the number opposeme with its opposite grammatical meanings of “singularity” and “plurality” is neutralized in nouns like information, bread, milk etc. owing to their lexical meaning which can hardly be associated with “oneness” or “more-than-oneness”.

We may define neutralization as the reduction of an opposeme to one of its members under certain circumstances. This member may be called the member of neutralization. Usually it is the unmarked member of an opposeme.

The term grammatical category implies that:

1) there exist different morphological forms in the words of a part of speech possessing different referential meanings;

2) the oppositions of different forms possessing referential meanings are systematic that is they cover the whole class of words of that part of speech.

In other words a grammatical category is a systematic opposition of different morphological forms possessing different referential meanings. Each grammatical category is composed of at least two contrasting forms. Otherwise category would stop existing.

In general, an opposeme of any grammatical category consists of as many members (or opposites) as there are particular manifestations of the general meaning. Thus, amorphological opposeme is a minimum set of words revealing (by the difference in their forms) only (and all) the particular manifestations of some general grammatical meaning. Any morphological category is the system of such opposemes whose members differ in form to express only (and all) the particular manifestations of the general meaning of the category [24; 23–24].

Grammatical category unites in itself particular grammatical meanings. For example, the grammatical category of gender unites the meanings of the masculine, feminine, neuter and common genders in the Ukrainian language. Each grammatical category is connected, as a minimum, with two forms. For example, the grammatical category of number comprises the forms of singularity and plurality.

Grammatical meaningisan abstract meaning added to the lexical meaning of a word, expressing its relations other words or classes of words. As a rule, a word has several grammatical meanings. Grammatical meanings are realized in a grammatical word form.

Grammatical form of a word is the variety of the same word differing from other forms of this word by its grammatical meaning. For example, in the Ukrainian word-form батьку the ending expresses the grammatical meaning of the masculine gender, singular number, dative case.

Grammatical form of a word can be simple (synthetic), in which the grammatical meanings are formed by the ending, suffix, prefix or stress, etc. (дощ – дощ – дощем); or composite (analytical), created by adding several words (буду говорити, більш привабливий). The analytical-synthetic grammatical word form is a combination of two previous types of word forms. For example, в університеті (the local case is expressed by the flexion and the preposition); малював би, малювала б (the grammatical meaning of number and gender is expressed by the form of the main verb, and the meaning of the conditional mood – by the particle би) [2; 40–41].


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