Студопедия — Sentence as the basic unit of syntax
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Sentence as the basic unit of syntax






The basic unit of syntax is the sentence. There exist many definitions of the sentence, but none of them is generally accepted. But in the majority of cases speakers actually experience no difficulty in separating one sentence from another in their native tongue. This is reflected in writing, where the graphic form of each sentence is separated by punctuation marks (.?!) from its neighbours.

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.

A communication is a directed thought. Much in the same way as the position of a point or the direction of a line in space is fixed with the help of a system of coordinates, there exists a system of coordinates to fix the position or direction of a thought in speech. Naturally, only phenomena present at every act of speech can serve as the axes of coordinates. They are: a) the act of speech, b) the speaker (or the writer); c) reality (as viewed by the speaker).

The act of speech is the event with which all other events mentioned in the sentence are correlated in time. This correlation is fixed in English and other languages grammatically in the category of tense and lexically in such words as now, yesterday, tomorrow, etc.

The speaker is the person with whom other persons and things mentioned in the sentence are correlated. This correlation is fixed grammatically in the category of person of the verb and lexico-gram­matically in such words as I, you, he, she, it, they, student, river, etc.

Reality is either accepted as the speaker sees it, or an attempt is made to change it, or some irreality is fancied. Compare: The door is shut. Shut the door. If the door were shut … The attitude towards reality is fixed grammatically in the category of mood and lexically or lexico-grammatically in words like must, may, probably, etc.

The three relations – to the act of speech, to the speaker and to reality – can be summarized as the relation to the situation of speech. Now the relation of the thought of a sentence to the situation of speech is called predicativity ( предикативність – відношення змісту речення до дійсності ). This is the name of the system of coordinates directing the thought of a sentence and distinguishing a sentence from any group of words. Predicativity is an essential part of the content of the sentence. The sentence can thus be defined as a communication unit made up of words (and word-morphemes) in conformity with their combinability, united by predicativity and intonation [24; 220–224].

In the same way as the word serves to name certain objects of extra-linguistic reality, the sentence serves to name situations involving these objects. None object is static. Objects interact, being in constant change, movement. Thus, the relations between objects, events happening with them create the situation reflected in every act of speech.

Much in the same way as the word has its form and content, the sentence also has its form and its content, being a bilateral sign. The content of the sentence is called in other words its deep structure, its outer form (the string of words/word-forms, united in conformity with grammatical rules and combinability patterns) – the surface structure. One and the same deep structure can be expressed with the help of different surface structures, nevertheless being related by transforma­tional rules. For example, to express the situation, where the “boy” (the doer of the action) “throws” (the action itself) the “ball” (the object upon which the action is directed) there are at least two surface structures: 1) the sentence in the active voice: The boy throws the ball, and 2) the sentence in the passive voice: The ball is thrown by the boy.

Within a sentence, the word or combination of words containing the meaning of predicativity may be called the predication, the grammatical employment of predicativity (предикація – граматичне втілення предикативності).

In the sentence He considered it for a minute the predication is he considered. He indicates the person, considered – the tense and mood components of predicativity.

In the sentence Tell me something there is one-word predication tell containing the mood component of predicativity. The person component is only implied. As we know, imperative mood grammemes have the lexico-grammatical meaning of the “second person”.

The main parts of the sentence (головні члени речення) are those whose function it is to make the predication. They are the subject and the predicate of the sentence.

The subject tells us whether the predication involves the speaker (I, we …), his interlocutor (you …) or some other person or thing (he, John, the forest, …). The predicate may also tell us something about the person, but it usually does not supply any new information. Neither does the predicate add information as to the number of persons or things involved. In this sense we say that the predicate depends on the subject. But in expressing the tense and mood components of predicativity the predicate is independent.

Since a person or thing denoted by any noun or noun equivalent (except I, we and you) is the “third person” and a sentence may contain several nouns, there must be something in the sentence to show which of the nouns is the subject of the predication. The Indo-European languages use the following devices:

a) the nominative case (Зустрів зайця ведмідь);

b) grammatical combinability (Квіти сонце люблять. Квіти сонце любить);

c) the position of the noun (Буття визначає свідомість. Свідомість визначає буття).

In English the nominative case has been preserved only with six pronouns. Grammatical combinability is important but it plays a much smaller role than in Ukrainian. It is not observed, for instance, in cases like I (he, she, they, John, the students) spoke …. So the position of the noun or noun-equivalent is of the greatest importance. E.g.: John showed Peter a book of his.

When position and combinability clash/coincide, position is usually decisive, as in the sentence George’s is the brilliant idea. Geroge’s are brilliant ideas. The subject is George’s, though the predicates agree in number with the nouns idea, ideas.







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