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SIMPLE SENTENCE: CONSTITUENT STRUCTURE




§ 1.The basic predicative meanings of the typical English sentence, as has already been pointed out, are expressed by the finite verb which is immediately connected with the subject of the sentence. This predicative connection is commonly referred to as the "predicative line" of the sentence. Depending on their predicative complexity, sentences can feature one predicative line or several (more than one) predicative lines; in other words, sentences may be, respectively, "monopredicative" and "polypredicative". Using this distinction, we must say that the simple sentence is a sentence in which only one predicative line is expressed. E.g.:

Bob has never left the stadium. Opinions differ. This may happen any time. The offer might have been quite fair. Etc.

According to this definition, sentences with several predicates referring to one and the same subject cannot be considered as simple. E.g.: I took the child in my arms and held him.

It is quite evident that the cited sentence, although it includes only one subject, expresses two different predicative lines, since its two predicates are separately connected with the subject. The content of the sentence reflects two closely connected events that happened in immediate succession: the first — "my taking the child in my arms"; the second — "my holding him".

Sentences having one verb-predicate and more than one subject to it, if the subjects form actually separate (though interdependent) predicative connections, cannot be considered as simple, either. E.g.: The door was open, and also the front window.


Thus, the syntactic feature of strict monopredication should serve as the basic diagnostic criterion for identifying the simple sentence in distinction to sentences of composite structures of various systemic standings.

§ 2. The simple sentence, as any sentence in general, is organised as a system of function-expressing positions, the content of the functions being the reflection of a situational event. The nominative parts of the simple sentence, each occupying a notional position in it, are subject, predicate, object, adverbial, attribute, parenthetical enclosure, addressing enclosure; a special, semi-notional position is occupied by an interjectional enclosure. The parts are arranged in a hierarchy, wherein all of them perform some modifying role. The ultimate and highest object of this integral modification is the sentence as a whole, and through the sentence, the reflection of the situation (situational event).

Thus, the subject is a person-modifier of the predicate. The predicate is a process-modifier of the subject-person. The object is a substance-modifier of a processual part (actional or statal). The adverbial is a quality-modifier (in a broad sense) of a processual part or the whole of the sentence (as expressing an integral process inherent in the reflected event). The attribute is a quality-modifier of a substantive part. The parenthetical enclosure is a detached speaker-bound modifier of any sentence-part or the whole of the sentence. The addressing enclosure (address) is a substantive modifier of the destination of the sentence and hence, from its angle, a modifier of the sentence as a whole. The interjectional enclosure is a speaker-bound emotional modifier of the sentence.

All the said modifiers may be expressed either singly (single modifiers) or collectively, i.e. in a coordinative combination (co-modifiers, in particular, homogeneous ones).

The traditional scheme of sentence parsing shows many essential traits of the said functional hierarchy. On the scheme presented graphically, sentence-parts connected by bonds of immediate domination are placed one under the other in a successive order of subordination, while sentence-parts related to one another equipotently are placed in a horizontal order. Direct connections between the sentence-parts are represented by horizontal and vertical lines.

By way of example, let us take an ordinary English sentence featuring the basic modifier connections, and see its



traditional parsing presentation (Fig. 3): The small lady listened to me attentively.

Fig. 3

The scheme clearly shows the basic logical-grammatical connections of the notional constituents of the sentence. If necessary, it can easily be supplemented with specifying linguistic information, such as indications of lexico-grammatical features of the sentence-parts the same as their syntactic sub-functions.

However, observing the given scheme carefully, we must note its one serious flaw. As a matter of fact, while distinctly exposing the subordination ranks of the parts of the sentence, it fails to consistently present their genuine linear order in speech.

This drawback is overcome in another scheme of analysis called the "model of immediate constituents" (contractedly, the "IC-model").

The model of immediate constituents is based on the group-parsing of the sentence which has been developed by traditional grammar together with the sentence-part parsing scheme. It consists in dividing the whole of the sentence into two groups: that of the subject and that of the predicate, which, in their turn, are divided into their sub-group constituents according to the successive subordinative order of the latter. Profiting by this type of analysis, the IC-model explicitly exposes the binary hierarchical principle of subordinative connections, showing the whole structure of the sentence as made up by binary immediate constituents. As for equipotent (coordinative) connections, these are, naturally, non-binary, but, being of a more primitive character than subordinative connections, they are included in the


analysis as possible inner subdivisions of subordinative connections.

Thus, structured by the IC-model, the cited sentence on the upper level of analysis is looked upon as a united whole (the accepted symbol S); on the next lower level it is divided into two maximal constituents — the subject noun-phrase (NP-subj) and the predicate verb-phrase (VP-pred); on the next lower level the subject noun-phrase is divided into the determiner (det) and the rest of the phrase to which it semantically refers (NP), while the predicate noun-phrase is divided into the adverbial (DP, in this case simply D) and the rest of the verb-phrase to which it semantically refers; the next level-stages of analysis include the division of the first noun-phrase into its adjective-attribute constituent (AP, in this case A) and the noun constituent (N), and correspondingly, the division of the verb-phrase into its verb constituent (V or Vf — finite verb) and object noun-phrase constituent (NP-obj), the latter being, finally, divided into the preposition constituent (prp) and noun constituent (N). As we see, the process of syntactic IC-analysis continues until the word-level of the sentence is reached, the words being looked upon as the "ultimate" constituents of the sentence.

The described model of immediate constituents has two basic versions. The first is known as the "analytical IC-diagrarn", the second, as the "IС-derivation tree". The analytical IC-diagram commonly shows the groupings of sentence constituents by means of vertical and horizontal lines (see Fig. 4). The IC-derivation tree shows the groupings of

 

THE SMALL LADY LISTENED TO prp ME NP-pro ATTENTIVELY.
  A N V NP  
det NP VP D
NP-subj   VP-pred

Fig. 4

sentence constituents by means of branching nodes: the nodes symbolise phrase-categories as unities, while the branches mark their division into constituents of the corresponding sub-categorial standings (see Fig. 5).


§ 3. When analysing sentences in terms of syntagmatic connections of their parts, two types of subordinative relations are exposed: on the one hand, obligatory relations, i.e. such as are indispensable for the existence of the syntactic unit as such; on the other hand, optional relations, i.e. such as may or may not be actually represented in the syntactic unit. These relations, as we have pointed out elsewhere, are at present interpreted in terms of syntactic valency (combining power of the word) and are of especial importance for the characteristic of the verb as the central predicative organiser of the notional stock of sentence constituents. Comparing the IC-representation of the sentence with the pattern of obligatory syntactic positions directly determined by the valency of the verb-predicate, it is easy to see that this pattern reveals the essential generalised model of the sentence, its semantico-syntactic backbone. For instance, in the cited sentence this pattern will be expressed by the string "The lady listened to me", the attribute "small" and the adverbial "attentively" being the optional parts of the sentence. The IC-model of this key-string of the sentence is logically transparent and easily grasped by the mind (see Fig. 6).


Thus, the idea of verbal valency, answering the principle of dividing all the notional sentence-parts into obligatory and optional, proves helpful in gaining a further insight into the structure of the simple sentence; moreover, it is of crucial importance for the modern definition of the simple sentence.

In terms of valencies and obligatory positions first of all the category of "elementary sentence" is to be recognised; this is a sentence all the positions of which are obligatory. In other words, this is a sentence which, besides the principal parts, includes only complementive modifiers; as for supplementive modifiers, they find no place in this type of predicative construction.

After that the types of expansion should be determined which do not violate the syntactic status of the simple sentence, i.e. do not change the simple sentence into a composite one. Taking into consideration the strict monopredicative character of the simple sentence as its basic identification predicative feature, we infer that such expansions should not complicate the predicative line of the sentence by any additional predicative positions.

Finally, bearing in mind that the general identification of obligatory syntactic position affects not only the principal parts of the sentence but is extended to the complementive secondary parts, we define the unexpanded simple sentence as a monopredicative sentence formed only by obligatory notional parts. The expanded simple sentence will, accordingly, be defined as a monopredicative sentence which includes, besides the obligatory parts, also some optional parts, i.e. some supplementive modifiers which do not constitute a predicative enlargement of the sentence.

Proceeding from the given description of the elementary sentence, it must be stressed that the pattern of this construction presents a workable means of semantico-syntactic analysis of sentences in general. Since all the parts of the elementary sentence are obligatory, each real sentence of speech should be considered as categorially reducible to one or more elementary sentences, which expose in an explicit form its logical scheme of formation. As for the simple sentence, however intricate and expanded its structure might be, it is formed, of necessity, upon a single-elementary sentence-base exposing its structural key-model. E.g.: The tall trees by the island shore were shaking violently in the gusty wind.

This is an expanded simple sentence including a number


of optional parts, and its complete analysis in terms of a syntagmatic parsing is rather intricate. On the other hand, applying the idea of the elementary sentence, we immediately reveal that the sentence is built upon the key-string "The trees were shaking", i.e. on the syntagmatic pattern of an intransitive verb.

As we see, the notions "elementary sentence" and "sentence model" do not exclude each other, but, on the contrary, supplement each other: a model is always an abstraction, whereas an elementary sentence can and should be taken both as an abstract category (in the capacity of the "model of an elementary sentence") and as an actual utterance of real speech.

§ 4. The subject-group and the predicate-group of the sentence are its two constitutive "members", or, to choose a somewhat more specific term, its "axes" (in the Russian grammatical tradition — «составы предложения»). According as both members are present in the composition of the sentence or only one of them, sentences are classed into "two-member" and "one-member" ones.

Scholars point out that "genuine" one-member sentences are characterised not only as expressing one member in their outer structure; in addition, as an essential feature, they do not imply the other member on the contextual lines. In other words, in accord with this view, elliptical sentences in which the subject or the predicate is contextually omitted, are analysed as "two-member" sentences [Ilyish, 190, 252].

We cannot accept the cited approach because, in our opinion, it is based on an inadequate presupposition that in the system of language there is a strictly defined, "absolute" demarcation line between the two types of constructions. In reality, though, each one-member sentence, however pure it might appear from the point of view of non-association with an ellipsis, still, on closer observation, does expose traits of this association.

For instance, the sentence "Come on!" exemplifying one of the classical one-member sentence varieties, implies a situational person (persons) stimulated to perform an action, i.e. the subject of the event. Similarly, the construction "All right!" rendering agreement on the part of the speaker, is a representative unit standing for a normal two-member utterance in its contextual-bound implication plane, otherwise it would be senseless.


Bearing in mind the advanced objection, our approach to the syntactic category of axis part of the sentence is as follows.

All simple sentences of English should be divided into two-axis constructions and one-axis constructions.

In a two-axis sentence, the subject axis and the predicate axis are directly and explicitly expressed in the outer structure. This concerns all the three cardinal communicative types of sentences. E.g.:

The books come out of the experiences. What has been happening here? You better go back to bed.

In a one-axis sentence only one axis or its part is explicitly expressed, the other one being non-presented in the outer structure of the sentence. Cf.:

"Who will meet us at the airport?" — "Mary." The response utterance is a one-axis sentence with the subject-axis expressed and the predicate-axis implied: → *Mary will meet us at the airport. Both the non-expression of the predicate and its actual implication in the sub-text are obligatory, since the complete two-axis construction renders its own connotations.

"And what is your opinion of me?" — "Hard as nails, absolutely ruthless, a born intriguer, and as self-centred as they make 'em." The response utterance is a one-axis sentence with the predicate-axis expressed (partially, by its predicative unit) and the subject-axis (together with the link-verb of the predicate) implied: *You are hard as nails, etc.

"I thought he might have said something to you about it." — "Not a word." The response utterance is a one-axis sentence with the predicate-axis partially expressed (by the object) and the subject-axis together with the verbal part of the predicate-axis implied: → *He said not a word to me.

"Glad to see you after all these years!" The sentence is a one-axis unit with the predicate-axis expressed and the subject-axis implied as a form of familiarity: → *I am glad to see you ...

All the cited examples belong to "elliptical" types of utterances in so far as they possess quite definite "vacant" positions or zero-positions capable cf being supplied with the corresponding fillers implicit in the situational contexts. Since the restoration of the absent axis in such sentences is,


So to speak, "free of avail", we class them as “free” one-axis sentences. The term "elliptical" one-axis sentences can also be used, though it is not very lucky here; indeed, "ellipsis" as a sentence-curtailing process can in principle affect both two-axis and one-axis sentences, so the term might be misleading.

Alongside of the demonstrated free one-axis sentences, i.e. sentences with a direct contextual axis-implication, there are one-axis sentences without a contextual implication of this kind; in other words, their absent axis cannot be restored with the same ease and, above all, semantic accuracy.

By way of example, let us read the following passage from S. Maugham's short story "Appearance and Reality";

Monsieur Le Sueur was a man of action. He went straight up to Lisette and smacked her hard on her right cheek with his left hand and then smacked her hard on the left cheek with his right hand. "Brute," screamed Lisette.

The one-axis sentence used by the heroine does imply the you-subject and can, by association, be expanded into the two-axis one "You are a brute" or "You brute", but then the spontaneous "scream-style" of the utterance in the context (a cry of indignation and revolt) will be utterly distorted.

Compare another context, taken from R. Kipling's "The Light that Failed":

"...I'm quite miserable enough already." — "Why? Because you're going away from Mrs Jennett?" — "No." — "From me, then?" — No answer for a long time. Dick dared not look at her.

The one-axis sentence "No answer for a long time" in the narrative is associated by variant lingua! relations with the two-axis sentence "There was no answer...". But on similar grounds the association can be extended to the construction "He received no answer for a long time" or "No answer was given for a long time" or some other sentence supplementing the given utterance and rendering a like meaning. On the other hand, the peculiar position in the text clearly makes all these associations into remote ones: the two-axis version of the construction instead of the existing one-axis one would destroy the expressive property of the remark conveying Dick's strain by means of combining the author's line of narration with the hero's inner perception of events.

Furthermore, compare the psychologically tense description


of packing up before departure given in short, deliberately disconnected nominative phrase-sentences exposing the heroine's disillusions (from D. du Maurier's "Rebecca"):

Packing up. The nagging worry of departure. Lost keys, unwritten labels, tissue paper lying on the floor. I hate it all.

Associations referring to the absent axes in the cited sentences are indeed very vague. The only unquestionable fact about the relevant implications is that they should be of demonstrative-introductory character making the presented nominals into predicative names.

As we see, there is a continuum between the one-axis sentences of the free type and the most rigid ones exemplified above. Still, since all the constructions of the second order differ from those of the first order just in that they are not free, we choose to class them as "fixed" one-axis sentences.

Among the fixed one-axis sentences quite a few subclasses are to be recognised, including nominative (nominal) constructions, greeting formulas, introduction formulas, incentives, excuses, etc. Many of such constructions are related to the corresponding two-axis sentences not by the mentioned "vague" implication, but by representation; indeed, such one-axis sentence-formulas as affirmations, negations, certain ready-made excuses, etc., are by themselves not word-sentences, but rather sentence-representatives that exist only in combination with the full-sense antecedent predicative constructions. Cf.:

"You can't move any farther back?" — "No." (I.e. "I can't move any farther back"). "D'you want me to pay for your drink?" — "Yes, old boy." (I.e. "Yes, I want you to pay for my drink, old boy"). Etc.

As for the isolated exclamations of interjectional type ("Good Lord!", "Dear me!" and the like), these are not sentences by virtue of their not possessing the inner structure of actual division even through associative implications (see Ch. XXII).

Summing up what has been said about the one-axis sentences we must stress the two things: first, however varied, they form a minor set within the general system of English sentence patterns; second, they all are related to two-axis sentences either by direct or by indirect association.


§ 5. The semantic classification of simple sentences should be effected at least on the three bases: first, on the basis of the subject categorial meanings; second, on the basis of the predicate categorial meanings; third, on the basis of the subject-object relation.

Reflecting the categories of the subject, simple sentences are divided into personal and impersonal. The further division of the personal sentences is into human and non-human; human — into definite and indefinite; non-human — into animate and inanimate. The further essential division of impersonal sentences is into factual (It rains, It is five o'clock) and perceptional (It smells of hay here).

The differences in subject categorial meanings are sustained by the obvious differences in subject-predicate combinability.

Reflecting the categories of the predicate, simple sentences are divided into process-featuring ("verbal") and, in the broad sense, substance-featuring (including substance as such and substantive quality — "nominal"). Among the process-featuring sentences actional and statal ones are to be discriminated (The window is opening — The window is glistening in the sun); among the substance-featuring sentences factual and perceptional ones are to be discriminated (The sea is rough — The place seems quiet).

Finally, reflecting the subject-object relation, simple sentences should be divided into subjective (John lives in London), objective (John reads a book) and neutral or "potentially" objective (John reads), capable of implying both the transitive action of the syntactic person and the syntactic person's intransitive characteristic.







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