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Grammar in Its Relation to Other Levels of Linguistic Structure
Interactions between grammar and other levels of linguistic structure are of the essence of language and probably the most significant point to notice in studying the structure of a language in general.
Language as system consists of several subsystems all based on oppositions, differences, samenesses and positional values.
The grammatical system breaks up into its subsystems owing to its relations with vocabulary and the unity of lexical meaning of the words of each group. Grammar and vocabulary are organically related and interdependent but they do not lie on one plane. As a bilateral unity of form and content the grammar of any language always retains the categories underlying its system.
Numberless examples in different languages show that grammar is not indifferent to the concrete lexical meaning of words and their capacity to combine with one another in certain patterns. The use of some grammatical rules is well known to be lexically restricted.
The statement about abstraction and generalisation in grammar should not thus be understood as formal mechanical separation of the "general" facts from the "special" ones.
It is not always easy to draw precise boundaries between the two branches of learning.
Sometimes the subject matter becomes ambiguous just at the borderline.
Internal relations of elements are of the essence of language as systems at all levels. The functions of every linguistic element and abstraction depend on its relative place therein. This is, in fact, one of the fundamental features of language. And this is the starting point of the treatment of grammar in the present book. Grammatical phenomena can and should be considered from various (often supplementary) points of view. With this approach to linguistic facts problems of grammar in our day have taken on new vitality and interest.
The linguistic features of grammar and vocabulary make it abundantly clear that the two branches of learning are organically related to each other. No part of grammar can be adequately described without reference to vocabulary. With all this, linguistic students should understand what separates grammar from vocabulary, wherein lie the peculiarities of each of the two levels and their relationship in general. To ignore this is to ignore the dialectical nature of language.
That grammar and vocabulary are organically related to each other may be well illustrated by the development of analytical forms which are known to have originated from free syntactic groups. These consist of at least two words but actually constitute one sense-unit. Only one of the elements has lexical meaning, the second has none, and being an auxiliary word possesses only grammatical meaning.
Not less characteristic are periphrastic grammatical forms of the verb, such as, for instance, the going to-future or, say, patterns with the verb to get + participle II established by long use in the language
to indicate voice distinctions. Verb-phrases of analytical structure denoting the aspective character of the action, such as: used to + Vinf, would + Vinf, come to + Vinf, take to + Ving, fall + prp + Ving, have + nomen acti, etc.
The constant reciprocal action between vocabulary and grammar makes itself quite evident in contextual restrictions of word-meanings. Examples are not far to seek.
The verb to mean + Vinf means "to intend", to mean + Ving means "to signify", "to have as a consequence", "to result in something". Compare the following:
(1) He had never really meant to write that letter → He had never intended to write that letter.
(2) This meant changing all my plans → This resulted in changing all my plans.
To remember + Ving refers to the past and means "not to need to be reminded", to remember + Vinf refers to the future and means "not to omit to do something". Cf.: I remember doing so. Remember to go to the post-office.
To try takes a gerund when it means "to make an experiment"; when followed by an infinitive it means "to make an attempt to do something", e. g.: She tried for a time helping us in music but found it was not a success. Try to keep perfectly still for a moment.
The construction verb + Ving can also be compared with one consisting of a verb + adverbial infinitive, e. g.: The horse stopped to drink. The horse stopped drinking.
Further examples of the so-called "grammatical context" which operates to convey the necessary meaning will be found in cases when, for instance, the passive form of the verb gives a clue concerning its particular lexical meaning. To give examples. The verb to succeed, as registered in dictionaries, can mean: 1) слідувати за чимсь або кимсь, бути наступником, змінювати щось; 2) мати успіх, досягати мети, встигати.
As is known, the passive form of this verb excludes the second range of its meanings.
Not less characteristic is the use of the verb to make; its passive forms, for instance, are incompatible with such lexical meanings as given below:
The moment I greeted her she made to turn back.
She rose abruptly and made to quit the room, but Andrew stopped her before she reached the door. (Cronin)
The use of the passive form would signal the causative meaning «заставити», «примусити», e. g.: She was made to quit the room.
Compare also the meaning of the verb to treat in the following sentences:
He treated my words as a joke. The book treats of poetry. They treated us to sweet wine. He is treating my son cruelly.
In homonymic patterns the meaning of the verb is generally defined by the immediate lexical context, which is always explicit enough to make the meaning clear. Compare the following:
(1) She made a good report. She made a good wife.
(2) He called his sister a heroine. He called his sister a taxi.
Variation in lexical environment may change the meaning of a grammatical form, and the use of a grammatical form may, in its turn, change the lexical meaning of the word involved. Examples are not far to seek. The organic interrelation between grammar and vocabulary merits at this point special consideration.
In the "activo-passive" use of verbs, for instance, the medial meaning is generally signalled by the lexical meaning of the subject. Examples are numerous:
(a) But it occurred to her, as her dance-list was filling up,that there was not much left for Mr. Cowperwood, if he should care to dance with her. (Dreiser)
(was filling up = was being filled up)
(b) When the storm stopped the fields were white over, the sky a milk blue, low and still threatening. But the snowcovered fields, in spite his shivering, felt goodto be in. (Sillitoe)
(felt good=were felt)
(c) This play readsbetter than it acts(= This play should be read rather than acted).
Grammatical forms must be studied in all the variety of their distribution in actual speech. Contexts have a way of making a grammatical form convey different structural meanings including sometimes the exact opposite of what is ordinarily intended.
The organic interrelation between grammar and vocabulary becomes most evident when we carry our attention to transpositions of grammatical forms, their functional re-evaluation in different contexts and to semantic aspects of syntax.
The constant reciprocal action of vocabulary and grammar will be well exemplified by various processes of word-formation, such as compounding, conversion, derivation and others.
Evidence to prove the interrelation between grammar and vocabulary will readily be seen in the history of so-called function words, e. g.: prepositions and conjunctions which have come from the notional parts of speech:
provided a) past participle from the verb to provide b) conjunction
regarding a) present participle from the verb to regard b) preposition
owing a) present participle from to owe b) preposition
failing a) present participle from to fail b) preposition
The same is true of such formations in other languages. Cf. Russian and Ukrainian:
относительно а) предлог відносно а) прийменник
не смотря 1 а) деепричастие не зважаючи \ а) дієприслівник
(несмотря)} б) предлог (незважаючи)) б) прийменник
French: vu a) participe passe
b) preposition pendant )
durant \ a) participe present
touchant / b) preposition
a) Partizip II ausgenommen
b) position Zeit (zeit)
1 a) Substantiv Kraft (kraft) /
That grammar should be viewed in relation to other parts of linguistic learning, such as phonetics and style, is also obvious.
The phonetic interpretation of the linguistic material is of undoubted interest in modern grammar learning. Modulation features, intonation and stress are well known to effect both morphology and syntax. Patterns of grammatical arrangement may be structurally ambiguous or at least potentially so. In speech however, there are prosodic patterns which clearly distinguish the various types of construction. This is an area of English grammar where much remains to be done before a complete description is available.
Changes in the intonation pattern, for instance, can change the functional sentence perspective, the interpretation of the whole utterance, say, from a statement to a question, from a positive to a negative sense, from interrogative to exclamatory, etc., e. g.:
Fleur darted after him.
"He gives me up? You mean that? Father!" (Galsworthy)
Instinctively they both took cigarettes, and lighted each others. Then Michael said: "Fleur, knows?" (Galsworthy)
"Did you hear it! That boy of hers is away to London again".
The sentence-final contours are used in speech to signal the sentence divisions within an utterance composed of more than one sentence. In "nexus of deprecation", for instance, the connection between two members of an ordinary affirmative sentence may be brushed aside as impossible by intonation which is the same as in questions, often in an exaggerated form or not infrequently given to the two members separately, e. g.:
We surrender? Never!
I catch cold! No fear.
The interrogative form of exclamatory sentences in such patterns make them most colourful and expressive.
"You,— I said,— a favourite with Mr. Rocherster? You gifted with
the power of pleasing him? You of importance to him in any way? Go; Your folly sickens me" (Brontë).
Further examples to show the relation of phonetics to grammar are not far to seek. We may take, for instance, word-making through the so-called "morphological" or "semantic" stress. A fair number of nouns (Romanic in origin) are distinguished from the corresponding verbs only by the position of the accent, the noun being accented on the first syllable and the verb on the second, e. g. 'present—to pre'sent, 'export-to ex'port, 'conduct — to con'duct, etc.
Structural ambiguity in homonymic patterns on the syntactic level is very often resolved by the intonation patterns.
In written English, for instance, because of the lack of stress the use of some words results in ambiguity. By way of illustration:
He talked with a pretty French accent — with the stress on French the word pretty is used adverbially and means in or to some degree; when pretty is stressed it is used attributively and means good, fine.
Examine also the difference in grammar between:
What did you bring the parcel in? Why did you bring the parcel in? Are you going to be doing it? How long are you going to be doing it?
Features of stress and juncture are well known to effect various kind of modification structures, e. g. the phrase old men and women, for instance, could be divided into immediate constituents in either of two ways, depending on whether old is referred to both the men and the women or just the men. In speech the difference would normally be conveyed by the corresponding stress and juncture.
It will probably be helpful if at this point we take the example given by A. Hill in his Introduction to Linguistic Structures to show the importance of modulation features in downgraded sentences with piled up verb-forms:
What the house John had had had had, had had its importance.
Since the writing system does not indicate the superfixes accurately and they are therefore puzzles for the reader who has to sort them out, sentences of this sort are usually avoided in written composition. It is possible, for instance, to construct a sentence which is a real problem when read, but is plain enough when pronounced. The sentence is a freak in writing, which no writer in his senses would use. Spoken, it is only mildly queer, and is at least intelligible. Even though these sentences are understandably rare in writing, the reader should not suppose that they are either uncommon or unnatural in speech 1.
Patterns of stress sometimes show the structural meaning unambiguously in the spoken language where without the help of context it would be ambiguous in the written. Examples follow.
When I have instructions to leave is equivalent in meaning to I have instructions that I am to leave this place, dominant stress is ordinarily on leave. When the same sequence is equivalent in meaning to I have instructions which I am to leave, dominant stress is ordinarily on instructions.
1 See: A. H і I 1. Introduction to Linguistic Structures. New York, 1958.