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GRAMMAR IN THE SYSTEMIC CONCEPTION OF LANGUAGE

grammar

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GRAMMAR IN THE SYSTEMIC CONCEPTION OF LANGUAGE

§ 1. Language is a means of forming and storing ideas as reflections of reality and exchanging them in the process of human intercourse. Language is social by nature; it is inseparably connected with the people who are its creators and users; it grows and develops together with the development of society.*




Language incorporates the three constituent parts ('sides'), each being inherent in it by virtue of its social nature. These parts are the phonological system, the lexical system, the grammatical system. Only the unity of these three elements forms a language; without any one of them there is no human language in the above sense.

The phonological system is the subfoundation of language; it determines the material (phonetical) appearance of its significative units. The lexical system is the whole set of naming means of language, that is, words and stable word-groups. The grammatical system is the whole set of regularities determining the combination of naming means in the formation of utterances as the embodiment of thinking process.

Each of the three constituent parts of language is studied by a particular linguistic discipline. These disciplines, presenting a series of approaches to their particular objects of analysis, give the corresponding 'descriptions' of language consisting in ordered expositions of the constituent parts in question. Thus, the phonological description of language is effected by the science of phonology; the lexical description of language is effected by the science of lexicology; the

* See: Общее языкознание. Формы существования, функции, история языка/Отв. ред. Серебренников Б. А. — М., 1970, с. 9 и cл.


grammatical description of language is effected by the science of grammar.

Any linguistic description may have a practical or theoretical purpose. A practical description is aimed at providing the student with a manual of practical mastery of the corresponding part of language (within the limits determined by various factors of educational destination and scientific possibilities). Since the practice of lingual intercourse, however, can only be realised by employing language as a unity of all its constituent parts, practical linguistic manuals more often than not comprise the three types of description presented in a complex. As for theoretical linguistic descriptions, they pursue analytical aims and therefore present the studied parts of language in relative isolation, so as to gain insights into their inner structure and expose the intrinsic mechanisms of their functioning. Hence, the aim of theoretical grammar of a language is to present a theoretical description of its grammatical system, i.e. to scientifically analyse and define its grammatical categories and study the mechanisms of grammatical formation of utterances out of words in the process of speech making.

§ 2. In earlier periods of the development of linguistic knowledge, grammatical scholars believed that the only purpose of grammar was to give strict rules of writing and speaking correctly. The rigid regulations for the correct ways of expression, for want of the profound understanding of the social nature of language, were often based on purely subjective and arbitrary judgements of individual grammar compilers. The result of this 'prescriptive' approach was, that alongside of quite essential and useful information, non-existent 'rules' were formulated that stood in sheer contradiction with the existing language usage, i.e. lingual reality. Traces of this arbitrary prescriptive approach to the grammatical teaching may easily be found even in to-date's school practice.

To refer to some of the numerous examples of this kind, let us consider the well-known rule of the English article stating that the noun which denotes an object 'already known' by the listener should be used with the definite article. Observe, however, English sentences taken from me works of distinguished authors directly contradicting


'I've just read a book of yours about Spain and I wanted to ask you about it.' — 'It's not a very good book, I'm afraid' (S. Maugham). I feel a good deal of hesitation about telling you this story of my own. You see it is not a story like other stories I have been telling you: it is a true story (J. K. Jerome).

Or let us take the rule forbidding the use of the continuous tense-forms with the verb be as a link, as well as with verbs of perceptions. Here are examples to the contrary:

My holiday at Crome isn't being a disappointment (A. Huxley). For the first time, Bobby felt, he was really seeing the man (A. Christie).

The given examples of English articles and tenses, though not agreeing with the above 'prescriptions', contain no grammar mistakes in them.

The said traditional view of the purpose of grammar has lately been re-stated by some modern trends in linguistics. In particular, scholars belonging to these trends pay much attention to artificially constructing and analysing incorrect utterances with the aim of a better formulation of the rules for' the construction of correct ones. But their examples and deductions, too, are often at variance with real facts of lingual usage.

Worthy of note are the following two artificial utterances suggested as far back as 1956:

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. Furiously sleep ideas green colourless.

According to the idea of their creator, the American scholar N. Chomsky, the first of the utterances, although nonsensical logically, was to be classed as grammatically correct, while the second one, consisting of the same words placed in the reverse order, had to be analysed as a disconnected, 'ungrammatical' enumeration, a 'non-sentence'. Thus, the examples, by way of contrast, were intensely demonstrative (so believed the scholar) of the fact that grammar as a whole amounted to a set of non-semantic rules of sentence formation.

However, a couple of years later this assessment of the lingual value of the given utterances was disputed in an experimental investigation with informants — natural speakers of English, who could not come to a unanimous conclusion


about the correctness or incorrectness of both of them. In particular, some of the informants classed the second utterance as 'sounding like poetry'.

To understand the contradictions between the bluntly formulated 'rules' and reality, as well as to evaluate properly the results of informant tests like the one mentioned above, we must bear in mind that the true grammatical rules or regularities cannot be separated from the expression of meanings; on the contrary, they are themselves meaningful. Namely, they are connected with the most general and abstract parts of content inherent in the elements of language. These parts of content, together with the formal means through which they are expressed, are treated by grammarians in terms of 'grammatical categories'. Such are, for instance, the categories of number or mood in morphology, the categories of communicative purpose or emphasis in syntax, etc. Since the grammatical forms and regularities are meaningful, it becomes clear that the rules of grammar must be stated semantically, or, more specifically, they must be worded functionally. For example, it would be fallacious to state without any further comment that the inverted word order in the English declarative sentence is grammatically incorrect. Word order as an element of grammatical form is laden with its own meaningful functions. It can express, in particular, the difference between the central idea of the utterance and the marginal idea, between emotive and unemotive modes of speech, between different types of style. Thus, if the inverted word order in a given sentence does express these functions, then its use should be considered as quite correct. E.g.: In the centre of the room, under the chandelier, as became a host, stood the head of (he family, old Jolyon himself (J. Galsworthy).

The word arrangement in the utterance expresses a narrative description, with the central informative element placed in the strongest semantic position in narration, i.e. at the end. Compare the same sort of arrangement accompanying a plainer presentation of subject matter: Inside on a wooden bunk lay a young Indian woman (E. Hemingway).

Compare, further, the following:

And ever did his Soul tempt him with evil, and whisper of terrible things. Yet did it not prevail against him, so great was the power of his love (O. Wilde). (Here the inverted word order is employed to render intense emphasis in a


legend-stylised narration.) One thing and one thing only could she do for him (R. Kipling). (Inversion in this case is used to express emotional intensification of the central idea.)

Examples of this and similar kinds will be found in plenty in Modern English literary texts of good style repute.

§ 3. The nature of grammar as a constituent part of language is better understood in the light of explicitly discriminating the two planes of language, namely, the plane of content and the plane of expression.

The plane of content comprises the purely semantic elements contained in language, while the plane of expression comprises the material (formal) units of language taken by themselves, apart from the meanings rendered by them. The two planes are inseparably connected, so that no meaning can be realised without some material means of expression. Grammatical elements of language present a unity of content and expression (or, in somewhat more familiar terms, a unity of form and meaning). In this the grammatical elements are similar to the lingual lexical elements, though the quality of grammatical meanings, as we have stated above, is different in principle from the quality of lexical meanings.

On the other hand, the correspondence between the planes of content and expression is very complex, and it is peculiar to each language. This complexity is clearly illustrated by the phenomena of polysemy, homonymy, and synonymy.

In cases of polysemy and homonymy, two or more units of the plane of content correspond to one unit of the plane of expression. For instance, the verbal form of the present indefinite (one unit in the plane of expression) polysemantically renders the grammatical meanings of habitual action, action at the present moment, action taken as a general truth (several units in the plane of content). The morphemic material element -s/-es (in pronunciation [-s, -z, -iz]), i.e. one unit in the plane of expression (in so far as the functional semantics of the elements is common to all of them indiscriminately), homonymically renders the grammatical meanings of the third person singular of the verbal present tense, the plural of the noun, the possessive form of the noun, i.e. several units of the plane of content.

In cases of synonymy, conversely, two or more units of the plane of expression correspond to one unit of the plane

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of content. For instance, the forms of the verbal future indefinite, future continuous, and present continuous (several units in the plane of expression) can in certain contexts synonymically render the meaning of a future action (one unit in the plane of content).

Taking into consideration the discrimination between the two planes, we may say that the purpose of grammar as a linguistic discipline is, in the long run, to disclose and formulate the regularities of the correspondence between the plane of content and the plane of expression in the formation of utterances out of the stocks of words as part of the process of speech production.

§ 4. Modern linguistics lays a special stress on the systemic character of language and all its constituent parts. It accentuates the idea that language is a system of signs (meaningful units) which are closely interconnected and interdependent. Units of immediate interdependencies (such as classes and subclasses of words, various subtypes of syntactic constructions, etc.) form different microsystems (subsystems) within the framework of the global macrosystem (supersystem) of the whole of language.

Each system is a structured set of elements related to one another by a common function. The common function of all the lingual signs is to give expression to human thoughts.

The systemic nature of grammar is probably more evident than that of any other sphere of language, since grammar is responsible for the very organisation of the informative content of utterances [Блох, 4, 11 и сл.]. Due to this fact, even the earliest grammatical treatises, within the cognitive limits of their times, disclosed some systemic features of the described material. But the scientifically sustained and consistent principles of systemic approach to language and its grammar were essentially developed in the linguistics of the twentieth century, namely, after the publication of the works by the Russian scholar Beaudoin de Courtenay and the Swiss scholar Ferdinand de Saussure. These two great men demonstrated the difference between lingual synchrony (coexistence of lingual elements) and diachrony (different time-periods in the development of lingual elements, as well as language as a whole) and defined language as a synchronic system of meaningful elements at any stage of its historical evolution.

On the basis of discriminating synchrony and diachrony, the difference between language proper and speech proper

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can be strictly defined, which is of crucial importance for the identification of the object of linguistic science.

Language in the narrow sense of the word is a system of means of expression, while speech in the same narrow sense should be understood as the manifestation of the system of language in the process of intercourse.

The system of language includes, on the one hand, the body of material units — sounds, morphemes, words, word-groups; on the other hand, the regularities or 'rules' of the use of these units. Speech comprises both the act of producing utterances, and the utterances themselves, i.e. the text. Language and speech are inseparable, they form together an organic unity. As for grammar (the grammatical system), being an integral part of the lingual macrosystem it dynamically connects language with speech, because it categorially determines the lingual process of utterance production.



Thus, we have the broad philosophical concept of language which is analysed by linguistics into two different aspects — the system of signs (language proper) and the use of signs (speech proper). The generalising term 'language' is also preserved in linguistics, showing the unity of these two aspects [Блох, 16].

The sign (meaningful unit) in the system of language has only a potential meaning. In speech, the potential meaning of the lingual sign is 'actualised', i.e. made situationally significant as part of the grammatically organised text.

Lingual units stand to one another in two fundamental types of relations: syntagmatic and paradigmatic.

Syntagmatic relations are immediate linear relations between units in a segmental sequence (string). E.g.: The spaceship was launched without the help of a booster rocket.

In this sentence syntagmatically connected are the words and word-groups 'the spaceship', 'was launched', 'the spaceship was launched', 'was launched without the help', 'the help of a rocket', 'a booster rocket'.

Morphemes within the words are also connected syntagmatically. E.g.: space/ship; launch/ed; with/out; boost/er.

Phonemes are connected syntagmatically within morphemes and words, as well as at various juncture points (cf. the processes of assimilation and dissimilation).

The combination of two words or word-groups one of which is modified by the other forms a unit which is referred to as a syntactic 'syntagma'. There are four main types of notional syntagmas: predicative (the combination of a

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subject and a predicate), objective (the combination of a verb and its object), attributive (the combination of a noun and its attribute), adverbial (the combination of a modified notional word, such as a verb, adjective, or adverb, with its adverbial modifier).

Since syntagmatic relations are actually observed in utterances, they are described by the Latin formula as relations 'in praesentia' ('in the presence').

The other type of relations, opposed to syntagmatic and called 'paradigmatic', are such as exist between elements of the system outside the strings where they co-occur. These intra-systemic relations and dependencies find their expression in the fact that each lingual unit is included in a set or series of connections based on different formal and functional properties.'

In the sphere of phonology such series are built up by the correlations of phonemes on the basis of vocality or consonantism, voicedness or devoicedness, the factor of nazalisation, the factor of length, etc. In the sphere of the vocabulary these series are founded on the correlations of synonymy and antonymy, on various topical connections, on different word-building dependencies. In the domain of grammar series of related forms realise grammatical numbers and cases, persons and tenses, gradations of modalities, sets of sentence-patterns of various functional destination, etc.

Unlike syntagmatic relations, paradigmatic relations cannot be directly observed in utterances, that is why they are referred to as relations 'in absentia'' ('in the absence').

Paradigmatic relations coexist with syntagmatic relations in such a way that some sort of syntagmatic connection is necessary for the realisation of any paradigmatic series. This is especially evident -in a classical grammatical paradigm which presents a productive series of forms each consisting of a syntagmatic connection of two elements: one common for the whole of the series (stem), the other specific for every individual form in the series (grammatical feature — inflexion, suffix, auxiliary word). Grammatical paradigms express various grammatical categories.

The minimal paradigm consists of two form-stages. This kind of paradigm we see, for instance, in the expression of the category of number: boy — boys. A more complex paradigm can be divided into component paradigmatic series, i.e. into the corresponding sub-paradigms (cf. numerous paradigmatic series constituting the system of the finite verb). In

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other words, with paradigms, the same as with any other systemically organised material, macro- and micro-series are to be discriminated.

§ 5. Units of language are divided into segmental and suprasegmental. Segmental units consist of phonemes, they form phonemic strings of various status (syllables, morphemes, words, etc.). Supra-segmental units do not exist by themselves, but are realised together with segmental units and express different modificational meanings (functions) which are reflected on the strings of segmental units. To the supra-segmental units belong intonations (intonation contours), accents, pauses, patterns of word-order.

The segmental units of language form a hierarchy of levels. This hierarchy is of a kind that units of any higher level are analysable into (i.e. are formed of) units of the immediately lower level. Thus, morphemes are decomposed into phonemes, words are decomposed into morphemes, phrases are decomposed into words, etc.

But this hierarchical relation is by no means reduced to the mechanical composition of larger units from smaller ones; units of each level are characterised by their own, specific functional features which provide for the very recognition of the corresponding levels of language.

The lowest level of lingual segments is phonemic: it is formed by phonemes as the material elements of the higher -level segments. The phoneme has no meaning, its function is purely differential: it differentiates morphemes and words as material bodies. Since the phoneme has no meaning, it is not a sign.

Phonemes are combined into syllables. The syllable, a rhythmic segmental group of phonemes, is not a sign, either; it has a purely formal significance. Due to this fact, it could hardly stand to reason to recognise in language a separate syllabic level; rather, the syllables should be considered in the light of the intra-level combinability properties of phonemes.

Phonemes are represented by letters in writing. Since the letter has a representative status, it is a sign, though different in principle from the level-forming signs of language.

Units of all the higher levels of language are meaningful; they may be called 'signemes' as opposed to phonemes (and letters as phoneme-representatives).

The level located above the phonemic one is the morphemic

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level. The morpheme is the elementary meaningful part of the word. It is built up by phonemes, so that the shortest morphemes include only one phoneme. E.g.: ros-y [-1]; a-fire [э-]; come-s [-z].

The morpheme expresses abstract, 'significative' meanings which are used as constituents for the formation of more concrete, 'nominative' meanings of words.

The third level in the segmental lingual hierarchy is the level of words, or lexemic level.

The word, as different from the morpheme, is a directly naming (nominative) unit of language: it names things and their relations. Since words are built up by morphemes, the shortest words consist of one explicit morpheme only. Cf.: man; will; but; I; etc.

The next higher level is the level of phrases (word-groups), or phrasemic level.

To level-forming phrase types belong combinations of two or more notional words. These combinations, like separate words, have a nominative function, but they represent the referent of nomination as a complicated phenomenon, be it a concrete thing, an action, a quality, or a whole situation. Cf., respectively: a picturesque village; to start with a jerk; extremely difficult; the unexpected arrival of the chief.

This kind of nomination can be called 'polynomination', as different from 'mononomination' effected by separate words.

Notional phrases may be of a stable type and of a free type. The stable phrases (phraseological units) form the phraseological part of the lexicon, and are studied by the phraseological division of lexicology. Free phrases are built up in the process of speech on the existing productive models, and are studied in the lower division of syntax. The grammatical description of phrases is sometimes called 'smaller syntax', in distinction to 'larger syntax' studying the sentence and its textual connections.

Above the phrasemic level lies the level of sentences, or 'proposemic' level.

The peculiar character of the sentence ('proposeme') as a signemic unit of language consists in the fact that, naming a certain situation, or situational event, it expresses predication, i.e. shows the relation of the denoted event to reality. Namely. it shows whether this event is real or unreal, desirable or obligatory, stated as a truth or asked about, etc. In this sense, as different from the word and the phrase, the

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sentence is a predicative unit. Cf.: to receive — to receive a letter — Early in June I received a letter from Peter Mel« rose.

The sentence is produced by the speaker in the process of speech as a concrete, situationally bound utterance. At the same time it enters the system of language by its syntactic pattern which, as all the other lingual unit-types, has both syntagmatic and paradigmatic characteristics.

But the sentence is not the highest unit of language in the hierarchy of levels. Above the proposemic level there is still another one, namely, the level of sentence-groups, 'supra-sentential constructions'. For the sake of unified terminology, this level can be called 'supra-proposemic'.

The supra-sentential construction is a combination of separate sentences forming a textual unity. Such combinations are subject to regular lingual patterning making them into syntactic elements. The syntactic process by which sentences are connected into textual unities is analysed under the heading of 'cumulation'. Cumulation, the same as formation of composite sentences, can be both syndetic and asyndetic. Cf.:

He went on with his interrupted breakfast. Lisette did not speak and there was silence between them. But his appetite satisfied, his mood changed; he began to feel sorry for himself rather than angry with her, and with a strange ignorance of woman's heart he thought to arouse Lisette's remorse by exhibiting himself as an object of pity (S. Maugham).

In the typed text, the supra-sentential construction commonly coincides with the paragraph (as in the example above). However, unlike the paragraph, this type of lingual signeme is realised not only in a written text, but also in all the varieties of oral speech, since separate sentences, as a rule, are included in a discourse not singly, but in combinations, revealing the corresponding connections of thoughts in communicative progress.

We have surveyed six levels of language, each identified by its own functional type of segmental units. If now we carefully observe the functional status of the level-forming segments, we can distinguish between them more self-sufficient and less self-sufficient types, the latter being defined only in relation to the functions of other level units. Indeed, the phonemic, lexemic and proposemic levels are most strictly and exhaustively identified from the functional point of

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view: the function of the phoneme is differential, the function of the word is nominative, the function of the sentence is predicative. As different from these, morphemes are identified only as significative components of words, phrases present polynominative combinations of words, and supra-sentential constructions mark the transition from the sentence to the text.

Furthermore, bearing in mind that the phonemic level forms the subfoundation of language, i.e. the non-meaningful matter of meaningful expressive means, the two notions of grammatical description shall be pointed out as central even within the framework of the structural hierarchy of language: these are, first, the notion of the word and, second, the notion of the sentence. The first is analysed by morphology, which is the grammatical teaching of the word; the second is analysed by syntax, which is the grammatical teaching of the sentence.



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