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SENTENCE: GENERAL

grammar

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TERMENI importanti pentru acest document

SENTENCE: GENERAL

§ 1. The sentence is the immediate integral unit of speech built up of words according to a definite syntactic pattern and distinguished by a contextually relevant communicative purpose. Any coherent connection of words having an informative destination is effected within the framework of the sentence. Therefore the sentence is the main object of syntax as part of the grammatical theory.




The sentence, being composed of words, may in certain cases include only one word of various lexico-grammatical standing. Cf.: Night. Congratulations. Away! Why? Certainly.

The actual existence of one-word sentences, however,

does not contradict the general idea of the sentence as a special syntactic combination of words, the same as the notion of one-element set in mathematics does not contradict the general idea of the set as a combination of certain elements. Moreover, this fact cannot lead even to the inference that under some circumstances the sentence and the word may wholly coincide: a word-sentence as a unit of the text is radically different from a word-lexeme as a unit of lexicon, the differentiation being inherent in the respective places

occupied by the sentence and the word in the hierarchy of language levels. While the word is a component element of the word-stock and as such is a nominative unit of language, the sentence, linguistically, is a predicative utterance-unit. It means that the sentence not only names some referents with the help of its word-constituents, but also, first, presents these referents as making up a certain situation, or, more specifically, a situational event, and second, reflects the connection between the nominal denotation of the event on the one hand, and objective reality on the other, showing the time of the event, its being real or unreal, desirable or undesirable, necessary or unnecessary, etc. Cf.:

I am satisfied, the experiment has succeeded. I would have been satisfied if the experiment had succeeded. The experiment seems to have succeeded — why then am I not satisfied?

Thus, even one uninflected word making up a sentence is thereby turned into an utterance-unit expressing the said semantic complex through its concrete contextual and consituational connections. By way of example, compare the different connections of the word-sentence 'night' in the following passages:

1) Night. Night and the boundless sea, under the eternal star-eyes shining with promise. Was it a dream of freedom coining true? 2) Night? Oh no. No night for me until 1 have worked through the case. 3) Night. It pays all the day's debts. No cause for worry now, I tell you.

Whereas the utterance 'night' in the first of the given passages refers the event to the plane of reminiscences, the 'night' of the second passage presents a question in argument connected with the situation wherein the interlocutors are immediately involved, while the latter passage features its 'night' in the form of a proposition of reason in the flow of admonitions.

It follows from this that there is another difference between the sentence and the word. Namely, unlike the word, the sentence does not exist in the system of language as a ready-made unit; with the exception of a limited number of utterances of phraseological citation, it is created by the speaker in the course of communication. Stressing this fact, linguists point out that the sentence, as different from the word, is not a unit of language proper; it is a chunk of text

built up as a result of speech-making process, out of different units of language, first of all words, which are immediate means for making up contextually bound sentences, i. e. complete units of speech.

It should be noted that this approach to the sentence, very consistently exposed in the works of the prominent Soviet scholar A. I. Smirnitsky, corresponds to the spirit of traditional grammar from the early epoch of its development. Traditional grammar has never regarded the sentence as part of the system of means of expression; it has always interpreted the sentence not as an implement for constructing speech, but as speech itself, i. e. a portion of coherent flow of words of one speaker containing a complete thought.

Being a unit of speech, the sentence is intonationally delimited. Intonation separates one sentence from another in the continual flow of uttered segments and, together with various segmental means of expression, participates in rendering essential communicative-predicative meanings (such as, for instance, the syntactic meaning of interrogation in distinction to the meaning of declaration). The role of intonation as a delimiting factor is especially important for sentences which have more than one predicative centre, in particular more than one finite verb. Cf.:

1) The class was over, the noisy children fitted the corridors. 2) The class was over. The noisy children filled the corridors.

Special intonation contours, including pauses, represent the given speech sequence in the first case as one compound sentence, in the second case as two different sentences (though, certainly, connected both logically and syntactically).

On the other hand, as we have stated elsewhere, the system of language proper taken separately, and the immediate functioning of this system in the process of intercourse, i.e. speech proper, present an actual unity and should be looked upon as the two sides of one dialectically complicated substance — the human language in the broad sense of the term. Within the framework of this unity the sentence itself, as a unit of communication, also presents the two different sides, inseparably connected with each other. Namely, within each sentence as an immediate speech element of the communication process, definite standard syntactic-semantic features are revealed which make up a typical model, a generalised pattern repeated in an indefinite number of actual utterances.

This complicated predicative pattern does enter the system of language. It exists on its own level in the hierarchy of lingual segmental units in the capacity of a 'linguistic sentence' and as such is studied by grammatical theory,

Thus, the sentence is characterised by its specific category of predication which establishes the relation of the named phenomena to actual life. The general semantic category of modality is also defined by linguists as exposing the connection between the named objects and surrounding reality. However, modality, as different from predication, is not specifically confined to the sentence; this is a broader category revealed both in the grammatical elements of language and its lexical, purely nominative elements. In this sense, every word expressing a definite correlation between the named substance and objective reality should be recognised as modal. Here belong such lexemes of full notional standing as 'probability', 'desirability', 'necessity' and the like, together with all the derivationally relevant words making up the corresponding series of the lexical paradigm of nomination; here belong semi-functional words and phrases of probability and existential evaluation, such as perhaps, may be, by all means, etc.; here belong further, word-particles of specifying modal semantics, such as just, even, would-be, etc.; here belong, finally, modal verbs expressing a broad range of modal meanings which are actually turned into elements of predicative semantics in concrete, contextually-bound utterances.

As for predication proper, it embodies not any kind of modality, but only syntactic modality as the fundamental distinguishing feature of the sentence. It is the feature of predication, fully and explicitly expressed by a contextually relevant grammatical complex, that identifies the sentence in distinction to any other combination of words having a situational referent.

The centre of predication in a sentence of verbal type (which is the predominant type of sentence-structure in English) is a finite verb. The finite verb expresses essential predicative meanings by its categorial forms, first of all, the categories of tense and mood (the category of person, as we have seen before, reflects the corresponding category of the subject). However, proceeding from the principles of sentence analysis worked out in the Russian school of theoretical syntax, in particular, in the classical treatises of V.V. Vinogradov, we insist that predication is effected not only by the

forms of the finite verb connecting it with the subject, but also by all the other forms and elements of the sentence establishing the connection between the named objects and reality, including such means of expression as intonation, word order, different functional words. Besides the purely verbal categories, in the predicative semantics are included such syntactic sentence meanings as purposes of communication (declaration — interrogation — inducement), modal probability, affirmation and negation, and others, which, taken together, provide for the sentence to be identified on its own, proposemic level of lingual hierarchy.



§ 2. From what has been said about the category of predication, we see quite clearly that the general semantic content of the sentence is not at all reduced to predicative meanings only. Indeed, in order to establish the connection between some substance and reality, it is first necessary to name the substance itself. This latter task is effected in the sentence with the help of its nominative means. Hence, the sentence as a lingual unit performs not one, but two essential signemic (meaningful) functions: first, substance-naming, or nominative function; second, reality-evaluating, or predicative function.

The terminological definition of the sentence as a predicative unit gives prominence to the main feature distinguishing the sentence from the word among the meaningful lingual units (signernes). However, since every predication is effected upon a certain nomination as its material semantic base, we gain a more profound insight into the difference between the sentence and the word by pointing out the two-aspective meaningful nature of the sentence. The semantics of the sentence presents a unity of its nominative and predicative aspects, while the semantics of the word, in this sense, is monoaspective.

Some linguists do not accept the definition of the sentence through predication, considering it to contain tautology, since, allegedly, it equates the sentence with predication ('the sentence is predication, predication is the sentence'). However, the identification of the two aspects of the sentence pointed out above shows that this negative attitude is wholly unjustified; the real content of the predicative interpretation of the sentence has nothing to do with definitions of the 'vicious circle' type. In point of fact» as follows from the given exposition of predication, predicative meanings

do not exhaust the semantics of the sentence; on the contrary, they presuppose the presence in the sentence of meanings of quite another nature, which form its deeper nominative basis. Predicative functions work upon this deep nominative basis, and as a result the actual utterance-sentence is finally produced.

On the other hand, we must also note a profound difference between the nominative function of the sentence and the nominative function of the word. The nominative meaning of the syntagmatically complete average sentence (an ordinary proposemic nomination) reflects a processual situation or event that includes a certain process (actional or statal) as its dynamic centre, the agent of the process, the objects of the process, and also the various conditions and circumstances of the realisation of the process. This content of the proposemic event, as is known from school grammar, forms the basis of the traditional syntactic division of the sentence into its functional parts. In other words, the identification of traditional syntactic parts of the sentence is nothing else than the nominative division of the sentence. Cf.:

The pilot was steering the ship out of the harbour.

The old pilot was carefully steering the heavily loaded ship through the narrow straits out of the harbour.

As is easily seen, no separate word, be it composed of so many stems, can express the described situation-nominative semantics of the proposition. Even hyperbolically complicated artificial words such as are sometimes coined for various expressive purposes by authors of fiction cannot have means of organising their root components analogous to the means of arranging the nominative elements of the sentence.

Quite different in this respect is a nominal phrase — a compound signemic unit made up of words and denoting a complex phenomenon of reality analysable into its component elements together with various relations between them. Comparative observations of predicative and non-predicative combinations of words have unmistakably shown that among the latter there are quite definite constructions which are actually capable of realising nominations of proposemic situations. These are word-combinations of full nominative value represented by expanded substantive phrases. It is these combinations that, by their nominative potential, directly correspond to sentences expressing typical proposemic situations. Cf.:

1G—1499  241

→ The pilot's steering of the ship out of the harbour. → The old pilot's careful steering of the heavily loaded ship through the narrow straits out of the harbour.

In other words, between the sentence and the substantive word-combination of the said full nominative type, direct transformational relations are established: the sentence, interpreted as an element of paradigmatics, is transformed into the substantive phrase, or 'nominalised', losing its processual-predicative character. Thus, syntactic nominalisation, while depriving the sentence of its predicative aspect (and thereby, naturally, destroying the sentence as an immediate communicative unit), preserves its nominative aspect intact.

The identification of nominative aspect of the sentence effected on the lines of studying the paradigmatic relations in syntax makes it possible to define more accurately the very notion of predication as the specific function of the sentence.

The functional essence of predication has hitherto been understood in linguistics as the expression of the relation of the utterance (sentence) to reality, or, in more explicit presentation, as the expression of the relation between the content of the sentence and reality. This kind of understanding predication can be seen, for instance, in the well-known 'Grammar of the Russian Language' published by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, where it is stated that 'the meaning and purpose of the general category of predication forming the sentence consists in referring the content of the sentence to reality'.* Compare with this the definition advanced by A. I. Smirnitsky, according to which predication is understood as 'referring the utterance to reality'

The essential principles of this interpretation of predication can be expressed even without the term 'predication' as such. The latter approach to the exposition of the predicative meaning of the sentence can be seen, for instance, in the course of English grammar by M. A. Ganshina and N. M. Vasilevskaya, who write: 'Every sentence shows the relation of the statement to reality from the point of view of the speaker' [Ganshina, Vasilevskaya, 321].

Now, it is easily noticed that the cited and similar

M., 1960. T. 2, I

definitions of predication do not explicitly distinguish the two cardinal sides of the sentence content, namely, the nominative side and the predicative side. We may quite plausibly suppose that the non-discrimination of these two sides of sentence meaning gave the ultimate cause to some scholars for their negative attitude towards the notion of predication as the fundamental factor of sentence forming.

Taking into consideration the two-aspective character of the sentence as a signemic unit of language, predication should now be interpreted not simply as referring the content of the sentence to reality, but as referring the nominative content of the sentence to reality. It is this interpretation of the semantic-functional nature of predication that discloses, in one and the same generalised presentation, both the unity of the two identified aspects of the sentence, and also their different, though mutually complementary meaningful roles.



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