Theoretical Grammar


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

Language is a system of means of expression. It includes units of different levels. So L is hierarchical in structure. L is the source that all speakers use in order to express what they need. So it is one for all, it’s social. L exists in our mind as knowledge, so it is ideal (abstract)



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41 чел.

Theoretical Grammar

Пескова Наталья Анатольевна


1 Lecture

Блох “A course in Theoretical Grammar”

Ильиш “The structure of Modern English”

Иванова «Теоретическая грамматика»


14 лекций, 13 семинары

Grammar in the systemic conception of language.

The items:

  1.  Theoretical grammar and its object
  2.  Development of Grammar theory
  3.  Language as a semiotic system
  4.  Basic notions of structuralism
  5.  language and speech
  6.  syntagmatics and paradygmatics
  7.  synchrony and diachrony

  1.  The term grammar is of Greek origin and it literally means the art of writing. But later the word acquired the wide essence and now it embraces the study of language in general. Grammar can be practical and theoretical. The aim of practical grammar is to formulate grammar rules that help us use language. Theoretical grammar has a different aim. In fact, it is to explain these rules. Theoretical grammar deals with language as a functional system. Grammar includes morphology and syntax. Morphology studies the inner structure of words, their grammatical categories and parts of speech division. Syntax deals with rules of combining words into longer units.

Linguistic units can go into three types of relations:

Type of relation

Approach to language study

Linguistic discipline

Between a language unit and an object in the world



Between a unit and other units



Between a unit and a person who uses it



  1.  Evolution of grammar theory
  2.  Classical grammar (ancient time – 1840-1850)
  3.  Historical-comparative grammar (1850 –beg.of the 20th c.)
  4.  Structural linguistics (beg. Of the 20th c. – up to now)
  5.  Generative-transformational grammar (since the 50th)
  6.  Semantic trends in grammar (since the 60s-70s)
  7.  Text (textual) grammar (since the 60th)
  8.  Functional grammar (pragmatics) (since the 70s-80s)

  1.  Grammar theory goes back to ancient times and Aristotle is usually believed to be the first linguist (grammarian). He was the first to introduce the notions of subject and predicate and he initiated the division to the parts of speech. The classical period was characterized by accumulation of facts about language and for sure these were first disconnected attempts to describe it. It was useful. This approach was not devoid of limitations and the basic conception of it was wrong. They believed that grammar is direct reflection of logic and thinking, but it was a mistake. These notions are connected but not directly. The laws of thinking are universal, but grammar systems are different. Classical grammar treated Latin and Greek and as model languages (эталоны). Their structure was considered to be perfect and the closer some language was to Latin or Greek, the more perfect it was considered to be.
    1.  In the second half of the 19th century a new trend appeared. It was called so, because linguists compared genetically related languages and studied historical changes within them. It was the time of many interesting discoveries that now belong to the history of languages. Now this approach is criticized for being atomistic. They studied interesting, but disconnected facts.
    2.  At the beg.of 20th century a new modern period started. Within this approach, the language was treated as a holistic system with its own laws and functions. The structure of language was at the centre of attention. That’s why this period was called that way. Фортунатов, Бодуэн-де-Куртенэ, Соссюр.
    3.  Semiotic system. Language is regarded as a system of elements that are called signs or units of language. These units have no value without each other and they are codependent. They exist only in the system, not in isolation. Language is a structural system. Structure means hierarchy. We exclude lexicology and phonetics. The system of language is of semiotic character and its units of different levels are signs. Phoneme is not a sign. Any sign has two sides: the plane of content and the plane of expression. The theory of linguistic signs belongs to Sossur, who described basic features of the sign. He also compared the system of language with other systems and he proved that the former is far more complicated than other systems. In natural language there is no one-to-one correspondence between two sides of the sign. This phenomenon makes any language not only complicated, but at the same time economical and expressive.  Language signs are characterized by the following specific features. First, 1)replacement of the language sign – language sign doesn’t lose its value in time, it can be replaced in time continuum. 2)Reflexivity of a language sign (возвратность, направленность на самого себя) it is the ability of a sign to investigate the system of language – metalinguistic function. 3)Open-endedness of the sign:
      1.  any sign is open to changes
      2.  it leads to open-endedness of the whole system of language

4)Linguistic sign are arbitrary by nature. It means there are no direct relations between two sides (the planes).

5)Predetermination of the sign by the system. Tom’s – combination of two morphemes.


Before Sassur these notions were nor differentiated, there are specific qualities.

Language is a system of means of expression. It includes units of different levels. So L is hierarchical in structure. L is the source that all speakers use in order to express what they need. So it is one for all, it’s social. L exists in our mind as knowledge, so it is ideal (abstract).

Speech on the contrary is individual. It’s created by some definite speaker. S is material cos we can hear it. And structurally S is organized like a chain, so we call it linear.

Syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations

This antinomy is obviously related to the previous one cos the sphere of application of these relations is different. P relations are relations within L system, whereas S ones are use in speech. Both types of links can be found on all levels.

P relations are abstract associative relations that can serve as a basis for all kinds of classification. Relations between neighboring elements in speech are called S. On the phonological L we can mention the process of assimilation. On the morphemic level – bound morpheme.

These are two approaches to language Style. Before Sassur historical development in G mainly investigated the development of language units. But the newly introduced notion of L system made the Synchronic approach more important, urgent cos it gives the opportunity to reveal the whole complexity of relations that exist within language at each step of its development.


 A      B

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _B

Nowadays Linguistics equally uses both approaches and the choice of them depends on the object of investigation.

Basic Schools of modern Linguistics

  1.  Traditional approach to grammar analysis and its limitations.
  2.  Descriptive linguistics (Descriptivism)
  3.  the distributional method
  4.  The IC method (НС – непосредственно составляющих)
  5.  Generative transformational method
  6.  Semantic trends in G

a) Case G – грамматика падежей, теория семантического падежа

  1.  Contensive G
  2.  Text G

1. Traditional grammatical Analysis focuses on functional aspect mainly, because first of all we distinguish sentence parts to a principle subject and predicate, and object, attribute and adverbial modifier. After that the morphological nature of each word is described. Traditional analysis can hardly be called perfect, it is just satisfactory for teaching purposes, but it isn’t scientific enough. The reason for it lies in rather vague indefinite definitions of terminology. Sentence part – sometimes it is difficult to see the border between two members (he likes books – he likes to go). The different between principle and secondary parts is not determined either and many hybrid terms are introduced. The construction of the bridge.

2. Limitations of traditional G were to some extend eliminated by descriptivism and later G trends. ВLinguistics appeared in America at the beg of 20 century and it was called so cos it wanted to describe American Indian languages using structural methods. That is why later it developed into American structuralism. The Ls of American Indians belong to incorporating type where sentence formally looks like indivisible unit and there were some regularities of word order. So traditional methods of analysis were not helpful at all. It was more convenient to describe linguistic forms in the aspect of their distribution. This notion was introduced in the book Leo Bloomfield “Language” and his pupils Harriz and Freeze. The basic notions are distribution and environment. Environment is the set of neighboring elements of some unit.

A        dress. The notion of distribution is wider. It is a total number of all potential environments where this element can occur. D can be of three types:

- contrastive D – difference between two language units that occur in the same environment and it creates difference in meaning (pen0-pens)

- non-contrastive D – difference between two language units, that occur in the same environment without difference in meaning (to wake – woken\waked). We can choose either this or that variant.

- complimentary D – two units are considered to be in complimentive D, if only one of them occurs in some environment, and the other one should be used only in some other type of distribution. They are never overlapping. (s can be pronounced in 3 ways – s, z, iz)

The theory itself was worked out by Charles Fries and consists in the following: the whole word stock was divided into classes only on the basis of distribution. According to Fries, if two L elements occur in the same distribution without change in meaning, they belong to the same class. Practically, the analysis was carried out on the basis of two thousand real telephone conversations. Fries divided all grammar structures used by the speakers into minimal sentences (clauses). He found out that all structures whatever different they seemed were actually reduced to several elementary patterns. These patterns correspond to universal logical structures that can be found in any language (with some slight modification).

N V – John came.

N V prep N – John looked at Mary.

N V N – John saw Mary.

N is N – John is a teacher.  

N is prep N – John is in bed.

N is D – John is out.

N is A – John is angry.

Fries analysed environment of all elements in these 7 patterns. As a result, he singled out four classes of notional words and 15 groups of functional ones.

Notional words

Functional words

Noun-like words

F-prep, conjunctions

Verb-like W

Adj-like W

t-determiners (articles, demonstrative pronouns)

Adv-like W


Class 1 words include not only nouns but also personal, indefinite, negative, numerals.

Class 3 words includes not only adjectives, participles, ordinal numerals.

The 4th class includes adverbs and prepositions that are used post-positively.

    T       3a        1a\he     2-d±   t      3b         1b\it        4

1. the    old         man      saw    a     black     dog       there

The distributional model shows the sentence objectively because it represents objective distributional and some formal features and it isn’t influenced by the subjectivity of meaning interpretation.

At the same time a holistic neglect of meaning can sometimes be misleading, because real semantic relations between words are not seen in this pattern, which is linear.

3        +1       f  1b  the same

English   verbs   and   adverbs and    Old    men   and     children

In real speech there are a lot of grammatical structures that correspond to the same distributional patterns and essential semantic differences between them are beyond this model.

b)IC method

To some extent, the above mentioned limitations were overcome by another method also introduced by another descriptivists (Fries and Bloomfield). A constituent is a linguistic element which is a part of a longer unit. An immediate constituent is one the two constituents which build up some language unit.

This method consists in division of a grammatical structure into two parts and each part should be meaningful.

“Cutting” – beauti   ||   ful    | ly

 IC 1        IC 2

 IC 1        IC 2

Эта модель изображает предложение не как линейную последовательность слов, а как иерархию уровней членения. Предполагается, что членение предложения производятся таким образом, что на каждом этапе членения выделяются отрезки максимальной длины, имеющих значение , то есть такие, которые в свою очередь допускают максимальное число дальнейших членений. Так как длина НС должна быть максимальной, то их число на каждом этапе должно быть минимальным, и как правило деление осуществляется на бинарном принципе.

The next step is to represent relations between words in a grammatical structure. The scheme of sentence-tree was introduced.

English | verbs || and ||| adverbs.

  IC 1

        IC 2

Old  | men ||  and |||  children  

   IC 1         IC 2


A (adj)      NP (noun phrase)

     N1   fN2

       f  N2

A      N1  f   N2


NP      fN

A           N    f   N

A    N    f   N2

This method focuses on structure but at the same time it takes meaning into consideration. It is more detailed than distributional model, because it hierarchical structure reflects the real order of uniting elements in a sentence.

Not all sentences can be analyzed like that. One member-sentences and extremely complicated structures theoretically can be analyzed, but the schemes become too complicated. Sometimes sentences can be syntactically ambiguous and this method is of no use here either.

John is easy to please.

John is eager to please.

This method is helpful because it shows the way how some long sentence is structured in our mind and it represents semantic closeness of words in the sentence.

At the same time in every L there are syntactically ambiguous sentences. Their formal structure coincides, but meaning is quite different. IC method fails to show this difference.

3a    3b   1a(he, she)      2-s+   1b   f   t      1c (it)        3c      1d (it)

My || best |||friend    |     meets|||| me ||| at |||| the ||||| University || every |||   day.

2 3 1 4 3 4 5 2 3

My 2 best3 friend1 meets4 me3 at4 the5 University2 every3 day


NP         VP

A (pr)  NP’         VP’    NP

    A          N     VP’’           FT N           A          N

     V          N (pr)      f      N

            T   N

My       best      friend         meets       me          at   the Un     Every    day

Lecture 4          28.09.2010

TG method – generative-transformational method

This method of analysis was developed by Noam Chomsky in his book “syntactic structures”. According to this theory sentences have two structures – deep and surface ones (глубинная и поверхностная структуры предложения).

The SS is usually more complex and more variable. Deep S is connected with ideas and concepts that are usually simple and one sentence can contain several of such minimal ideas. In actual speech we use sentences of different length. And the shortest ones (declarative, active, indicative) are close to these elementary ideas.  

According to Chomsky, such minimal sentences make the basis of grammar and they are universal for all l-s. But L differ in the way such concepts are expressed.

According to him, kernel sentences can undergo different transformations (transformational rules). These rules are specific for each language, but some of them coincide (active\passive; affirmative, negative, interrogative; indicative, imperative, oblique). As a result of such transformation we can get a several number of transform (variants of the sentence). That is why this grammar is called generative-transformational and it demonstrates the procedure of real formation of utterance in the mind of the speaker.

The friend meets (smb) (NV)

The friend is mine (N is A)

He is the best (N is A)

He meets me (NVN)

He does (it) at the university (NVprepN)

He does (it) every day (NVD)

TG G was the first approach to analyze meaning as the central element of syntactical structure. Every sentence can be divided into minimal kernel sentences and their comparison can show whether these sentences are the same or different in their meaning.

N1                A               V

Mary is curious to know. – She herself is curious and she wants to know something.  – Smb knows Mary, it is curious.  (N2 V N1)

Conclusion: this analysis helps us compare deep and surface structures and to understand real meaning of the sentence.

  1.  Semantic trends in Grammar
  2.  Case Grammar\Semantic Case (теория семантического падежа)

After Chomsky with his D and S structures most linguists started their analysis with meaning. They used different methods but totally they are all called semantic trends. Case G was created by Chomsky’s pupil, American scholar Charles Fillmore. He shared Chomsky’s ideas about two structures but he went further on in the analysis of meaning. The focus point here is the verb. (“A verb is a potential sentence”.) – verbocentric theory.

According to Fillmore each verb has a definite number of case roles.

He         me a lie.


Case role 1       Case role 2   Case role 3

Relation between the verb and words related to it are of two kinds: obligatory and optional. According to ObR, all verbs are divided into 3 types – one-place verbs (одноместные глаголы). All ObR are called arguments. Optional are called links. Arguments and links can describe the deep sentence structure of each of them. Fillmore singled out a list of case roles, which were furthermore enriched by his followers.

Case Role


Pos. – possessor (The dress IS mine. )

I-instrument (object with which the act is done)

Char. – characterizer (He is CLEVER)

E-experiencer (animate recipient of an action)

Adr. – addressee (адресат) – He (agent) wrote a letter (factitive) TO ME\ He explained the rule to me (experiencer).

P-patient (inanimate receiver of an action)

N-nominizer (He is my BOSS) name some object

F-factitive (some phenomenon which appears as a result of an action)

S – source (from what the object was taken)

L-locative place


T-temporative time

Chicago (temporative) is windy in winter.

Lecture  5        05.10.2010

   A      V                   P          I

The man  opened the door  with a key.    

     P              v                  a                  i

The door was opened by the man with a key.

If we compare sentences like these ones we see that traditional sentence parts do not coincide, but case roles of the related words remain the same.


1) The same deep structure of the sentence can correspond to different surface structures and at the same time the same surface structure can be interpreted in two ways –syntactically ambiguity

2) Languages differ mainly in surface structures, but deep structures are more universal, because communicative demands are universal for all people.

  1.  Contensive G

This method is based on the previous achievements of G and was introduced in the 70-s by C. Д. Кацнельсон. The main idea is to study the ambiguous syntactical constructions in the aspect of meaning, but not its form, because it can be polysemantic and misleading. And actually one-to-one correspondence of form and meaning is a rare phenomenon in any language.

Стол накрыт скатертью.

Стол накрыт официантом.

After definition of case roles transformational analysis is added.

Children’s toys – toys for children

Children’s arrival – the children arrived.

Meaning is not always clear and evident that results in syntactic ambiguity. A can be discarded (removed) through specification and transformation of semantic relations between components of the utterance.

Generative Semantics.

Semantic syntax

This method was created by George Lackoff, who also shared two ideas of Phillmore.

  1.  verb is the centre of the sentence
    1.  deep and surface structure

But surface in his vision is expressed in identification of relations between elements of the sentence. If for Fillmore’s deep structure was actualized in case roles, for Lackoff it is expressed within each element of the sentence.

Each word is understood as a set of elements or components of meaning. Later the terms ‘seme’ (semantic marker) or distinguisher) were introduced. That is why this method was named componential analysis. Not only semantic, but also grammatical markers can be singled out.

Boy          Man

   Both: human



Grown up-         groun up+


Markers have two peculiarities. They are always in binary relations. Markers are not of equal rank. There are higher markers, they are more general in meaning and lower markers, that are more specified.

Conclusion: this method became very popular in lexicology because it shows slightest differences between related words (ex. synonyms).

The thing is that if we want to make a grammatically correct sentence, we should not ignore the lexical meaning of the words, because lexical filling of the same grammatical pattern should be carefully selected. We shouldn’t combine words with contradictory markers.

Sincerity frightens the boy. (animate +)


Text grammar appears in the sixties simultaneously in out country and abroad. In American L – Halliday, Harris, in Russia – Звягинцев, Москальская. The central idea is that not the sentence but the text is the highest unit of language. Text is what you hear, read or produce. There two kinds of text: written or oral.

The initial impulse was connected with logical division of the sentence. Actual division of the sentence and functional sentence prospective.

I have | a pen. The pen - theme is nice.

It was noticed that S in on text are not isolated, but they are in some relations and this fact creates some specific text structure. T S can be described by theme\rheme division. Pr. Moskal’skaya studied a lot of texts and singled out three structures that are most frequent.

T1  R1

T2  R2

T3  R3

John is my friend. He is a future teacher. Teaching is a noble profession.

Fan-like arrangement


T1   R2


Hierarchical structure


T1   T2  T3

R1   R2  R3

In real text we find various combinations of such patterns, where the same structure can be used several times and it can be of different length. Each text possesses a unique and individual structure that can be described.

There is another functional aspect of text analysis, cos texts are also analyzed as for style and communicative purpose.

The fable:


Characters’ action


Another branch of TG is discourse analyses, that 1st appeared abroad. Звягинцев.

The term discourse is understood in two ways: in wide and narrow sense.

N – D is a portion of text in which real meaning of the sentence is actualized (micro-context).

W – D is a situationally bound text.

The length of D is variable. Even 1 sentence can be called D. (Fire!)

Logically connected sentences make minimal texts. These sections are called super-phrasal units (сверх-фразовые единства) or micro-texts. The upper limit text can hardly be defined. It can be a whole story or novel and it is called macro-text. Macro-T are characterized by relation of inclusion (chapters). The problem of text-delimitation is a disputable. L-s use a lot of related terms and some of them can be called doublets.



The super-phrasal unit

Сверхфразовое единство

The complex syntactic entity

Сложное синтаксическое целое

The super-phrasal construction

Единица большая, чем предложение

The transphrasal whole

Межфразовое целое

The paragraph


The discourse


The content block

Смысловой блок

The prosaic strophe

Прозаическая строфа

The texteme union

«Союз\сообщество текстем»

The microtext



 Lecture 6         12.10.10

Another challenge for TG is justification of the fact that text is a unit of L, but a not a chain of disconnected sentences. Sentences in the text are connected on two levels:

  •  the level of form
    •  the level of meaning

It is an obvious similarity with any other language sign.

Relations of meaning are described by the 1st basic text category (topical (semantic) entity) (тематическая целостность). If we change the topic, another text appears. The mechanism of text entity is based on constant change of themes and remes. Relations of form are described by the second text category - lexico-grammatical (syntactical) coherency (связанность). It reveals itself in some concrete L means of cohesion (средства связности):

  1.  partial substitution – S of the half of meaning by another word
  2.  reference – use of the pronoun instead of a noun
  3.  absolute substitution
  4.  repetition
  5.  key words (semantic groupings) – a) family relations b) evaluation
  6.  Antonyms
  7.  Synonyms
  8.  Conjunctions
  9.  Derivatives – with the same root
  10.   Ellipsis – one member of sentence is omitted

Essentials of Morphology

  1.  Classification of Morphemes.
  2.  Grammatical meaning and grammatical form
  3.  Grammatical oppositions and G categories
  4.  Reduction of grammatical oppositions

  1.  M – a minimal meaningful unit of language.

Nowhere – no+where\now+here

French\man (2M) – German (1M)

                                         Homonymy of M


Root (shipwreck)

Suffix (friendship)

  1.  Type of meaning

Lexical (roots)

Lexico-grammatical (prefixes and derivational suffexes)

Grammatical (inner and outer flexions, grammatical suffixes)






  1.  presence\absence of meaning

Full (presence of any type of meaning)

See e.g. above

Empty (only structural function, no meaning) child\r\en, re\join\d\er, sale\s\man

  1.  interaction with other morphemes




Man=m…..n (add.)+ -a- (subt.)


  1.  structure




Man=m…..n (add.)+ -a- (subt.)

Has (visit)ed

  1.  degree of independence

Free (only roots – if their form corresponds to the WORD)

Bound (all morphemes)


-ed, m…n

  1.  way of representation

Segmental (linear) (expressed by segmental phonetic means - phonemes)

Supersegmental (expressed by supersegmental means added to the linear structure of the word – a)stress b) juncture c) order d) order of elements)

All the examples above

‘import-im’port, annoys –a noise, outrun (v)-run-out (n), some (n)-come in

  1.  G meaning and G form

Linguistics is based on two types of meaning: lexical and grammatical. LM is individual, it denotes something. It specifies this very word and relates it to other words with the same meaning.

A boy, a table, a lecture – lexical meaning, GM- categorical meaning of substantivety.  

GM is more general. It unites big classes of words. All words of the same part of speech have the common categorical Gm. Besides, Categorial meaning some specific Gms can be singled out in each part of speech.  In nouns they are case, number. In verbs – person, tense, voice, mood, aspect. In adjectives – degrees of comparison.

Any GM is expressed in some way. It can be an inflexion (inner\outer), use of auxiliary verbs or suppletivism. G form can be either synthetical or analytical. S form consists of one element and both L and GM are expressed in it.

There are 3 productive means in English:

- Inflexion – morpheme added to the stem to change its G form. Modern E has some particular features concerning I. The number of I is very limited. There are many homonymous inflexions (-ed, ).  The role of the zero inflexion is very popular.

- Suppletivism – building a new form, changing the whole stem (good-better, bad-worse). This means is not productive and exists in most languages just as a rudiment of the previous periods of development of language.  Originally, suppletive forms go back to different words that were synonyms previously (wendan – gan - ). Suppletive forms should have absolutely identical lexical meaning, and there shouldn’t be any parallel form (must and have to are not SF).

- Sound interchange (alternation) in terms of morphemes is called inner flexion. There exist vowel, consonant and mixed types. (give-gave; send-sent; bring-brought)

The only productive synthetic means is inflexion. All new words change their forms using inflexions.  Besides SF, E uses analytical ones. The AF is a construction of a two or more elements where lexical and grammatical meanings are separated. Grammatical elements expressed by auxiliary verbs be, have should be absolutely free from lexical meaning (is writing). In English there are a lot of such forms continuous, passive, perfect, some form of mood. It is notable that some forms that appeared in Middle English and later are all analytical.

Lecture 7          19.10.2010

Grammatical oppositions and grammatical categories

One and the same form expresses several grammatical meanings at once. It is called syncretisizm.   In order to single out each meaning we must oppose some form of the word to the others.

  (I) run\0 (3d person)

  (they) run\0 (Singular)

HE runs   (he) ran (non-past)

  (he) is running (non-continuous)

In each couple of forms we find all the meanings that are identical with the exception of only one. This distinctive feature introduces some grammatical category.

Opposeme – оппозема, члены грамматической оппозиции.

Each part of speech has its own specific categories. The theory of oppositions was worked out in phonology by Trubetskoy. The theory of oppositions was extended to grammar by Jacobson. Nowadays oppositions of any type are all divided into several kinds and the principles are quantitative and qualitative.

  1.  quantitative
    •  binary
    •  triple
    •  multiple

  1.  qualitative principle:
    •  private (privative) (always binary in structure) +\-
    •  gradual +\++\+++\... – degrees of comparison
    •  equipollent +(a) +(b) … (indicative\imperative mood)

Each grammatical category is based on some type of opposition. They say that binary privative type is most wide spread. And the other types can be rejoiced. But in this case the opposition loses its specification. (Pr. + P. -  F. - )

Classification of GC:

GC are divided into several types. First of all,


- Formal-logical (immanent) – внутренне присущий

- formal proper (reflective)

If grammatical meaning corresponds to logical relations and we find some obvious semantic difference between forms, it is a logical or immanent category.

And if forms are used just for syntactical agreement, without any logical difference, it is a reflective category.

Круглый стол -

Круглые столы –

    •  fixed\constant (classifying)
    •  changeable\variable (form-changing)

If a word has its meaning in all its forms, it’s a constant category.


- overt – have regular morphological expression.

- covert (cryptotypes) – express grammatical meaning on other language levels: lexical, phonetical, syntactical.  Definiteless\indefiniteless is expressed by obligatory use of articles that accompany all countable nouns – overt. In Russian the same meaning is also expressed, but not on the morphological level (некий, какой-то) – covert.

The theory of grammatical opposition is widely used in modern linguistics and some new aspects are added to this theory. Pr. Blokh formulated the law of reduction of GO. Its aim is to systematize and explain mechanisms of unusual facts in language. Reduction is the use of one opposeme instead of the other when the whole opposition loses its distinctive force.

In Grammar reduction of meaning also exists and it is divided into two types:

  •  neutralization happens under some circumstances or only in some words, not in all of them. Actually, N explains all cases of exception. It is always free from any additional stylistic effect.In Russian, masculine gender can be used also for feminine, but not visa versa (Ахматовавеликий поэт). Sometimes N happens with morphemes and as a result we have forms of pluralia and singularia tantum.  (disappearance of one of the forms for SOME words or constructions):
  1.  custom-customs (обычаи)

customs (таможня) – no singular form (also: words of Pluralia and Singularia tamtum)

  1.  disappearance of Future for classes of time and condition

I’ll be here when he comes. (logical Future)

I don’t know when he will come (logical future)

  •  transposition (the use of some grammar form inunusual environment for changing lexical meaning or some stylistic effect):
  1.  discending type (marked instead of unmarked)

aa) we, Elizabeth II, proclaim (logical singular+elevated style)

bb) snows, waters, sands (logical uncountability), pains (усилия)б colours (знамена – change of meaning)

  1.  ascending type (unmarked instead of marked):

many a day (logical plural-archaic style)

Lecture 8           26. 10. 10

 Parts of speech. Word Class Theory

1. Principles of parts of speech classification

2. Notional words and functional words

I.This problem is an ancient one, but even now there are some words that are disputable as for their parts of speech status. The term itself is conventional, because it denotes classes that belong to language, not to speech. The first attempts to group words were made by Aristotle, who singled out four classes: the name, the verb, particle, link. A bit later, in Alexandria, they already knew 8 groups of words – partes oratonis. The term was used in classical grammar and entered grammar systems of many languages. Russian grammar started with M.V.Lomonosov, who created the first Russian grammar: the name (noun, adjective, numeral), the pronoun, the verb, the particle, the adverb, the preposition, the conjunction, the interjection. Now the term part of speech denotes a wide class of words that differs from others in some grammatical features. There exist 3 basic criteria of division:

  •  meaning or semantic
    •  form (morphological)
    •  functional

Structuarists added distribution.

  1.  the first semantic criterion is connected not with individual lexical, but with general categorical meaning of the whole part of speech – substantivety for nouns, process or actions for verbs, quality for adjectives.  
  2.  M is connected with possible ways of form-building and with grammatical categories this part of speech has.
  3.  F is based on syntactic function of this word in the sentence.
  4.  D describes this part of speech from the view point of environment, what other words can be used as neighbors.

Actually, none of the criteria is absolute, because they work not for all words of the same part of speech. Thus, among nouns we find words with categorical meaning of quality (depth, whiteness).

In order to classify words correctly, in typical cases only semantic criterion is sufficient. But in other cases we should combine all of them in order to give objective characteristic of the word.

II. This opposition exists in any language. In each L there are words that name objects, actions or qualities and there are words that establish relations between them. The first group is characterized by distinct denotational lexical meaning, while the second has a more generalized relative meaning.

Autosemantic words

Synsemantical words

Noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, numeral

Preposition, conjunction, particle, article, auxiliary verb, copula (link), interjection

In linguistics two approaches to the nature of function words are known. The 1st is that such words are not real words, but they are equal to other grammatical means like morphemes or word order. Structuarists call FW empty words and they are opposed to full ones. (The earth is round (the+is are empty)).

But the absence of denotational meaning does not make FW less important. Sometimes meaning can only be expressed by the means of FW.

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe

All mimsy were the borogous

And the mome raths outgrabe”

(L. Carroll. Through the Looking glass)

Traditional grammar has another view point as for the nature of function words and they also speak about lexical meaning of FW. The only difference is that these meaning is the name of relation (time, cause, space).

FW are classified according to their purpose.

Syntatic F


Morphological F


Communicative F


Preposition, conjunction, copula

Article, auxiliary, verb

Particle, interjection


  1.  General characteristics of the noun
    1.  The category of number
      1.  Case
        1.  The problem of gender in Modern English

  1.  The N is the central lexical unit of any language. N has the grammatical meaning of substantivety, which is a more general term than previously used term thingness. According to this aspect, Ns are heterogeneous (разнородный). So they fall into several sub classes. According to the type of nomination, they are common and proper. Common denote big classes. According to the form of existence, they are animate and inanimate. A in their turn fall into human (personal) and non-personal. According to their quantitative structure, N can be countable and uncountable. Acc. to the sphere denoted, they can be concrete and abstract.  Concrete fall into mass and collective.

As for structure of stems, N can be derived (darkness), compound (armchair) and simple (pen, table) and composite (mary-go-round). There 2 categories – gender and number.

Syntactical – this part of speech can be used in all functions with the exception of verbal predicate.

Combinability and distribution – there are no limitations in both sides.

  1.  This category is based on a binary type of opposition, singular and plural. The markers are –s, -en, sound alternation (mouse-mice), zero inflexion (deer, swine, sheep). The marked member is narrower, it is more than one. The meaning of unmarked is wider.

On the basis of their form N are classified into two groups: one and two forms.

Nouns with 2 forms

N with 1 form




Swine, deer, sheep

Sg (singularia tantum)

Milk, air

Pl (pluralia tantum)

Jeans, clothes


  •  symmetrical objects – scissors, trousers, jeans
    •  indefinite plurality – clothes, suburbs (are)
    •  physical states or illnesses (mumps, measles, hysterics)
    •  games and sciences (billiards)


  •  abstract uncountable notions (music, nature, culture)
    •  mass nouns (water, milk, sugar, paper)

Sometimes to emphasize a very great amount of such substance, the plural form is still used (snows, waters).

Lecture          2.11.2010

Case relations express semantic links of words in the word-group or sentence. It’s a formological category, because it correlates with the objective category of possession. The category is based on a binary privative opposition common case vs. possessive case. It’s a traditional view point and is called limitive case theory (traditional – 2 cases). However, there are a lot of other view points and linguists speak about different number of cases.

Semantic theories of case (indefinite number of cases). According to Potebnya, every particular syntactic meaning that is created between words should be called a separate case irrespective of the form of expression. I.e., if we take any traditional case (genitive), we can find several meanings within it. Стакан воды – partitive case, приезд брата - subjective, наказание брата - objective, книга брата - possessive.

The meanings here depend on lexical meaning of the words and some meanings can be contextually dependent. Thus we get a wide list of cases that can hardly be quite precise.

Prepositional theories (indefinite, 6, 4 cases)

6-case paradigm is singled out on the analogy with Latin. The markers of case are both synthetical (‘s) and analytical (prepositions).

4-cases – German influence – according to this view point, each preposition is connected with a different case.

Substitutional theory (pronouns, 3 cases)

Nominative (the subject) – subject

I met him (the boy) – objective (the noun used as an object).


Postpositional theory (no case as a morphological category at all) (group-genitive) – in real speech ‘s is often used not with one word, but with word groups and even clauses. I.e., the Queen of England’s residence, an Oxford professor of literary’s lecture. The blond I’ve been dancing with’s mother. Here the marker can hardly be called a morphological inflexion. It belongs to the group of words and is equal to preposition of here. The residence of the Queen of England. Prepositions are elements of syntax, not of morphology and on the analogy Voronzova calls ‘s postposition. According to this view point, both of phrases and constructions with ‘s constitute a more general semantic category of possession. Morphological case doesn’t exist in English.

Most linguists support limitive-case theory because it is an obvious morphological opposition. Sometimes possessive case is called genitive, because the meaning of this form is not only of possession (possessive genitive – Mary’s father, subjective genitive, objective genitive (the man’s release), adverbial genitive (two hours’ work), equation genitive). So we see, genitive is polysemantic. The unmarked member is even wider in meaning because it can fulfill all syntactical functions in the sentence, whereas the genitive (marked) fulfills only the function of an attribute.


Gender in modern English

Not all linguists recognize that category in modern English. Accordong to Ivanova, this category disappeared in Middle English and we want to denote gender we use lexical or derivational means.

Lexical means

Derivational means



Tom-cat – pussy-cat

He-cat – she-cat





But some linguists, Bernard Straigh, still single out the category of gender on the basis of substitution of pronouns he or she. According to this, not all nouns have gender, only animate human nouns. All the others are called the neuter gender, substituted by it. He adds common gender (of both genders).

  Adjectives and Pronouns

  1.  General characteristics of Adj.
  2.  Degrees of comparison
  3.  Substantivation and adjectivation.
  4.  The pronoun as a part of speech

  1.  The grammatical meaning of adjectives is that of a quality, but some of them denote more abstract relations and it leads to division of adjectives into two types: relative (relations of cause, time, place, all kinds. Can’t be used in degrees of comparison) and qualitative (quality as it is – big, clever. That is why such words have degrees of comparison. The quality can be expressed to a different degree).

Relative A have specific suffixes – al (analytical), -ly (regularity – daily, weekly), en (material – golden, wooden), ern (parts of the world - western), y (contemporary). Very often no suffixes are used and A can look the same with other parts of speech and we recognize them by their combinability, position and functions in the sentence. There are two primary functions of A: attributive and predicative. Both relative and qualitative types can be used as attributes (This is a nice dress\The dress is nice). Predicative function is fulfilled only be qualitative A. And if we need to use a relative adjective as a predicative, we add pronoun one after it. In English there is a group of words which are close to A, and some linguists treat them as the third type of A. Words like awake, asleep, afire, afloat, ablaze as well as relative A perform only one function, but it’s a predicative one. Such words have common origin. Present prefix a- comes from reduction of Old English preposition an. At the same time such words have meaning that differs from the meaning of adjectives. It is not a permanent quality, but a temporary state. (The book is nice\The boy is afraid). That is why other linguists treat such words as a separate group of words that are called statives (слова категории состояния). In Russian words that denote state are also used, and Smirnitski also groups them in a separate part of speech (жаль, темно, зябко).

  1.  A have only one category and traditional view point is that it is a triple gradual opposition – the positive, comparative and superlative degrees. The 1st shows that some thing or a person is not compared to another one. This form expresses comparison in structures as-as and others. The 2nd degree presupposes comparison of two objects (This film is more interesting that that one). The 3rd presupposes the comparison of one object to the whole class of them. The markers are both synthetical (er-est) and analytical (more-most). Sometimes superlative forms are used with article a (He is a most experienced person in this sphere). It is called elative use of the superlative degree. It doesn’t express comparison, it denotes a high degree of quality and it is a means of intensification. Blokh interprets this category as an equipollent opposition that consists of 5 members.

3.1 In many languages words can be built on the basis of conversion. It means that words of one part of speech enter another part of speech without any formal changes. S is changing of A into N. It can be complete or absolute and partial. In the first case, all nominal features are acquired. The word native (it first appeared as an A) turned into a N. The noun has the meaning of substantivety, has forms of number and case and can be the subject and object. In this case dictionaries represent two words as separate entries. Partially substantivezed words get only some qualities – the poor, the rich, the blind, the wounded. Such words function as nouns but in meaning they are a bit different. They can never denote one object. They denote a whole class of objects. They don’t have the number or case and only the article is used as a grammatical marker. The same is typical of Russian (ванная, столовая, мороженое).

This process is typical only of analytical language, so it doe not exist in Russian. In E, the structural pattern NN… An imitation marble table (стол из искусственного мрамора). Nowadays the linguistic status of such words is still disputable. According to Henry Sweet, these words are still nouns, because they have no degrees of comparison and can’t be used as predicatives. Otto Jesperson has an opposite opinion. He regards them to be adjectives because such words can be linked with real adjectives by means of coordination (согласование). A merry and butterfly existence (веселое и беспечное существование). He stretched his long skeleton hand. Some of these newly formed adjectives can even have degrees of comparison. (choice party – избранное общество, the choicest party – сливки общества). My bosom friend – сердечный, закадычный. At the same time, adjectivized words can also preserve some features of a noun. The old car problem – the old cars problem.

  1.  Pronouns! It is a very heterogeneous part of speech, because different types of pronouns have different features.





Absolute use




I, you, he, they





My, his, their

+(mine, theirs)









Each other, one another





This, that





Something, anything




-(except whom)

Who, which, what





Nothing, nobody




- (exception whom)

Who, which, what





Some, much, few


An obvious difference exists in the functional sphere. Some pronouns behave like nouns – personal, reciprocal, indefinite, negative, interrogative. Like adjectives – possessive and relative (the man whose help…). Like articles – demonstrative. Like particles – self-pronouns. Like conjunctions – relative type. The Q arises – what is this common base that unites such different words in one part of speech. Linguists speak about two aspects – type of meaning and functions.

Pronouns do not denote things or qualities. They have referential or relative type of meaning. This type of meaning unites pronouns with all functional words. But at the same time there is an essential difference, because pronouns can be separate sentence parts whereas functional words can never be.

P have two specific functions that characterize all types of them: Substitutional and deictic ones. P do not have some fixed meaning, it always depends on situation. Besides P, some adverbs are also deictic (yesterday, tomorrow, here, now). At the same time, not all linguists recognize all these words as members of the same morphological class. Some L single out semantic groups and refer to them words of different parts of speech with the same component of meaning (quantifiers or intensifiers).


  1.  Classification of verbs
  2.  The category of person and number.
  3.  The category of tense
  4.  Time correlation
  5.  Aspect (вид)
  6.  Voice
  7.  Mood
  8.  The verbals

  1.  Grammatically, the verb is the most complicated part of speech. It fulfills the central function in the sentence. Predicativity of the sentence is expressed in verbal categories. P-y denotes relations between a situation, described by the sentence, and reality.

Verbs can be classified according to combinability. They can be transitive and intransitive (believe, go, stand). T demand the direct object (solve problem). From the view point of meaning, they are divided into notional and auxiliary. N have lexical denotational meaning. They name an action or a process. A ones have only grammatical or structural meaning (do. Besides, there is a limited group of link verbs, that also lack lexical meaning, but they are different from auxiliaries in functions. A-s are used in negative and interrogative sentences and in analytical forms (Cont, passive). Link verbs are used as syntactical elements, because they unite the subject with the predicative (He is a teaches; This is nice).

In many languages and in E there are several verbs that can be both notional and A, depending on the situation. These three verbs are do, be and have.

Notional verbs are divided into durative and terminative. D denote the process. T denote the action. Some verbs can also be of two types.

The only function of finite forms is that of a predicate. Non-finite forms or verbals can never fulfill this function by themselves. They can only be a part of it.  But instead they fulfill many of other nominal functions.

  1.  These two grammatical meanings are expressed together by the same form in al Indo-European languages. In E the opposition of this category is treated in two ways. Most linguists treat this category as a binary privative opposition (unmarked (take) and marked (takes(-s))). Multiple equipollent opposition:

Sg  Pl

1) –o1 -o2

2) –o3 -o4

3) –s  -o5

3. The grammatical meaning of tense is expression of logical time of the action and the difference is in correlation with the moment of speaking. There can be 3 variants – coincidence, preceding and after-going.

It is a formal-logical category based on an equipollent triple opposition. The marker for present is only –s.

Past has several markers - -ed, sound alternation (give-gave), suppletivism (went) and zero inflexion (cut, put).

Future is expressed analytically with the help of auxiliary verbs shall or will. The linguistic status of future is disputable. It is connected with the origin of shall and will. And nowadays some shade of modality is still preserved. Besides, any future action is not yet real. If some modal meaning is present, the verb can’t be called auxiliary, it becomes a modal verb.

  1.  Time correlation – it is a category that denotes not logical time, but the idea of correlation of two actions. It is expressed by the opposition of all perfect forms vs all indefinite ones. In E, there are several ways of expressing the second action. First, direct way, when in a complex sentence both verbs are used. (We had helped him, and then he left). Second, indirect, the second action is not named, but it is represented by time indicator (We’ve done it by one o’clock). Third, implicit, when the relation is established between some action and the moment of speaking (I’ve done it already).

5. Aspect is a category that denotes the way of representation of the action. It can be a mere fact in all indefinite forms or a process in all continuous forms. The difference here is not logical time, but in the way we view the situation. The marker is also analytical (to be). There are cases of reduction of this opposition (verbs of sense perception, etc). In fact, there can be cases when this rule is broken. (You are seeing him.) In Russian, there are two A: perfective (English perfect forms) and imperfective (continuous forms and indefinite ones).


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