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The Category of Number

The category of number is represented by the opposition of the singular and the plural (table:: tables). Paradigmatically the singular expresses oneness, the plural expresses more-than-oneness (multitude, quantity, numerosity). Some scholars believe that the meaning of the singular form is that of indiscreteness (нерасчленённость), while the meaning of the plural form is that of discreteness. It is a debated problem as most scholars find the meanings of indiscreteness and discreteness to be syntagmatic meanings of the plural form.

Nouns are divided into countables and uncountables. Countable nouns have several ways of building the plural form. The morpheme of plurality manifests itself in a number of allomorphs( cat:: cats, boy :: boys, brush :: brushes, man :: men, tooth:: teeth, wife:: wives, passer-by:: passers-by, deer :: deer, child :: children, phenomenon::phenomena, datum::data, terminus::termini, etc. ). Words of foreign origin are marked for the singular and the plural( phenomenon :: phenomena), but some of them have got assimilated into English( formula :: formulae – formulas). Uncountable nouns are subdivided according to their meaning and form into singularia tantum and pluralia tantum. The former are the words which are outside the sphere of number ( material, collective, abstract nouns). Pluralia tantum nouns indicate more than oneness. There are several varieties of such words: abstract nouns( the beginnings of the world), financial terms ( belongings, savings), objects consisting of two parts(shorts, trousers, scissors), names of games( billiards, darts), diseases (blues, measles, hysterics), proper and geographical names( The Browns, the Urals, The Apennines, The Alps, etc.).

The division of nouns into singularia tantum and pluralia tantum is justified by meaning, form, and the combinability of nouns. But meaning and form can be at variance. A noun, singular in form, can be plural in meaning. In English logical agreement prevails over formal agreement, while in Russian it is quite the opposite. A singular noun, functioning as a subject, may combine with a plural predicate ( The police are in the yard. The happy pair were seated opposite each other. The big fish eat the small fish, but the ocean doesn’t care). A plural noun combines with a singular verb, functioning as a predicate (Physics is a science).

The distinction into countables and uncountables is relative in English. Countables, contextually, can turn into uncountables and vice versa ( Our cheeses are the best in the world. She has more hair than wit and more faults than hairs. She possessed certain beauties, like her hair). The parallel existence of the words grass – a grass makes some scholars interpret this phenomenon as internal conversion (transition from subclass to subclass, whereas external conversion means transition from class to class: nouns =>verbs, etc.).

In syntagmatics (contextually) distinctions between the singular form and the plural form can be neutralized when both forms come to designate generalization: I am a poet of the woman the same as the man ( the underlined form represents the generalized singular).

Along with the paradigmatic meaning of more than oneness the plural form develops syntagmatic meanings. In the words tables, behaviours, enthusiasms themorpheme-s is an allomorph of the morpheme of plurality, it’s paradigmatic meaning is that of more than oneness. This meaning remains unchanged in any context ( Different situations require different behaviours). But when this morpheme ( the term morpheme is used roughly here, just for the sake of convenience) is attached to a word in a sentence or a phrase, it can develop additional syntagmatic meanings. It depends on the context (the immediate environment of the word to which it is attached). It appears along with the paradigmatic meaning which is always preserved in any context. These additional meanings can be revealed by means of the componential analysis, which is superimposed upon the contextual analysis, and described in terms of semantic components of discreteness, emotiveness, intensiveness, expressiveness and evaluation (negative orpositive) (He was full of attentions to his wife, for a fortnight at least. W. M.Thackeray). In the given sentence we can trace the mechanism of irony: the additional connotative component of negative evaluation in the meaning of the word attentions is in conflict with the positive meaning of this word, registered in the dictionary.

We know that when words are combined or juxtaposed there arises between a word and a word, a word and its form semantic agreement or disagreement. A grammatical metaphor is based on the semantic disagreement of the words combined. Semantic agreement is based on the presence of identical semantic components (semes) in the words combined or juxtaposed. Accordingly, semantic disagreement is based upon the absence of identical semantic components (semes). Semantic disagreement of the words combined or juxtaposed creates a grammatical metaphor (He disliked the enthusiasms of American girls). The morpheme of plurality and the word enthusiasm--s have nothing in common, this word is beyond the category of number, as it is uncountable. The additional meanings of emotiveness, intensiveness, expressiveness andevaluation complicate the paradigmatic meaning of “more than oneness” in any artistic text. This syntagnmatic plural is called ”the hyperbolic plural” ( She walks in Beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies. G.Byron).

In some instances the morpheme -s of plurality changes a bit the semantic meaning of the word it is attached to, so this inflexion is on the way to becoming a suffix { How does Russian colours look like? (=flag)}.[lexicalization].

In tables -s is a classical inflexion, in enthusiasms it is partially lexicalized, in colours it is already a suffix.

The semantic structure of a grammatical form ( now it is the form of the plural of nouns) contains all the paradigmatic and syntagmatic components. The development of syntagmatic meanings is a manifestation of the global linguistic law of the asymmetry of a linguistic sign.

The Category of Case

Under the category of case we understand the change of form of a noun to denote its grammatical relations to other parts of communication.

The number of cases varies in different languages { two in English (common and Genitive), 7 (including the Vocative case) in Russian). It depends upon the morphological structure of the language and its development.

In Old English cases corresponded to the syntactical positions of nouns. The Nominative represented a subject or a predicative, the Accusative represented direct object, the Dative stood for a indirect object, the Genitive stood for an attribute, the Vocative denoted a direct address. In the course of time the number of cases got reduced , the inflexions died out, and the relations of nouns to other parts of communication came to be expressed by word order, prepositions and two cases – the Common and the Genitive.

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