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The Category of Number. It is vaguely expressed as there are few grammatical forms to express the lexical meaning of plurality and singularity




It is vaguely expressed as there are few grammatical forms to express the lexical meaning of plurality and singularity.

The lexico-grammatical meaning of “number” is the generalization of a multitude of lexical meanings of individual numerals (three, five, nine, forty-two). The grammatical meaning is the generalization of two grammatical meanings: “singular” and “plural”.

The plural number, as in “girls”, shows indefinite plurality, whereas the meanings of numerals, as in “thirty, fifty” are definite plurality.

Like any grammatical meaning the plural of nouns is relative, dependent and indirect.

The lexical plural of a numeral like “eight” is not relative, being as much correlated with the singular of “one” as with the plural of “seven, nine, or eighty”. The plural of “eight” is independent as it is the lexical meaning of an independent word. Its reflection of reality is direct as that of any lexical meaning. So, lexically it is possible to name any definite moment or period of time: a century, a year, a day, a minute. The grammatical meaning of tense is an abstraction from only three particular tenses: the present, the past and the future. Lexically a period of time is named directly (last week, etc.). The grammatical indication of time is indirect: it is not time, but an action that took place before the moment of speech.

Lexical meaning of tense is the indication to whether the action took place in the past, takes (is taking) place regularly or at present, or it will take place in future. In other words: it shows the relation between the moment of speech and the moment of the action, or between the moment of one action and the moment of another one.

Grammatical meaning is general, it is – priority, coincidence of consequence.

The grammatical category of tense is a grammatical form expressing lexical (and grammatical) meaning, it is the relation between the moment of speech and the moment of an action, or between two actions.

As usual, the grammatical meaning of tense is relative. “Writes” denotes a present action because it is correlated with “wrote”, denoting a past action and with “will write” naming a future action”. “Writing” doesn’t indicate the time of the action because it has no tense opposites. “Can” has only a past tense opposite, it can’t refer to the past, but it may refer to the present and future. So, the forms of the verb can’t give us the exact time of the action. Some tense forms are used both relatively and absolutely: the past indefinite, the present indefinite. Some can be used only relatively: the past perfect, the future prefect and the future in the past. In most cases the tenses are used absolutely in simple sentences, mostly in independent simple sentences, in principle clauses in attributive and adverbial clauses of time, introduced by “when”. They are always used relatively in subject, object and predicative clauses, but even in simple sentences we can sometimes find the relative use of tenses. It happens when the sentence belongs to some closely knit passage.

Eg: I saw a light in a third floor window. The Robinsons had come back from the theatre (the relative use of tenses, priority).

The category of tense is a form of the verb which shows either 1) the relation between the moment of speech and the moment of an action or 2) the relation between the moment of one action and the moment of another action. In English there are three tenses[45] (past, present and future) represented by the forms wrote, writes, will write (or lived, lives, will live). Some doubts have been expressed about the existence of a future tense in English. O. Jespersen denied the existence of a future tense: to his mind the verbs “shall” and “will” preserve some of their original meaning “shall”- an element of obligation and “will” - an element of obligation and volition. Thus, in Jespersen’s view, English has no way of expressing “pure futurity” free from modal shades of meaning, i.e. it has no form standing on the same grammatical level as the forms of the past and present tenses. But however, this is not convincing. Though the verbs “shall” and “will” may in some contexts preserve or indeed reserve their original meaning of obligation or volition respectively, as a rule they are free from these shades of meaning and express mere futurity. The meaning of volition may be excluded by the context.



Eg: I’m awfully sorry, but I will have to go back.

The tense form used absolutely shows whether the action took place before the moment of speech, after the moment of speech, or coincided at least with part of the moment. The tenses used relatively can’t tell us whether the action took place past, present or before. They can’t denote simultaneousness in the past, present or future.

Eg: I knew he went to the library here the form of the present tense is not used to show that the action took place before, it’s simultaneousness.

So, the tense form used relatively may denote priority in the past, present or future. The past perfect tense denotes priority in the past.

Eg: I had graduated from Oxford before the second world War was unleashed.

In some cases The present perfect tense may denote priority to some permanent or repeated action.

Eg: We never know whether she has switched off the light in the bathroom

(no relation between speech and time).

Some tense forms are used absolutely: the future indefinite, the present perfect. So, tense forms express the relations between the moment of one action and the moment of another action. There can be 3 kinds of such relations:

a) the action coincides with the time of speech.

Eg: I think I know you (simultaneousness in the present).

He will say he knows you (simultaneousness in the future).

I thought I knew you (simultaneousness in the past).

b) one action may take place before another action in the past:

Eg: I knew that it had been wrong (priority in the past).

c) It’s well known that a present tense form may also be used when the action belongs to the future. This also applies to the present continuous, as in the example:

Eg: He is arriving tomorrow.

The action expressed by the verb “arrive” in the present continuous tense belongs to the future: the adverbial modifier of time makes it clear, but it may also be expressed by the future tense: “He will arrive tomorrow”.

 

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