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Main Morphological Notions of Theoretical Grammar


1. General notions

2. General principles of grammatical analysis

3. Morphology and syntax as 2 parts of linguistic description

4. The notions of grammatical meaning

5. Types of grammar


1. General notions

The term 'grammar' goes back to a Greek word that may be translated as the art of writing. Later this word acquired a much wider sense and came to embrace the whole study of language. Now it is often used as a synonym of the term 'linguistics'.

Grammar may be practical and theoretical. The aim of practical grammar is the description of grammar rules that are necessary to understand and formulate sentences. The aim of theoretical grammar is to offer explanation for these rules. Generally speaking theoretical grammar deals with the language as a functional system.

2. General principles of grammatical analysis

Linguistic units (or signs) can go into three types of relations:

a) The relation between a unit and an object in the world around us (objective reality),

E.g. the word 'table' refers to a definite piece of furniture; it may be not only an object, but a process, state, quality.

This type of meaning is called referential meaning of a unit. It is semantics that studies referential meaning of the units.

b) The relation between a unit and other units (the relations between units). No unit can be used independently. It serves as an element in the system of other units. This kind of meaning is called syntactic. Formal relation of units to one another is studied by syntactics or syntax.

c) The relation between a unit and a person who uses it. When we are studying something we usually have some purpose in mind, we use the language as an instrument for our purpose. One and the same word of a sentence may acquire different meanings in communication. This type of meaning is called pragmatic. The study of relationship between linguistic units and the users of those units is done by pragmatics.

3. Morphology and syntax as 2 parts of linguistic description

As the word is the main unit of traditional grammatical theory, it serves the basis of the distinction which is frequently drawn between morphology and syntax. Traditionally grammar was divided into morphology and syntax.

The word 'morphology' derives from 2 Greek words which together mean 'the study of forms'. It concerns with the grammatical structure of words (not with the sounds and letters from which word forms are composed, but with the constituents (непосредственная составляющая) of words which have a grammatical function or meaning,

E.g. the English word 'redefinitions' can be analyzed into 4 constituents: re-define-tion-s. Each of these constituents occurs as a constituent in the structure of other words in the language with the same function and meaning.

'Reinspections': re-inspect-tion-s.

The permissible combinations are limited.

The English 'syntax' derives from Greek words meaning 'arrangement' and came to refer to the arrangement of words,

E.g. Every good boy deserves favours - Любой послушный мальчик заслуживает похвалы.

Every deserves good boy favours.

Good boy favours every deserves.

A syntax deals with the structure of words in the sentence (word order is very important in syntax).

Morphology deals with the internal structure of words, peculiarities of the grammatical categories and their semantics while traditionally syntax deals with the rules governing combinations of words in sentence (and texts in modern linguistics). We can therefore say that the word is the main unit of morphology.


4. The notions of grammatical meaning

The word combines in its semantic structure two meanings: lexical and grammatical. Lexical meaning is the main meaning of the word (table). Grammatical meaning is the meaning of the whole class or a subclass (the class of nouns has the grammatical meaning of sameness). If we take a noun 'table' we may say that it possesses its individual lexical meaning (it corresponds to a definite piece of furniture) and the grammatical meaning of sameness (this is the meaning of the whole class). Besides the noun 'table' has the grammatical meaning of a subclass (countableness). Any verb combines its individual lexical meaning with the grammatical meaning of verbiality - the ability to denote actions or states. An adjective combines its individual lexical meaning with the grammatical meaning of the whole class of adjectives (qualitativeness - the ability to denote qualities). Adverbs possess its individual grammatical meaning (adverbiality - the ability to denote quality of qualities).

There are some classes of words that are devoid of any lexical meaning and possess the grammatical meaning only. This can be explained by the fact that they have no referents in the objective reality. All function words belong to this group - conjunctions, prepositions, articles.

5. Types of grammar

There exist the following types of grammar (by Barkhudarov):

1) Prescriptive (нормативная) vs. descriptive (дескриптивная)

The first tries to establish the norms of the correct usage while the second describes the grammatical phenomenon of a language as they are observed in speech.

2) Historical (diachronous) vs. synchronous (синхроническая)

The first traces the historical development and changes of grammatical forms and structures in time. The second describes the grammatical system of a language as it exists at a given point of time.

3) Comparative vs. contrastive

The first sets up correlations between grammatical forms of two or more related languages. The second establishes points of similarity and difference between grammatical structures of two languages irrespective

4) Taxonomic (системная) vs. generative (порождающая)

The first is analytical and inductive; it starts with linguistic data and proceeds from them to abstract categories and classes of grammatical forms. The second is synthetic and deductive; it starts with abstract categories and rules and proceeds from them to concrete utterances in a given language.

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