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Lecture 5. The Problems of Gender, Number and Case The category of gender

Some grammaticians spent a lot of time proving that this category does not exist. Others define the subcategorization of gender as purely lexical.

The English noun has no markers that help to identify this grammatical category. However very often we have to express sexual distinction.

1. When we have different words: woman - man

2. When there are no pairs of words:

- to add a pronoun: a she - doctor / a he - doctor

- man / woman: washer-man - washer-woman (compound words)

- animals: pronouns or even proper names: a she - goat - a he - goat; Tom-cat - Pussy-cat

- ess - actor - actress; steward - stewardess

Sometimes some objects are usually referred to as “she”: ships, cars, and towns.

Besides there's a tendency: something which carries a stronger Force and feeling = “he” (sun, love, wind) and something that carries softer forces / feelings is usually referred to as “she” (moon, sweet).

When man is a suffix it is not considered (male = female). Chairman, postman = she’s a postman, but sometimes: sportsman = sportswoman.

The category of gender is expressed in English by the obligatory correlation of nouns with the personal pronouns of the third person. The category is strictly opposition. It is formed by two oppositions related to each other on a hierarchical basis. One opposition functions in the whole set of nouns, dividing them into person (human) nouns and non- person (non-human) nouns. The other opposition functions in the subset of person nouns dividing them into masculine nouns and feminine nouns. So, there is the neuter, masculine and feminine gender. Many person nouns in English are capable of expressing both feminine and masculine person genders by way of the pronominal correlation in question. These are referred to as nouns of the common gender. The nouns can show the sex of their reference lexically, either by combining with certain notional words or by suffixal derivation.

The category of number is expressed by the opposition of the plural form of the noun to the singular form. The strong member of this binary opposition is plural. Its productive formal mark is suffix s, es. The semantic content of the unmarked form enables grammaticians to speak of the zero suffix of the singular. The other non-productive ways of expressing the number opposition are vowel interchange: goose- geese; correlation of individual singular and plural suffixes in some borrowed nouns. Sometimes the plural form can be homonymous with singular form: sheep-sheep, swine-swine. In some cases the meaning of the plural form can differ from the meaning of the singular form: a potato-potatoes. As the result of the comparison we conclude that the broader sememic mark of the plural should be described as the potentially dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent, while the sememic mark of the singular will be understood as the non-dismembering reflection of the structure of the referent i.e. the presentation of the referent in its indivisible entireness. There are semantic varieties of the plural forms that differ from one another in the plural quality. They may express a define set of objects, various types of the referent: fruits, peoples, wines; intensity of presentation of the idea: years and years. And the extreme point of this semantic scale is marked by the lexicalization of the plural form. i.e. by its serving as a means of rendering not specificational but purely notional difference in meaning: colours as a ‘flag’. The subclasses of uncountable nouns are referred to, respectively, as singularia tantum and pluralia tantum. In the formation of the two subclasses of these nouns the number opposition is lexically reduced either to the weak or to the strong member (pi). The singular is often referred to the absolute singular. We can’t use numerals, articles with them. The absolute singular is characteristic of the names of abstract notions (peace, love). Branches of professional activity: science, biology; collective inanimate objects, common number with uncountable singular numbers can be expressed by means of combining them with words such as: a piece of news, a bit of. These examples can be regarded as the special suppletivity in the categorial system of number.

In the sphere of the plural we must recognize the common plural form as the regular feature of the countability and the absolute plural form peculiar to the uncountable subclass of pluralia tantum nouns. The absolute plural is characteristic of the uncountable nouns which denote objects consisting of two halves; the nouns expressing some sort of collective meaning both concrete and abstract (poultry, police); the nouns denoting diseases as well as some abnormal states of the body and mind (hysterics). The absolute plural forms can be divided into set absolute plural (objects of two halves) and non-set absolute plural (the rest).

The absolute plural, by the way of functional reduction, can be presented in countable nouns having the form of the singular, in uncountable nouns having the form of the plural, and also in countable nouns having the form of the plural. The first type o is multitude plural: “The family were gathered round the table.” The second type is the descriptive uncountable plural: “The sands of the desert.”

The category of case

Case is the immanent morphological category of the noun manifested in the forms of noun declension and showing the relations of the nounal referent to other objects and phenomena. This category is expressed in English by the opposition of the form s, usually called the possessive case or the genitive case. The genitive of the bulk of plural nouns remains phonetically unexpressed; thereby the apostrophe acquires the force of grammatical hieroglyph.

There are 4 views on the problem of the general case. The first view is the theory of positional cases; it is connected with the old grammatical tradition. Linguistic formulations of it may be found in the work ofNesfield, Bryant. According to the theory the unchangeable forms of the noun are differentiated as different cases according to the functional positions occupied by the noun in the sentence. Thus the English noun like in Latin grammar would distinguish beside the genitive case purely positional cases: nominative, vocative, dative and accusative. The fallacy of the positional case theory is quite obvious. It substitutes the functional characteristics of the part of the sentence for the morphological features of the word class, since the case form is the variable morphological form of the noun. Case forms serve as means of expressing the functions of the noun in the sentence and not vice versa.

The second view is the theory of prepositional cases. According to it, combinations of nouns with prepositions should be understood as morphological case form. To these belong first of all the dative case (to + noun, for + noun) and the genitive case (of + noun). The prepositional cases are generally taken as coexisting with positional cases, together with the classical inflexional genitive completing the case system of the English noun. As is well known from noun-declensional languages, all their prepositions and not only some of them do require definite cases of nouns. Any preposition by virtue of its functional nature stands in the same general grammatical relation to the noun. It should follow from this that all the other prepositional phrases in English must be regarded as analytical cases. As a result of it the total number of additional name of prepositional case will run into dozens upon dozens.

The third view of the English noun case recognizes a limited inflexional system of two cases in English. It was formulated by Sweet, Jesperson and developed by Smimitsky and Barkhudarov.

The fourth view of the English norm cases approaches the English noun as having completely lost the category of case in the course of its historical development. All the nounal cases are considered to be extinct. And what is called the genitive case is in fact a combination of a noun with a postposition. Thus this view advanced by Vorontsova may be called the postpositional theory. The following two reasons should be considered as the main ones of the postpositional theory substantiating the positional theory:

1) The postpositional element -s is loosely connected with the noun and can be used with the whole word-groups (Somebody else’s daughter);

2) Parallelism of functions between the possessive postpositional constructions and the prepositional constructions.

The theory of possessive postposition fails to take into account achievements of the limited case theory. The latter has demonstrated that the noun form with - s is systematically contrasted against the unfeatured form of the noun which makes the correlation of the nounal forms into a grammatical category. The solution of the problem is to be thought on the ground of a critical syntax of the positive statements of two theories. A two case declension of nouns should be recognized in English with its common case as a direct case and its genitive case as the only oblique case. The case system in English is founded on a particle expression. The particle nature of apostrophe s is evident from the fact that it is added in postposition both to individual nouns and to nounal word-groupings. Thus two subtypes of the genitive in English are to be recognized:

1) the word genitive;

2) the phrase genitive.

Both of them are not inflexional but particle case forms.

The English genitive expresses a wide range of relational meanings and the following basic semantic types of the genitive can he pointed out.

1) The genitive of possessor. Its constructional meaning will be defined as inorganic possession (Peter’s look),

2) The genitive of integer. The meaning of organic possession {Ivan‘s voice). Its subtype expresses a qualification received by the genitive referent through the head-word (the computer reliability);

3) The genitive of agent. This form renders an activity or some broader processual relation with the referent (Lisa’s laugh). This type of genitive expresses the recipient of the action or process denoted by the head noun. The subtype expresses the author of the referent of the head-noun (Beethoven’s sonatas)',

4) The genitive of patient expresses the recipient of the action or process denoted by the head-noun {the champion’s sensational defeat);

5) The genitive of adverbial denotes adverbial factors relating to the referent of the head-noun, mostly the time and place of the event {the evening's newspaper)

6) The genitive of quantity denotes the measure or quantity relating to the referent of the head-noun {two months’ time).



1. Give the plural of the nouns:

case, fuse, bridge, stick, bush, essay, army, hero, alumnus, crisis, child, leaf, ox, diagnosis, fish, tooth, mouse, salmon, formula, hundred, staff cattle, man. goose, calf, deer, life

2. Identify the meaning of the genitive:

- the girl’s face

- a minute’s hesitation

- a summer’s day

- her two children’s clothes disappeared

- she had to buy fifty pound’s worth

- Jack’s voice

- the family’s car was found abandoned

- Martha’s courage failed her

3. Give the feminine of the noun. What way of specification did you use?

a) father -

b) waiter-

c) spokesman-

d) son -

e) bull-

f) uncle -

g) actor-

h) master-



Lecture 6. The Verb

General characteristics of the verb as a part of speech

Grammatically the verb is the most complex part of speech. This is due to the central role it performs in the expression of the predicative functions of the sentence, i.e. the functions establishing the connection between the situation named in the utterance and reality.

The general categorial meaning of the verb is process presented dynamically. The processual meaning of the notional verb determines its combination with a noun which may express the subject and the object of the action and its combination with an adverb as the modifier of the action. In the sentence the finite verb performs the function of the verb predicate expressing the processing categorial features of predication. The non-finite verb performs different functions according to its nature. Its non-processual functions are actualized in close combination with its processual semantic features. The non-finite forms of the verb in self-dependent use perform a potentially predicative function constituting secondary predicative centers in the sentence.

The finite verb is directly connected with the structure of the sentence as a whole. It is immediately related to morphological forms of predication, communication purposes, subjective modality, subject-object relation, gradation of probabilities.

The verb has a very wide distribution. Virtually it can combine with any part of speech in pre-/postposition. The most characteristic point of its distribution is its ability to combine with an adverb, the most typical type of connection is government.

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