M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

Lectures in Theoretical Grammar by ass. prof. L.M.Volkova, National Linguistic University of Kiev List of books: 1. B.Ilyish. The Structure of Modern English.

Lectures in Theoretical Grammar

by ass. prof. L.M.Volkova,

National Linguistic University of Kiev

List of books:

1. B.Ilyish. The Structure of Modern English.

2. M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar.

3. E.Morokhovskaya. Fundamentals of Theoretical Grammar.

4. И.П.Иванова, В.В.Бурлакова, Г.Г.Почепцов. Теоретическая грамматика современного англ. яз..

5. Methods Guides.



1.Theoretical grammar and its subject.

Man is not well defined as “Homo sapiens” (“man with wisdom”). For what do we mean by wisdom? It has not been proved so far that animals do not possess it. Those of you who have pets can easily prove the contrary. Most recently anthropologists have started defining human beings as “man the toolmaker”. However, apes can also make primitive tools. What sets man apart from the rest of animal kingdom is his ability to speak: he is can easily object by saying that animals can also speak Homo loquens” – “man the speaking animal”. And again, you, naturally, in their own way. But their sounds are meaningless, and there is no link between sound and meaning (or if there is, it is of a very primitive kind) and the link for man is grammar. Only with the help of grammar we can combine words to form sentences and texts. Man is not merely Homo loquens , he is Homo Grammaticus.

The term “grammar” goes back to a Greek word that may be translated as the “art of writing”. But later this word acquired a much wider sense and came to embrace the whole study of language. Now it is often used as the synonym of linguistics . A question comes immediately to mind: what does this study involve?

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.

According to the Bible: ‘In the beginning was the Word’. In fact, the word is considered to be the central (but not the only) linguistic unit (одиниця) of language. Linguistic units (or in other words – 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, etc.

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

b) The relation between a unit and other units (inner 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. As we know too well, when we are saying something, we usually have some purpose in mind. We use the language as an instrument for our purpose (e.g.). One and the same word or sentence may acquire different meanings in communication. This type of meaning is called pragmatic . The study of the relationship between linguistic units and the users of those units is done by pragmatics .

Thus there are three models of linguistic description: semantic, syntactic and pragmatic. To illustrate the difference between these different ways of linguistic analysis, let us consider the following sentence: Students are students .

The first part of the XXth century can be characterized by a formal approach to the language study. Only inner (syntactic) relations between linguistic units served the basis for linguistic analysis while the reference of words to the objective reality and language users were actually not considered. Later, semantic language analysis came into use. However, it was surely not enough for a detailed language study. Language certainly figures centrally in our lives. We discover our identity as individuals and social beings when we acquire it during childhood. It serves as a means of cognition and communication: it enables us to think for ourselves and to cooperate with other people in our community. Therefore, the pragmatic side of the language should not be ignored either. Functional approach in language analysis deals with the language ‘in action’. Naturally, in order to get a broad description of the language, all the three approaches must be combined.

3. General characteristics of language as a functional system.

Any human language has two main functions: the communicative function and the expressive or representative function – human language is the living form of thought. These two functions are closely interrelated as the expressive function of language is realized in the process of speech communication.

The expressive function of language is performed by means of linguistic signs and that is why we say that language is a semiotic system. It means that linguistic signs are of semiotic nature: they are informative and meaningful . There are other examples of semiotic systems but all of them are no doubt much simpler. For instance, traffic lights use a system of colours to instruct drivers and people to go or to stop. Some more examples: Code Morse, Brighton Alphabet, computer languages, etc. What is the difference between language as a semiotic system and other semiotic systems? Language is universal, natural, it is used by all members of society while any other sign systems are artificial and depend on the sphere of usage.

4. Notions of ‘system’ and ‘structure’. General characteristics of linguistic units.

Language is regarded as a system of elements (or: signs, units) such as sounds, words, etc. These elements have no value without each other, they depend on each other, they exist only in a system, and they are nothing without a system. System implies the characterization of a complex object as made up of separate parts (e.g. the system of sounds). Language is a structural system. Structure means hierarchical layering of parts in `constituting the whole. In the structure of language there are four main structural levels: phonological, morphological, syntactical and supersyntatical. The levels are represented by the corresponding level units:

The phonological level is the lowest level. The phonological level unit is the`phoneme . It is a distinctive unit (bag – back ).

The morphological level has two level units:

a) the `morpheme – the lowest meaningful unit (teach – teacher );

b) the word - the main naming (`nominative) unit of language.

The syntactical level has two level units as well:

a) the word-group – the dependent syntactic unit;

b) the sentence – the main communicative unit.

The supersyntactical level has the text as its level unit.

All structural levels are subject matters of different levels of linguistic analysis. At different levels of analysis we focus attention on different features of language. Generally speaking, the larger the units we deal with, the closer we get to the actuality of people’s experience of language.

To sum it up, each level has its own system. Therefore, language is regarded as a system of systems. The level units are built up in the same way and that is why the units of a lower level serve the building material for the units of a higher level. This similarity and likeness of organization of linguistic units is called isomorphism . This is how language works – a small number of elements at one level can enter into thousands of different combinations to form units at the other level.

We have arrived at the conclusion that the notions of system and structure are not synonyms – any system has its own structure (compare: the system of Ukrainian education vs. the structure of Ukrainian education; army organization).

Any linguistic unit is a double entity. It unites a concept and a sound image. The two elements are intimately united and each recalls the other. Accordingly, we distinguish the content side and the expression side . The forms of linguistic units bear no natural resemblance to their meaning. The link between them is a matter of convention, and conventions differ radically across languages. Thus, the English word ‘dog’ happens to denote a particular four-footed domesticated creature, the same creature that is denoted in Ukrainian by the completely different form. Neither form looks like a dog, or sounds like one.


5. Language and speech.

The distinction between language and speech was made by Ferdinand de Saussure, the Swiss scholar usually credited with establishing principles of modern linguistics. Language is a collective body of knowledge, it is a set of basic elements, but these elements can form a great variety of combinations. In fact the number of these combinations is endless. Speech is closely connected with language, as it is the result of using the language, the result of a definite act of speaking. Speech is individual, personal while language is common for all individuals. To illustrate the difference between language and speech let us compare a definite game of chess and a set of rules how to play chess.

Language is opposed to speech and accordingly language units are opposed to speech units. The language unit phoneme is opposed to the speech unit – sound : phoneme /s/ can sound differently in speech - /s/ and /z/). The sentence is opposed to the utterance; the text is opposed to the discourse .

6.Systemic relations in language. Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic relations. A linguistic unit can enter into relations of two different kinds. It enters into paradigmatic relations with all the units that can also occur in the same environment. PR are relations based on the principles of similarity. They exist between the units that can substitute one another. For instance, in the word-group A PINT OF MILK the word PINT is in paradigmatic relations with the words bottle, cup, etc. The article A can enter into PR with the units the, this, one, same, etc. According to different principles of similarity PR can be of three types: semantic, formal and functional .

a) Semantic PR are based on the similarity of meaning: a book to read = a book for reading . He used to practice English every day – He would practice English every day.

b) Formal PR are based on the similarity of forms. Such relations exist between the members of a paradigm : man – men; play – played – will play – is playing .

c) Functional PR are based on the similarity of function. They are established between the elements that can occur in the same position. For instance, noun determiners: a, the, this, his, Ann’s, some, each, etc.

PR are associated with the sphere of ‘language’.

A linguistic unit enters into syntagmatic relations with other units of the same level it occurs with. SR exist at every language level. E.g. in the word-group A PINT OF MILK the word PINT contrasts SR with A, OF, MILK; within the word PINT – P, I, N and T are in syntagmatic relations. SR are linear relations, that is why they are manifested in speech. They can be of three different types: coordinate, subordinate and predicative.

a) Coordinate SR exist between the homogeneous linguistic units that are equal in rank, that is, they are the relations of independence: you and me ; They were tired but happy .

b) Subordinate SR are the relations of dependence when one linguistic unit depends on the other: teach + er – morphological level; a smart student – word-group level; predicative and subordinate clauses – sentence level.

c) Predicative SR are the relations of interdependence: primary and secondary predication.

As mentioned above, SR may be observed in utterances, which is impossible when we deal with PR. Therefore, PR are identified with ‘language’ while SR are identified with ‘speech’.

7. General characteristics of the grammatical structure of language.

The grammatical structure of language is a system of means used to turn linguistic units into communicative ones, in other words – the units of language into the units of speech. Such means are inflexions, affixation, word order, function words and phonological means.

Generally speaking, Indo-European languages are classified into two structural types – synthetic and analytic . Synthetic languages are defined as ones of ‘internal’ grammar of the word – most of grammatical meanings and grammatical relations of words are expressed with the help of inflexions (Ukrainian - зроблю , Russian, Latin, etc). Analytical languages are those of ‘external’ grammar because most grammatical meanings and grammatical forms are expressed with the help of words (will do ). However, we cannot speak of languages as purely synthetic or analytic – the English language (Modern English) possesses analytical forms as prevailing, while in the Ukrainian language synthetic devices are dominant. In the process of time English has become more analytical as compared to Old English. Analytical changes in Modern English (especially American) are still under way.

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

It is difficult to arrive at a one-sentence definition of such a complex linguistic unit as the word. First of all, it is the main expressive unit of human language which ensures the thought-forming function of the language. It is also the basic nominative unit of language with the help of which the naming function of language is realized. As any linguistic sign the word is a level unit. In the structure of language it belongs to the upper stage of the morphological level. It is a unit of the sphere of ‘language’ and it exists only through its speech actualization. One of the most characteristic features of the word is its indivisibility. As any other linguistic unit the word is a bilateral entity. It unites a concept (поняття, ідея) and a sound image and thus has two sides – the content and expression sides (план змісту та план вислову): concept and sound form.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar



1. The notion of ‘grammatical meaning’.

The word combines in its semantic structure two meanings – lexical and grammatical. Lexical meaning is the individual meaning of the word (e.g. table ). Grammatical meaning is the meaning of the whole class or a subclass. For example, the class of nouns has the grammatical meaning of thingness . 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 thingness (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 the grammatical meaning of 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 – articles, particles, prepositions, etc.

2. Types of grammatical meaning.

The grammatical meaning may be explicit and implicit. The implicit grammatical meaning is not expressed formally (e.g. the word table does not contain any hints in its form as to it being inanimate). The explicit grammatical meaning is always marked morphologically – it has its marker. In the word cats the grammatical meaning of plurality is shown in the form of the noun; cat’s – here the grammatical meaning of possessiveness is shown by the form ‘s ; is asked – shows the explicit grammatical meaning of passiveness.

The implicit grammatical meaning may be of two types – general and dependent. The general grammatical meaning is the meaning of the whole word-class, of a part of speech (e.g. nouns – the general grammatical meaning of thingness). The dependent grammatical meaning is the meaning of a subclass within the same part of speech. For instance, any verb possesses the dependent grammatical meaning of transitivity/intransitivity, terminativeness/non-terminativeness, stativeness/non-stativeness; nouns have the dependent grammatical meaning of contableness/uncountableness and animateness/inanimateness. The most important thing about the dependent grammatical meaning is that it influences the realization of grammatical categories restricting them to a subclass. Thus the dependent grammatical meaning of countableness/uncountableness influences the realization of the grammatical category of number as the number category is realized only within the subclass of countable nouns, the grammatical meaning of animateness/inanimateness influences the realization of the grammatical category of case, teminativeness/non-terminativeness - the category of tense, transitivity/intransitivity – the category of voice.


M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar EXPLICIT IMPLICIT


3. Grammatical categories.

Grammatical categories are made up by the unity of identical grammatical meanings that have the same form (e.g. singular::plural). Due to dialectal unity of language and thought, grammatical categories correlate, on the one hand, with the conceptual categories and, on the other hand, with the objective reality. It may be shown with the help of a triangle model:

Conceptual reality Conceptual category

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar
M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar
M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

Objective reality Lingual reality Objective category Grammatical category

It follows that we may define grammatical categories as references of the corresponding objective categories. For example, the objective category of time finds its representation in the grammatical category of tense , the objective category of quantity finds its representation in the grammatical category of number . Those grammatical categories that have references in the objective reality are called referential grammatical categories. However, not all of the grammatical categories have references in the objective reality, just a few of them do not correspond to anything in the objective reality. Such categories correlate only with conceptual matters:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Conceptual correlate

Lingual correlate

They are called significational categories. To this type belong the categories of mood and degree . Speaking about the grammatical category of mood we can say that it has modality as its conceptual correlate. It can be explained by the fact that it does not refer to anything in the objective reality – it expresses the speaker’s attitude to what he says.

4. The notion of opposition.

Any grammatical category must be represented by at least two grammatical forms (e.g. the grammatical category of number – singular and plural forms). The relation between two grammatical forms differing in meaning and external signs is called opposition – book::books (unmarked member/marked member). All grammatical categories find their realization through oppositions, e.g. the grammatical category of number is realized through the opposition singular::plural.

Taking all the above mentioned into consideration, we may define the grammatical category as the opposition between two mutually exclusive form-classes (a form-class is a set of words with the same explicit grammatical meaning).

Means of realization of grammatical categories may be synthetic (near – nearer ) and analytic (beautiful – more beautiful ).

5. Transposition and neutralization of morphological forms.

In the process of communication grammatical categories may undergo the processes of transposition and neutralization.

Transposition is the use of a linguistic unit in an unusual environment or in the function that is not characteristic of it (He is a lion ). In the sentence He is coming tomorrow the paradigmatic meaning of the continuous form is reduced and a new meaning appears – that of a future action. Transposition always results in the neutralization of a paradigmatic meaning. Neutralization is the reduction of the opposition to one of its members : custom :: customs – x :: customs; x :: spectacles.


The parts of speech are classes of words, all the members of these classes having certain characteristics in common which distinguish them from the members of other classes. The problem of word classification into parts of speech still remains one of the most controversial problems in modern linguistics. The attitude of grammarians with regard to parts of speech and the basis of their classification varied a good deal at different times. Only in English grammarians have been vacillating between 3 and 13 parts of speech. There are four approaches to the problem:

1. Classical (logical-inflectional)

2. Functional

3. Distributional

4. Complex

The classical parts of speech theory goes back to ancient times. It is based on Latin grammar. According to the Latin classification of the parts of speech all words were divided dichotomically into declinable and indeclinable parts of speech. This system was reproduced in the earliest English grammars. The first of these groups, declinable words, included nouns, pronouns, verbs and participles, the second – indeclinable words – adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. The logical-inflectional classification is quite successful for Latin or other languages with developed morphology and synthetic paradigms but it cannot be applied to the English language because the principle of declinability/indeclinability is not relevant for analytical languages.

A new approach to the problem was introduced in the XIX century by Henry Sweet. He took into account the peculiarities of the English language. This approach may be defined as functional . He resorted to the functional features of words and singled out nominative units and particles. To nominative parts of speech belonged noun-words (noun, noun-pronoun, noun-numeral, infinitive, gerund), adjective-words (adjective, adjective-pronoun, adjective-numeral, participles), verb (finite verb, verbals – gerund, infinitive, participles), while adverb, preposition , conjunction and interjection belonged to the group of particles . However, though the criterion for classification was functional, Henry Sweet failed to break the tradition and classified words into those having morphological forms and lacking morphological forms, in other words, declinable and indeclinable.

A distributional approach to the parts to the parts of speech classification can be illustrated by the classification introduced by Charles Fries. He wanted to avoid the traditional terminology and establish a classification of words based on distributive analysis, that is, the ability of words to combine with other words of different types. At the same time, the lexical meaning of words was not taken into account. According to Charles Fries, the words in such sentences as 1. Woggles ugged diggles; 2. Uggs woggled diggs; and 3. Woggs diggled uggles are quite evident structural signals, their position and combinability are enough to classify them into three word-classes. In this way, he introduced four major classes of words and 15 form-classes . Let us see how it worked. Three test frames formed the basis for his analysis:

Frame A - The concert was good (always);

Frame B - The clerk remembered the tax (suddenly);

Frame C – The team went there.

It turned out that his four classes of words were practically the same as traditional nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. What is really valuable in Charles Fries’ classification is his investigation of 15 groups of function words (form-classes) because he was the first linguist to pay attention to some of their peculiarities.

All the classifications mentioned above appear to be one-sided because parts of speech are discriminated on the basis of only one aspect of the word: either its meaning or its form, or its function.

In modern linguistics, parts of speech are discriminated according to three criteria: semantic, formal and functional. This approach may be defined as complex . The semantic criterion presupposes the grammatical meaning of the whole class of words (general grammatical meaning). The formal criterion reveals paradigmatic properties: relevant grammatical categories, the form of the words, their specific inflectional and derivational features. The functional criterion concerns the syntactic function of words in the sentence and their combinability. Thus, when characterizing any part of speech we are to describe: a) its semantics; b) its morphological features; c) its syntactic peculiarities.

The linguistic evidence drawn from our grammatical study makes it possible to divide all the words of the language into:

a) those denoting things, objects, notions, qualities, etc. – words with the corresponding references in the objective reality – notional words;

b) those having no references of their own in the objective reality; most of them are used only as grammatical means to form up and frame utterances – function words, or grammatical words.

It is commonly recognized that the notional parts of speech are nouns, pronouns, numerals, verbs, adjectives, adverbs; the functional parts of speech are articles, particles, prepositions, conjunctions and modal words.

The division of language units into notion and function words reveals the interrelation of lexical and grammatical types of meaning. In notional words the lexical meaning is predominant. In function words the grammatical meaning dominates over the lexical one. However, in actual speech the border line between notional and function words is not always clear cut. Some notional words develop the meanings peculiar to function words - e.g. seminotional words – to turn, to get, etc.

Notional words constitute the bulk of the existing word stock while function words constitute a smaller group of words. Although the number of function words is limited (there are only about 50 of them in Modern English), they are the most frequently used units.

Generally speaking, the problem of words’ classification into parts of speech is far from being solved. Some words cannot find their proper place. The most striking example here is the class of adverbs. Some language analysts call it a ragbag, a dustbin (Frank Palmer), Russian academician V.V.Vinogradov defined the class of adverbs in the Russian language as мусорная куча . It can be explained by the fact that to the class of adverbs belong those words that cannot find their place anywhere else. At the same time, there are no grounds for grouping them together either. Compare: perfectly (She speaks English perfectly ) and again (He is here again ) . Examples are numerous (all temporals). There are some words that do not belong anywhere - e.g. after all . Speaking about after all it should be mentioned that this unit is quite often used by native speakers, and practically never by our students. Some more striking examples: anyway, actually, in fact . The problem is that if these words belong nowhere, there is no place for them in the system of words, then how can we use them correctly? What makes things worse is the fact that these words are devoid of nominative power, and they have no direct equivalents in the Ukrainian or Russian languages. Meanwhile, native speakers use these words subconsciously, without realizing how they work.


1.General characteristics.

The noun is the central lexical unit of language. It is the main nominative unit of speech. As any other part of speech, the noun can be characterised by three criteria: semantic (the meaning), morphological (the form and grammatical catrgories) and syntactical (functions, distribution).

Semantic features of the noun. The noun possesses the grammatical meaning of thingness, substantiality. According to different principles of classification nouns fall into several subclasses:

1. According to the type of nomination they may be proper and common ;

2. According to the form of existence they may be animate and inanimate . Animate nouns in their turn fall into human and non-human.

3. According to their quantitative structure nouns can be countable and uncountable.

This set of subclasses cannot be put together into one table because of the different principles of classification.

Morphological features of the noun. In accordance with the morphological structure of the stems all nouns can be classified into: simple, derived ( stem + affix, affix + stem – thingness ); compound ( stem+ stem – armchair ) and composite ( the Hague ). The noun has morphological categories of number and case. Some scholars admit the existence of the category of gender.

Syntactic features of the noun. The noun can be used un the sentence in all syntactic functions but predicate. Speaking about noun combinability , we can say that it can go into right-hand and left-hand connections with practically all parts of speech. That is why practically all parts of speech but the verb can act as noun determiners . However, the most common noun determiners are considered to be articles, pronouns, numerals, adjectives and nouns themselves in the common and genitive case.

2. The category of number

The grammatical category of number is the linguistic representation of the objective category of quantity. The number category is realized through the opposition of two form-classes: the plural form :: the singular form. The category of number in English is restricted in its realization because of the dependent implicit grammatical meaning of countableness/uncountableness. The number category is realized only within subclass of countable nouns.

The grammatical meaning of number may not coincide with the notional quantity: the noun in the singular does not necessarily denote one object while the plural form may be used to denote one object consisting of several parts. The singular form may denote:

a) oneness (individual separate object – a cat );

b) generalization (the meaning of the whole class – The cat is a domestic animal );

c) indiscreteness (нерасчлененность or uncountableness - money, milk ).

The plural form may denote:

a) the existence of several objects (cats );

b) the inner discreteness (внутренняя расчлененность, pluralia tantum, jeans ).

To sum it up, all nouns may be subdivided into three groups:

1. The nouns in which the opposition of explicit discreteness/indiscreteness is expressed : cat::cats ;

2. The nouns in which this opposition is not expressed explicitly but is revealed by syntactical and lexical correlation in the context. There are two groups here:

A. Singularia tantum. It covers different groups of nouns: proper names, abstract nouns, material nouns, collective nouns;

B. Pluralia tantum. It covers the names of objects consisting of several parts (jeans), names of sciences (mathematics), names of diseases, games, etc.

3. The nouns with homogenous number forms. The number opposition here is not expressed formally but is revealed only lexically and syntactically in the context: e.g. Look! A sheep is eating grass. Look! The sheep are eating grass .

3. The category of case.

Case expresses the relation of a word to another word in the word-group or sentence (my sister’s coat). The category of case correlates with the objective category of possession. The case category in English is realized through the opposition: The Common Case :: The Possessive Case (sister :: sister’s). However, in modern linguistics the term “genitive case” is used instead of the “possessive case” because the meanings rendered by the “`s” sign are not only those of possession. The scope of meanings rendered by the Genitive Case is the following :

a) Possessive Genitive : Mary’s father – Mary has a father,

b) Subjective Genitive: The doctor’s arrival – The doctor has arrived,

c) Objective Genitive : The man’s release – The man was released,

d) Adverbial Genitive : Two hour’s work – X worked for two hours,

e) Equation Genitive : a mile’s distance – the distance is a mile,

f) Genitive of destination: children’s books – books for children,

g) M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarMixed Group: yesterday’s paper

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Nick’s school cannot be reduced to one nucleus

John’s word

To avoid confusion with the plural, the marker of the genitive case is represented in written form with an apostrophe. This fact makes possible disengagement of –`s form from the noun to which it properly belongs. E.g.: The man I saw yesterday’s son , where -`s is appended to the whole group (the so-called group genitive) . It may even follow a word which normally does not possess such a formant, as in somebody else’s book .

There is no universal point of view as to the case system in English. Different scholars stick to a different number of cases.

1. There are two cases. The Common one and The Genitive;

2. There are no cases at all, the form `s is optional because the same relations may be expressed by the ‘of-phrase’: the doctor’s arrival – the arrival of the doctor ;

3. There are three cases: the Nominative, the Genitive, the Objective due to the existence of objective pronouns me, him, whom ;

4. Case Grammar. Ch.Fillmore introduced syntactic-semantic classification of cases. They show relations in the so-called deep structure of the sentence. According to him, verbs may stand to different relations to nouns. There are 6 cases:

1) Agentive Case (A) John opened the door;

2) Instrumental case (I) The key opened the door; John used the key to open the door;

3) Dative Case (D) John believed that he would win (the case of the animate being affected by the state of action identified by the verb);

4) Factitive Case (F) The key was damaged ( the result of the action or state identified by the verb);

5) Locative Case (L) Chicago is windy;

6) Objective case (O) John stole the book.

4. The Problem of Gender in English

Gender plays a relatively minor part in the grammar of English by comparison with its role in many other languages. There is no gender concord, and the reference of the pronouns he, she, it is very largely determined by what is sometimes referred to as ‘natural’ gender for English, it depends upon the classification of persons and objects as male, female or inanimate. Thus, the recognition of gender as a grammatical category is logically independent of any particular semantic association.

According to some language analysts (B.Ilyish, F.Palmer, and E.Morokhovskaya), nouns have no category of gender in Modern English. Prof.Ilyish states that not a single word in Modern English shows any peculiarities in its morphology due to its denoting male or female being. Thus, the words husband and wife do not show any difference in their forms due to peculiarities of their lexical meaning. The difference between such nouns as actor and actress is a purely lexical one. In other words, the category of sex should not be confused with the category of sex, because sex is an objective biological category. It correlates with gender only when sex differences of living beings are manifested in the language grammatically (e.g. tiger – tigress ). Still, other scholars (M.Blokh, John Lyons) admit the existence of the category of gender. Prof.Blokh states that the existence of the category of gender in Modern English can be proved by the correlation of nouns with personal pronouns of the third person (he, she, it ). Accordingly, there are three genders in English: the neuter (non-person) gender, the masculine gender, the feminine gender.

LECTURE 6: THE VERB . 1.General characteristics

Grammatically the verb is the most complex part of speech. First of all it performs the central role in realizing predication - connection between situation in the utterance and reality. That is why the verb is of primary informative significance in an utterance. Besides, the verb possesses quite a lot of grammatical categories. Furthermore, within the class of verb various subclass divisions based on different principles of classification can befound.

Semantic features of the verb. The verb possesses the grammatical meaning of verbiality - the ability to denote a process developing in time. This meaning is inherent not only in the verbs denoting processes, but also in those denoting states, forms of existence, evaluations, etc.

Morphological features of the verb. The verb possesses the following grammatical categories: tense, aspect, voice, mood, person, number, finitude and phase. The common categories for finite and non-finite forms are voice, aspect, phase and finitude. The grammatical categories of the English verb find their expression in synthetical and analytical forms. The formative elements expressing these categories are grammatical affixes, inner inflexion and function w ords. Some categories have only synthetical forms ( person, number), others - only analytical (voice). There are also categories expressed by both synthetical and analytical forms (mood, tense, aspect).

Syntactic features. The most universal syntactic feature of verbs is their ability to be modified by adverbs. The second important syntactic criterion is the ability of the verb to perform the syntactic function of the predicate. However, this criterion is not absolute because only finite forms can perform this function while non-finite forms can be used in any function but predicate. And finally, any verb in the form of the infinitive can be combined with a modal verb.

2. Classifications of English verbs

According to different principles of classification, classifications can be morphological, lexical-morphological, syntactical and functional.

A. Morphological classifications..

I. According to their stem-types all verbs fall into: simple ( to go), sound-replacive (food - to feed, blood - to bleed), stress-replacive ( import - to im port, transport - to trans port, expanded (with the help of suffi xes and prefixes): cultivate, justif y, overcome, composite (correspond to composite nouns): to blackmail), phrasal : to have a smoke, to give a smile (they always have an ordinary verb as an equivalent). 2.According to the way of forming past tenses and Participle II verbs can be regular and irregular .

B. Lexical-morphological classifi cation is based on the implicit grammatical meanings of the verb. According to the implicit grammatical meaning of transitivity/intransitivity verbs fall into transitive and intransitive. According to the implicit grammatical meaning of stativeness/non-stativeness verbs fall into stative and dynamic . According to the implicit grammatical meaning of terminativeness/non-terminativeness verbs fall into terminative and durative . This classification is closely connected with the categories of Aspect and Phase.

C. Syntactic classifi cations. According to the nature of predication (primary and secondary) all verbs fall into finite and non-fi nite. According to syntagmatic properties (valency) verbs can be of obligatory and optional valency, and thus they may have some directionality or be devoid of any directionality. In this way, verbs fall into the verbs of directed (to see, to take, etc. ) and non-directed action (to arrive, to drizzle, etc .):

Syntagmatic classification of English verbs

(according to prof.G.Pocheptsov)

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar V Vobj. She shook her head

Vaddr. He phoned me

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar V2 – V10 Vobj.-addr. She gave me

her pen

V11 – V15 Vadv. She behaved well

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

V1 V2 – V24 V16 – V24 Vobj.-adv. He put his hat

on the table

Vaddr.-adv. I won’t keep

you long

D. Functional classification. According to their functional significance verbs can be notional (with the full lexical meaning), semi-notional (modal verbs, link-verbs), auxiliaries .

3. The category of voice

The form of the verb may show whether the agent expressed by the subject is the doer of the action or the recipient of the action (John broke the vase - the vase was broken). The objective relations between the action and the subject or object of the action find their expression in language as the grammatical category of voice. Therefore, the category of voice reflects the objective relations between the action itself and the subject or object of the action:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

Relations of actions The category of voice

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

The category of voice is realized through the opposition Active voice::Passive voice. The realization of the voice category is restricted because of the implicit grammatical meaning of transitivity/intransitivity. In accordance with this meaning, all English verbs should fall into transitive and intransitive. However, the classification turn s out to be more complex and comprises 6 groups:

1. Verbs used only transitively: to mark, to rais e;

2.Verbs with the main transitive meaning: to see, to make, to build;

3. Verbs of intransitive meaning and secondary transitive meaning. A lot of intransitive verbs may develop a secondary transitive meaning: They laughed me into agreement; He danced the girl out of the room;

4.Verbs of a double nature, neither of the meanings are the leading one, the verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively: to drive home - to drive a car;

5.Verbs that are never used in the Passive Voice: to seem, to become;

6. Verbs that realize their passive meaning only in special contexts: to live, to sleep, to sit, to walk, to jump.

Some scholars admit the existence of Middle, Reflexive and Reciprocal voices. " Middle Voice" - the verbs primarily transitive may develop an intransitive middle meaning: That adds a lot; The door opened; The book sells easily; The dress washes well. "Reflexive Voice" : He dressed; He washed - the subject is both the agent and the recipient of the action at the same time. It is always possible to use a reflexive pronoun in this case: He washed himself. "Reciprocal voice”: They met; They kissed - it is always possible to use a reciprocal pronoun here: They kissed each other.

We cannot, however, speak of different voices, because all these meanings are not expressed morphologically.

4. The category of tense

The category of tense is a verbal category that reflects the objective category of time. The essential characteristic of the category of tense is that it relates the time of the action, event or state of affairs referred to in the sentence to the time of the utterance (the time of the utterance being ' now ' or the present moment). The tense category is realized through the oppositions. The binary principle of oppositions remains the basic one in the correlation of the forms that represent the grammatical category of tense. The present moment is the main temporal plane of verbal actions. Therefore, the temporal dichotomy may be illustrated by the following graphic representation (the arrows show the binary opposition):

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Present Past

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Future I Future II

Generally speaking, the major tense-distinction in English is undoubtedly that which is traditionally described as an opposition of past::present. But this is best regarded as a contrast of past:: non-past. Quite a lot of scholars do not recognize the existence of future tenses, because what is described as the ' future' tense in English is realized by means of auxiliary verbs will and shall. Although it is undeniable that wi ll and shall occur in many sentences that refer to the future, they also occur in sentences that do not. And they do not necessarily occur in sentences with a future time reference. That is why future tenses are often treated as partly modal.

5. The Category of Aspect

The category of aspect is a linguistic representation of the objective category of Manner of Action. It is realized through the opposition Continuous::Non-Continu ou s (Progressive::Non-Progr essive). The realization of the category of aspect is closely connected with the lexical meaning of verbs.

There are some verbs in English that do not normally occur with progressive aspect, even in those contexts in which the majority of verbs necessarily take the progressive form. Among the so-called ‘non-progressive’ verbs are think, understand, know , hate, love, see, taste, feel, possess, own, etc. The most striking characteristic that they have in common is the fact that they are ‘stative ’ - they refer to a state of affairs, rather than to an action, event or process. It should be observed, however, that all the ‘non-­progressive' verbs take the progressive aspect under particular circumstances. As the result of intern al transposition verbs of non-progressive nature can be found in the Continuous form: Now I'm knowing you. Generally speaking the Continuous form has at least two semantic features - duration (the action is always in progress) and definiteness (the action is always limited to a definite point or period of time). In other words, the purpose of the Continuous form is to serve as a frame which makes the process of the action more concrete and isolated.


1.General characteristics of syntax.

The grammatical structure of language comprises two major parts – morphology and syntax. The two areas are obviously interdependent and together they constitute the study of grammar.

Morphology deals with paradigmatic and syntagmatic properties of morphological units – morphemes and words. It is concerned with the internal structure of words and their relationship to other words and word forms within the paradigm. It studies morphological categories and their realization.

Syntax, on the other hand, deals with the way words are combined. It is concerned with the external functions of words and their relationship to other words within the linearly ordered units – word-groups, sentences and texts. Syntax studies the way in which the units and their meanings are combined. It also deals with peculiarities of syntactic units, their behavior in different contexts.

Syntactic units may be analyzed from different points of view, and accordingly, different syntactic theories exist.

2. Kinds of syntactic theories.

Transformational-Generative Grammar. The Transformational grammar was first suggested by American scholar Zelling Harris as a method of analyzing sentences and was later elaborated by another American scholar Noam Chomsky as a synthetic method of ‘generating’ (constructing) sentences. The main point of the Transformational-Generative Grammar is that the endless variety of sentences in a language can be reduced to a finite number of kernels by means of transformations. These kernels serve the basis for generating sentences by means of syntactic processes. Different language analysts recognize the existence of different number of kernels (from 3 to 39). The following 6 kernels are commonly associated with the English language:

(1) NV – John sings .

(2) NVAdj. – John is happy .

(3) NVN – John is a man .

(4) NVN – John hit the man.

(5) NVNN – John gave the man a book .

(6) NVPrep.N – The book is on the table .

It should be noted that (3) differs from (4) because the former admits no passive transformation.

Transformational method proves useful for analysing sentences from the point of their deep structure:

Flying planes can be dangerous.

This sentence is ambiguous, two senses can be distinguished: a) the action of flying planes can be dangerous, b) the planes that fly can be dangerous. Therefore it can be reduced to the following kernels:

a) Planes can be dangerous b) Planes can be dangerous

X (people) fly planes Planes fly

Constructional Syntax. Constructional analysis of syntactic units was initiated by Prof. G.Pocheptsov in his book published in Kyiv in 1971. This analysis deals with the constructional significance/insignificance of a part of the sentence for the whole syntactic unit. The theory is based on the obligatory or optional environment of syntactic elements. For example, the element him in the sentence I saw him there yesterday is constructionally significant because it is impossible to omit it. At the same time the elements there and yesterday are constructionally insignificant – they can be omitted without destroying the whole structure.

Communicative Syntax. It is primarily concerned with the analysis of utterances from the point of their communicative value and informative structure. It deals with the actual division of the utterance – the theme and rheme analysis. Both the theme and the rheme constitute the informative structure of utterances. The theme is something that is known already while the rheme represents some new information. Depending on the contextual informative value any sentence element can act as the theme or the rheme:

Who is at home? - John is at home. Where is John? – John is at home.

Pragmatic approach to the study of syntactic units can briefly be described as the study of the way language is used in particular contexts to achieve particular goals. Speech Act Theory was first introduced by John Austin. The notion of a speech act presupposes that an utterance can be said with different intentions or purposes and therefore can influence the speaker and situation in different ways:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar I just state the fact;

I want you to do something about it (close the window);

It’s cold here I’m threatening you;

I’m seeking for an excuse for not doing something;

I want you to feel guilty of it;


Accordingly, we can distinguish different speech acts.

Of special interest here is the problem of indirect speech acts: Are you leaving already? In our everyday activities we use indirect speech acts rather willingly because it is the best way to influence people, to get what we want and to be polite at the same time.

Textlinguistics studies the text as a syntactic unit, its main features and peculiarities, different ways of its analysis.

Discourse analysis focuses on the study of language use with reference to the social and psychological factors that influence communication.

3. Basic syntactic notions.

The syntactic language level can be described with the help of special linguistic terms and notions: syntactic unit, syntactic form, syntactic meaning, syntactic function, syntactic position, and syntactic relations .

Syntactic unit is always a combination that has at least two constituents. The basic syntactic units are a word-group, a clause, a sentence, and a text. Their main features are:

a) they are hierarchical units – the units of a lower level serve the building material for the units of a higher level;

b) as all language units the syntactic units are of two-fold nature:

content side syntactic meaning

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Syntactic unit = =

expression side syntactic form

c) they are of communicative and non-communicative nature – word-groups

and clauses are of non-communicative nature while sentences and texts

are of communicative nature.

Syntactic meaning is the way in which separate word meanings are combined to produce meaningful word-groups and sentences.

Green ideas sleep furiously. This sentence is quite correct grammatically. However it makes no sense as it lacks syntactic meaning.

Syntactic form may be described as the distributional formula of the unit (pattern). John hits the ball – N1 + V + N2.

Syntactic function is the function of a unit on the basis of which it is included to a larger unit: in the word-group a smart student the word ‘smart’ is in subordinate attributive relations to the head element. In traditional terms it is used to denote syntactic function of a unit within the sentence (subject, predicate, etc.).

Syntactic position is the position of an element. The order of constituents in syntactic units is of principal importance in analytical languages. The syntactic position of an element may determine its relationship with the other elements of the same unit: his broad back , a back district, to go back, to back sm.

Syntactic relations are syntagmatic relations observed between syntactic units. They can be of three types – coordination, subordination and predication.

1. Syntactic relations.

The syntactic units can go into three types of syntactic relations.

1. Coordination (SR1) – syntagmatic relations of independence. SR1 can be observed on the phrase, sentence and text levels. Coordination may be symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric coordination is characterized by complete interchangeability of its elements – pens and pencils . Asymmetric coordination occurs when the position of elements is fixed: ladies and gentlemen . Forms of connection within SR1 may be copulative (you and me ), disjunctive (you or me ), adversative (strict but just ) and causative-consecutive (sentence and text level only).

2. Subordination (SR2) – syntagmatic relations of dependence. SR2 are established between the constituents of different linguistic rank. They are observed on the phrase and sentence level. Subordination may be of three different kinds – adverbial (to speak slowly ), objective (to see a house ) and attributive (a beautiful flower ). Forms of subordination may also be different – agreement (this book – these books ), government (help us ), adjournment (the use of modifying particles just, only, even, etc. ) and enclosure (the use of modal words and their equivalents really, after all, etc. ).

3. Predication (SR3) – syntagmatic relations of interdependence. Predication may be of two kinds – primary (sentence level) and secondary (phrase level). Primary predication is observed between the subject and the predicate of the sentence while secondary predication is observed between non-finite forms of the verb and nominal elements within the sentence. Secondary predication serves the basis for gerundial, infinitive and participial word-groups (predicative complexes).


1. Definition and general characteristics of the word-group.

There are a lot of definitions concerning the word-group. The most

adequate one seems to be the following: the word-group is a combination of at least two notional words which do not constitute the sentence but are syntactically connected. According to some other scholars (the majority of Western scholars and professors B.Ilyish and V.Burlakova – in Russia), a combination of a notional word with a function word (on the table ) may be treated as a word-group as well. The problem is disputable as the role of function words is to show some abstract relations and they are devoid of nominative power. On the other hand, such combinations are syntactically bound and they should belong somewhere.

General characteristics of the word-group are:

1) As a naming unit it differs from a compound word because the number of constituents in a word-group corresponds to the number of different denotates: a black bird – чорний птах (2), a blackbird – дрізд (1);

a loud speaker (2), a loudspeaker (1).

2) Each component of the word-group can undergo grammatical changes without destroying the identity of the whole unit: to see a house - to see houses.

3) A word-group is a dependent syntactic unit, it is not a communicative unit and has no intonation of its own.

2. Classification of word-groups.

Word-groups can be classified on the basis of several principles:

a) According to the type of syntagmatic relations: coordinate (you and me ), subordinate (to see a house, a nice dress ), predicative (him coming, for him to come ),

b) According to the structure: simple (all elements are obligatory), expanded (to read and translate the text – expanded elements are equal in rank), extended (a word takes a dependent element and this dependent element becomes the head for another word: a beautiful flower – a very beautiful flower ).

3. Subordinate word-groups.

Subordinate word-groups are based on the relations of dependence between the constituents. This presupposes the existence of a governing

Element which is called the head and the dependent element which is called the adjunct (in noun-phrases) or the complement (in verb-phrases).

According to the nature of their heads, subordinate word-groups fall into noun-phrases (NP) – a cup of tea , verb-phrases (VP) – to run fast , to see a house , adjective phrases (AP) – good for you , adverbial phrases (DP) – so quickly , pronoun phrases (IP) – something strange, nothing to do .

The formation of the subordinate word-group depends on the valency of its constituents. Valency is a potential ability of words to combine. Actual realization of valency in speech is called combinability.

4. The noun-phrase (NP).

Noun word-groups are widely spread in English. This may be explained

by a potential ability of the noun to go into combinations with practically all parts of speech. The NP consists of a noun-head and an adjunct or adjuncts with relations of modification between them. Three types of modification are distinguished here:

a) Premodification that comprises all the units placed before the head: two smart hard-working students. Adjuncts used in pre-head position are called pre-posed adjuncts.

b) Postmodification that comprises all the units all the units placed after the head: students from Boston . Adjuncts used in post-head position are called post-posed adjuncts.

c) Mixed modification that comprises all the units in both pre-head and post-head position: two smart hard-working students from Boston.

Pre-posed adjuncts Post-posed adjuncts

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Pronoun Adj.

Adj. Ven

N2 Ving

N’s prep.N2

Ven prepVing

Ving D

Num Num

D wh-clause, that-clause

5. Noun-phrases with pre-posed adjuncts.

In noun-phrases with pre-posed modifiers we generally find adjectives, pronouns, numerals, participles, gerunds, nouns, nouns in the genitive case (see the table). According to their position all pre-posed adjuncts may be divided into pre-adjectivals and adjectiavals . The position of adjectivals is usually right before the noun-head. Pre-adjectivals occupy the position before adjectivals. They fall into two groups: a) limiters (to this group belong mostly particles): just, only, even, etc. and b) determiners (articles, possessive pronouns, quantifiers – the first, the last ).

Premodification of nouns by nouns (N+N) is one of the most striking features about the grammatical organization of English. It is one of devices to make our speech both laconic and expressive at the same time. Noun-adjunct groups result from different kinds of transformational shifts. NPs with pre-posed adjuncts can signal a striking variety of meanings:

world peace – peace all over the world

silver box – a box made of silver

table lamp – lamp for tables

table legs – the legs of the table

river sand – sand from the river

school child – a child who goes to school

The grammatical relations observed in NPs with pre-posed adjuncts may convey the following meanings:

1) subject-predicate relations: weather change ;

2) object relations: health service, women hater;

3) adverbial relations: a) of time: morning star,

b) place: world peace, country house,

c) comparison: button eyes,

d) purpose: tooth brush.

It is important to remember that the noun-adjunct is usually marked by a stronger stress than the head.

Of special interest is a kind of ‘grammatical idiom’ where the modifier is reinterpreted into the head: a devil of a man, an angel of a girl.

6. Noun-phrases with post-posed adjuncts.

NPs with post-posed may be classified according to the way of connection into prepositionless and prepositional . The basic prepositionless NPs with post-posed adjuncts are: Nadj. – tea strong , NVen – the shape unknown , NVing – the girl smiling , ND – the man downstairs , NVinf – a book to read , NNum – room ten .

The pattern of basic prepositional NPs is N1 prep. N2. The most common preposition here is ‘of’ – a cup of tea , a man of courage . It may have quite different meanings: qualitative - a woman of sense , predicativethe pleasure of the company , objectivethe reading of the newspaper , partitive the roof of the house.

7. The verb-phrase.

The VP is a definite kind of the subordinate phrase with the verb as the head. The verb is considered to be the semantic and structural centre not only of the VP but of the whole sentence as the verb plays an important role in making up primary predication that serves the basis for the sentence. VPs are more complex than NPs as there are a lot of ways in which verbs may be combined in actual usage. Valent properties of different verbs and their semantics make it possible to divide all the verbs into several groups depending on the nature of their complements (see the table ‘Syntagmatic properties of verbs’, Lecture 6).

8. Classification of verb-phrases.

VPs can be classified according to the nature of their complements – verb complements may be nominal (to see a house ) and adverbial (to behave well ). Consequently, we distinguish nominal, adverbial and mixed complementation.

Nominal complementation takes place when one or more nominal complements (nouns or pronouns) are obligatory for the realization of potential valency of the verb: to give smth. to smb., to phone smb., to hear smth.(smb.), etc.

Adverbial complementation occurs when the verb takes one or more adverbial elements obligatory for the realization of its potential valency: He behaved well, I live …in Kyiv (here).

Mixed complementation – both nominal and adverbial elements are obligatory: He put his hat on he table (nominal-adverbial).

According to the structure VPs may be basic or simple (to take a book) – all elements are obligatory; expanded (to read and translate the text, to read books and newspapers ) and extended (to read an English book ).

9. Predicative word-groups.

Predicative word combinations are distinguished on the basis of secondary predication. Like sentences, predicative word-groups are binary in their structure but actually differ essentially in their organization. The sentence is an independent communicative unit based on primary predication while the predicative word-group is a dependent syntactic unit that makes up a part of the sentence. The predicative word-group consists of a nominal element (noun, pronoun) and a non-finite form of the verb: N + Vnon-fin. There are Gerundial, Infinitive and Participial word-groups (complexes) in the English language: his reading , for me to know, the boy running, etc.)


2. The sentence.

It is rather difficult to define the sentence as it is connected with many lingual and extra lingual aspects – logical, psychological and philosophical. We will just stick to one of them - according to academician G.Pocheptsov, the sentence is the central syntactic construction used as the minimal communicative unit that has its primary predication, actualises a definite structural scheme and possesses definite intonation characteristics. This definition works only in case we do not take into account the difference between the sentence and the utterance. The distinction between the sentence and the utterance is of fundamental importance because the sentence is an abstract theoretical entity defined within the theory of grammar while the utterance is the actual use of the sentence. In other words, the sentence is a unit of language while the utterance is a unit of speech.

The most essential features of the sentence as a linguistic unit are a) its structural characteristics – subject-predicate relations (primary predication), and b) its semantic characteristics – it refers to some fact in the objective reality. It is represented in the language through a conceptual reality:

conceptual reality proposition

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar
M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

objective reality lingual representation objective situation predicative unit

We may define the proposition as the main predicative form of thought. Basic predicative meanings of the typical English sentence are expressed by the finite verb that is immediately connected with the subject of the sentence (primary predication).

To sum it up, the sentence is a syntactic level unit, it is a predicative language unit which is a lingual representation of predicative thought (proposition).

3. Different approaches to the study of the sentence.

a) Principal and secondary parts of the sentence.

b) Immediate constituents of the sentence. IC analysis.

To grasp the real structure of the English sentence, one must understand not only words that occur but also the principles of their arrangement. Each language has its own way of structural grouping. English has dichotomous phrase structure, which means that the phrase in English can always be divided into two elements (constituents) until we get down to the single word. All groups of words are arranged in levels. The name given by linguists to these different levels of relationship is immediate constituents .

Thus, one way of analyzing a sentence is to cut it to its immediate constituents, that is, to single out different levels of meaning:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarThe old man saw a black dog there S

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar NP VP

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Det NP VP D

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar A N V NP

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar Det NP


It is obvious that dividing a sentence into ICs does not provide much information. Nevertheless, it can sometimes prove useful if we want to account for the ambiguity of certain constructions. A classic example is the phrase old men and women which can be interpreted in two different ways. Ambiguity of this kind is referred to as syntactic ambiguity. By providing IC analysis we can make the two meanings clear:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammarold men and women old men and women

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

c) Oppositional analysis.

The oppositional method in syntax means correlating different sentence types: they possess common features and differential features. Differential features serve the basis for analysis.

E.g. two member sentence :: one member sentence (John worked:: John! Work! Or: I speak English :: I don’t speak English.

d) Constructional analysis.

According to the constructional approach, not only the subject and the predicate but also all the necessary constituents of primary predication constitute the main parts because they are constructionally significant. Therefore, the secondary parts of the sentence are sometimes as necessary and important as the main ones. If we omit the object and the adverbial modifier in the following sentences they will become grammatically and semantically unmarked: Bill closed the door ; She behaved well .

The structural sentence types are formed on the basis of kernels (basic structures). Three main types of propositional kernels may be distinguished: N V, N is A, N is N. However, if we take into account the valent properties of the verbs (their obligatory valency) the group will become larger (8 kernels), e.g. N1 V N2 N3: John gave Ann the book , N1 V N2: I see a house .

The kernel sentences form the basis for syntactic derivation. Syntactic derivation lies in producing more complex sentences

Syntactic processes may be internal and external . Internal syntactic processes involve no changes in the structure of the parts of the sentence. They occur within one and the same part of the sentence (subject, etc.). External syntactic processes are those that cause new relations within a syntactic unit and lead to appearance of a new part of the sentence.

The internal syntactic processes are:

Expansion Compression

The phone was ringing and ringing They were laughing and singing

Complication Contamination

(a synt. unit becomes complicated) (two parts of the sentence are joined

I have seen it – I could have seen it together – e.g. double predicate)

The moon rose red

Replacement – the use of the words that have a generalized meaning: one, do, etc, I’d like to take this one .

Representation – a part of the syntactic unit represents the whole syntactic unit: Would you like to come along? I’d love to .

EllipsisWhere are you going? To the movies .

The external syntactic processes are:

Extension - a nice dress – a nice cotton dress.

Ajoinment - the use of specifying words, most often particles: He did it – Only he did it.

Enclosure – inserting modal words and other discourse markers: after all, anyway, naturally, etc.

4. The utterance. Informative structure of the utterance.

The utterance as opposed to the sentence is the unit of speech. The

main categories of the utterance from the point of view of its informative structure are considered to be the theme and the rheme . They are the main components of the Functional Sentence Perspective (FSP) – actual division of the sentence (most language analysts stick to the term “sentence” but actually they mean “utterance”).

In English, there is a “standard” word order of Subject + Verb + Object: The cat ate the rat – here we have a standard structure (N1 + V + N2). However, there are numerous other ways in which the semantic content of the sentence can be expressed:

1. The rat was eaten by the cat.

2. It was the cat that ate the rat.

3. It was the rat that the cat ate.

4. What the cat did was ate the rat.

5. The cat, it ate the rat.

Which of these options is actually selected by the writer or the speaker will depend on the context in which the utterance occurs and the importance of the information. One important consideration is whether the information has already been introduced before or it is assumed to be known to the reader or listener. Such information is referred to as given information or the theme . It contrasts with information which is introduced for the first time and which is known as new information or the rheme .

Informative structure of the utterance is one of the topics that still attract the attention of language analysts nowadays. It is well recognized that the rheme marking devices are:

1. Position in the sentence. As a rule new information in English generally comes last: The cat ate the rat .

2. Intonation.

3. The use of the indefinite article. However, sometimes it is impossible (as in 1): A gentleman is waiting for you .

4. The use of ‘there is’, ‘there are’. There is a cat in the room.

5. The use of special devices, like ‘as for’, ‘but for’, etc.: As for him , I don’t know.

6. Inverted word order: Here comes the sun.

7. The use of emphatic constructions: It was the cat that ate the rat.

However, sometimes the most important information is not expressed formally: The cat ate the rat after all. The rheme here is ‘the rat’. At the same time there is very important information which is hidden or implicit: the cat was not supposed to do it, or – it was hard for the cat to catch the rat, or – the cat is a vegetarian (this hidden information will depend on the context or situation). In other words, we may say that this sentence contains two informative centres, or two rhemes – explicit and implicit.

5. Functional typology of utterances.

Actional utterance: N + Vact. + Complement – actional predicate

Performative utterance: I + Vperf./Vsay – performative predicate

Characterizing utterance: N + Vbe + A/Q – characterizing predicate

(See the book by E.Morokhovskaya ‘Fundamentals of Theoretical English Grammar’, pp.254-268)


1. Text as a syntactic unit.

Text is the unit of the highest (supersyntactic) level. It can be defined as a sequence of sentences connected logically and semantically which convey a complete message. The text is a language unit and it manifests itself in speech as discourse. Textlinguistics is concerned with the analysis of formal and structural features of the text. Textual basic integrative properties can be described with the help of the notions of coherence (цілісність), cohesion (формальна складність) and deixis .

2. The notion of coherence.

Coherence is a semantic or topical unity of the spoken or written text – that is, the sentences within the text are usually connected by the same general topic. Generally speaking, a coherent text is the text that ‘sticks together’ as a whole unit. Coherence is usually achieved by means of the theme and rheme progression. There exist various types of the theme and rheme progression, e.g.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammara) T1 R1 Once there lived an old man.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar T2 R2 The old man lived in a hut.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar T3 R3 The hut was near a wood.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammarb) T1 R1 Michael is a student.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar T1 R2 He lives in Boston.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar T1 R3 He has a cheap car.

c) T The general topic is Ukraine. Subtopics are its

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar climate, industry, population, etc.

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarT1 R1 T2 R2 T3 R3

Naturally, in the process of text development different types of theme and rheme progression are combined.

3. The notion of cohesion. Text connecting devices.

Cohesion is a succession of spoken or written sentences. Sometimes the sentences may even not coincide topically. The connection we want to draw between various parts of the text may be achieved by textual and lexical cohesion. Textual cohesion may be achieved by formal markers which express conjunctive relations and serve as text connectors. Text connectors may be of four different types:

a) additive – and, furthermore, similarly, in addition, etc.

b) adversative – but, however, on the other hand, in fact, anyway, after all, nevertheless, etc.

c) causal – so, consequently, for this reason, thus, etc.

d) temporal – then, after that, finally, at last, in the long run, etc.

The full list of text connectors is very long. Some of them do not possess direct equivalents in the Ukrainian language. At the same time it is impossible to speak and write English naturally without knowing for sure when and how to use text connectors of the English language.

Lexical cohesion occurs when two words in the text are semantically related in the same way – in other words, they are related in terms of their meaning. Two major categories of lexical cohesion are reiteration and collocation. Reiteration includes repetition, synonym or near synonym use and the use of general words. E.g. (1) You could try driving the car up the slope . The incline isn’t at all that steep. (2) Pneumonia arrives with the cold and wet conditions. The illness can strike everyone from infants to the elderly.

Collocation includes all those items in text that are semantically related. The items may be related in one text and not related in other. For instance, the words ‘neighbour’ and ‘scoundrel’ are not related at all. However, in the following text they are collocated: My neighbour has just let one of his trees fall into my garden. And the scoundrel refuses to pay for the damage he has caused.

Cohesive ties within the text are also formed by endophoric relations. Endophoric relations are of two kinds – those that look back in the text for their interpretation are called anaphoric relations; those that look forward in the text are called cataphoric relations:

Look at the sun . It is going down quickly. ‘It’ refers back to ‘the sun’.

It is going down quickly, the sun . ‘It’ refers forwards to ‘the sun’.

4. Textual deictic markers.

As a linguistic term deixis means ‘identification by pointing’.

Much of the textual meaning can be understood by looking at linguistic markers that have a pointing function in a given context. For example, consider the following note pinned on a professor’s door: “Sorry, I missed you. I’m in my other office. Back in an hour.” Without knowing who the addressee is, what time the note was written, or the location of the other office, it is really hard to make a precise information of the message. Those terms that we cannot interpret without an immediate context are called deixis. Deictic terms are used to refer to ourselves, to others, and to objects in our environment. They are also used to locate actions in a time frame relative to the present. Deictic terms can show social relationship – the social location of individuals in relation to others. They may be used to locate parts of a text in relation to other parts.

Deictic expressions are typically pronouns, certain time and place adverbs (here, now, etc.), some verbs of motion (come/go ), and even tenses. In fact all languages have expressions that link a sentence to a time and space context and that help to determine reference.

We can identify five major types of deictic markers – person, place, time, textual and social.

Person deixis refers to grammatical markers of communicant roles in a speech event. The first person is the speaker’s reference to self; the second person is the speaker’s reference to addressee(s) and the third person is reference to others who are neither speaker nor addressee.

Place deixis refers to how languages show the relationship between space and the location of the participants in the text: this, that, here, there, in front of, at our place, etc.

Temporal deixis refers to the time relative to the time of speaking: now, then, today, yesterday, tomorrow, etc.

Textual deixis has to do with keeping track of reference in the unfolding text: in the following chapter, but, first, I’d like to discuss, etc. Most of the text connectors discussed above belong to this group.

Social deixis is used to code social relationships between speakers and addressee or audience. Here belong honorifics, titles of addresses and pronouns. There are two kinds of social deixis: relational and absolute. Absolute deictic markers are forms attached to a social role: Your Honor, Mr.President, Your Grace, Madam, etc. Relational deictic markers locate persons in relation to the speaker rather than by their roles in the society: my cousin, you, her, etc. In English, social deixis is not heavily coded in the pronoun system. ‘You’ refers to both – singular and plural. As well as in the Ukrainian language, English possesses ‘a powerful we’: We are happy to inform…, In this article we…


1. Basic notions of pragmatic linguistics.

The term ‘pragmatics’ was first introduced by Charles Morris, a philosopher. He contrasts pragmatics with semantics and syntax. He claims that syntax is the study of the grammatical relations of linguistic units to one another and the grammatical structures of phrases and sentences that result from these grammatical relation, semantics is the study of the relation of linguistic units to the objects they denote, and pragmatics is the study of the relation of linguistic units to people who communicate.

This view of pragmatics is too broad because according to it, pragmatics may have as its domain any human activity involving language, and this includes almost all human activities, from baseball to the stock market. We will proceed from the statement that linguistic pragmatics is the study of the ability of language users to pair sentences with the context in which they would be appropriate. What do we mean by ‘appropriate context’?

In our everyday life we as a rule perform or play quite a lot of different roles – a student, a friend, a daughter, a son, a client, etc. When playing different roles our language means are not the same – we choose different words and expressions suitable and appropriate for the situation. We use the language as an instrument for our purposes. For instance,

(a) What are you doing here? We’re talking

(b) What the hell are you doing here? We’re chewing the rag

have the same referential meaning but their pragmatic meaning is different, they are used in different contexts. Similarly, each utterance combines a propositional base (objective part) with the pragmatic component (subjective part). It follows that an utterance with the same propositional content may have different pragmatic components:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical Grammar

just mentioning of the fact


It’s hot excuse

inducement to do something about it


To put it in other words, they are different speech acts . That is, speech acts are simply things people do through language – for example, apologizing, instructing, menacing, explaining something, etc. The term ‘speech act’ was coined by the philosopher John Austin and developed by another philosopher John Searle.

John Austin is the person who is usually credited with generating interest in what has since come to be known as pragmatics and speech act theory. His ideas of language were set out in a series of lectures which he gave at Oxford University. These lectures were later published under the title “How to do things with words”. His first step was to show that some utterances are not statements or questions but actions . He reached this conclusion through an analysis of what he termed ‘performative verbs’ . Let us consider the following sentences:

I pronounce you man and wife

I declare war on France

I name this ship The Albatros

I bet you 5 dollars it will rain

I apologize

The peculiar thing about these sentences, according to J.Austin, is that they are not used to say or describe things, but rather actively to do things. After you have declared war on France or pronounced somebody husband and wife the situation has changed. That is why J.Austin termed them as performatives and contrasted them to statements (he called them constatives ). Thus by pronouncing a performative utterance the speaker is performing an action. The performative utterance, however, can really change things only under certain circumstances. J.Austin specified the circumstances required for their success as felicity conditions . In order to declare war you must be someone who has the right to do it. Only a priest (or a person with corresponding power) can make a couple a husband ad wife. Besides, it must be done before witnesses and the couple getting married must sign the register.

Performatives may be explicit and implicit . Let us compare the sentences:

I promise I will come tomorrow – I will come tomorrow;

I swear I love you – I love you.

On any occasion the action performed by producing an utterance will consist of three related acts (a three-fold distinction):

1) locutionary act – producing a meaningful linguistic expression, uttering a sentence. If you have difficulty with actually forming the sounds and words to create a meaningful utterance (because you are a foreigner or tongue-tied) then you might fail to produce a locutionary act: it often happens when we learn a foreign language.

2) illocutionary act – we form an utterance with some kind of function on mind, with a definite communicative intention or illocutionary force . The notion of illocutionary force is basic for pragmatics.

3) perlocutionary act – the effect the utterance has on the hearer. Perlocutionary effect may be verbal or non-verbal. E.g. I’ve bought a car – Great! It’s cold here – and you close the window.

2. Classifications of speech acts. Indirect speech acts.

It was John Searle, who studied under J.Austin at Oxford, who proposed

a detailed classification of speech acts. His speech act classification has had a great impact on linguistics. It includes five major classes of speech acts: declarations, representatives, expressives, directives and commissives:

M.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarM.Blokh. A Course in Theoretical GrammarSpeech act type Direction of fit s – speaker, x -


Declarations words change the world S causes X

E.g. I pronounce you man and wife. You’re fired.

Representatives make words fit the world S believes X

E.g. It was a warm sunny day. John is a liar.

Expressives make words fit the world S feels X

E.g. I’m really sorry. Happy birthday! (statements of pleasure, joy, sorrow, etc.)

Directives make the world fit words S wants X

E.g. Don’t touch that (commands, orders, suggestions)

Commissives make the world fit words S intends X

E.g. I’ll be back (promises, threats, pledges – what we intend to do)

J.Searle can also be merited for introducing a theory of indirect speech acts . Indirect speech acts are cases in which one speech act is performed indirectly, by way of performing another: Can you pass me the salt? Though the sentence is interrogative, it is conventionally used to mark a request – we cannot just answer “yes” or “no”. According to modern point of view such utterances contain two illocutionary forces, with one of them dominating.

Another classification of speech acts was introduced by G.Potcheptsov. It is based on purely linguistic principles. The main criterion for pragmatic classification of utterances is the way of expressing communicative intention. This classification includes six basic speech acts:

constatives, promissives, menacives, performatives, directives and questions. More details can be found in the book by И.П.Иванова, В.В.Бурлакова, Г.Г.Почепцов “Теоретическая грамматика современного английского языка”, С.267-281.


1. Discourse analysis – the study of language in use.

Text as a unit of the highest level manifests itself as discourse in verbal communication. Therefore actual text in use may be defined as discourse. Discourses are formed by sequence of utterances. It is obvious that many utterances taken by themselves are ambiguous. They can become clear only within a discourse. Utterances interpretation, or discourse

analysis , involves a variety of processes, grammatical and pragmatic. By pragmatic processes we mean the processes used to bridge up the gap between the semantic representations of sentences and the interpretation of utterances in context. Quite often, the sentence may be ambiguous:

His soup is not hot enough

The hearer must not only recover the semantic representation of the sentence uttered, but decide who the referential expression he refers to, whether the ambiguous word hot means very warm or spicy, whether the vague expression his food refers to the food he cooked, the food he brought, the food he served, the food he is eating, etc.

Besides, utterances have not only propositional content but illocutionary force, and ambiguities may arise at this level:

You’re not leaving

The hearer must not only recover its explicit propositional content, but also decide whether it is a statement, a question or an order. Furthermore, utterances have not only explicit content but also implicit import:

A: Would you like some coffee?

B: Coffee would keep me awake.

The hearer (A) must recover the implication that B does not want any coffee (or, in some circumstances, that he does).

2. Maxims of conversation.

Understanding the meaning of a discourse requires knowing a lot of things. There are times when people say (or write) exactly what they mean, but generally they are not totally explicit. They manage to convey far more than their words mean, or even something quite different from the meaning of their words. It was Paul Grice who attempted to explain how, by means of shared rules or conventions , language users manage to understand one another. He introduced guidelines necessary for the efficient and effective conversation. He defined these guidelines as Cooperative Principle . Cooperative Principle presupposes that conversation is governed by four basic rules, Maxims of Conversation . There are four of them:

1. The Maxim of Quality

Do not say what you believe to be false

Do not say for what you lack adequate evidence

2. The Maxim of Quantity

Make your contribution as informative as required

Do not make your contribution more informative than is required

3. The Maxim of Relevance

Be relevant

4. The Maxim of Manner

Be clear

Be orderly

3. Implicatures of discourse.

Communicative maxims make it possible to generate inferences which are defined as conversational implicatures and conventional implicatures. Conversational implicatures are such components of an utterance that are not expressed semantically but are understood by communicants in the process of communication: Was it you who broke the cup? This question presupposes: Someone has broken the cup. If you did not do that your normal reaction would be: What cup?, while the answer I didn’t do that shows that you know about the fact. Conversational implicatures are universal, they do not depend on the language used. The second type of implicatures, conventional implicatures, are derived from a definite lexical or grammatical structure of an utterance: I saw only John (conventional implicature – I didn’t see anyone else ), Even Bill is smarter than you (Everybody is smarter than John, John is stupid ).

4. Implicatures and indirectness.

Both kinds of implicatures are of great interest for discourse analysis. When there is a mismatch between the expressed meaning and the implied meaning we deal with indirectness. Indirectness is a universal phenomenon: it occurs in all natural languages. Let us see how conversational implicatures arise from Maxims of Conversation and thus create indirectness.

A). In the following example Polonius is talking to Hamlet:

Polonius: What do you read, My Lord?

Hamlet: Words, words, words.

In this dialogue Hamlet deliberately gives less information than is required by the situation and so flouts the Maxim of Quantity. At the same time he deliberately fails to help Polonius to achieve his goals, thereby flouting the Maxim of Relevance. The Maxim of Quantity is also flouted when we say: Law is law, woman is woman, students are students. This makes us look for what these utterances really mean.

B). In the utterance You’re being too smart! the Maxim of Quality is flouted and the hearer is made to look for a covert sense. Similarly, the same maxim is flouted with metaphors. If I say: He is made of iron, I am either non-cooperative or I want to convey something different.

C). The Maxim of Relevance can also be responsible for producing a wide range of standard implicatures:

A: Can you tell me the time?

B: The bell has gone.

It is only on the basis of assuming the relevance of B’s response that we can understand it as an answer to A’s question.

D). A number of different kinds of inference arise if we assume that the Maxim of Manner is being observed. The utterance The lone ranger rode into the sunset and jumped on his horse violates our expectation that events are recounted in the order in which they happen because the Maxim of Manner is flouted.

One more explanation of the fact why people are so often indirect in conveying what they mean was put forward by Geoffrey Leech in his book “Principles of Pragmatics”. He introduces the Politeness Principle which runs as follows: Minimize the expression of impolite beliefs; Maximize the expression of polite beliefs. According to G.Leech, the Politeness Principle is as valid as Cooperative Principle because it helps to explain why people do not always observe Maxims of Conversation. Quite often we are indirect in what we say because we want to minimize the expression of impoliteness:

A: Would you like to go to the theatre?

B: I have an exam tomorrow.

B is saying ‘no’, but indirectly, in order to be polite.

Theoretical Grammar

Kolomiytseva O.A.


The article is a function word, which means it has no lexical meaning and is devoid of denotative function. Semantically the article can be viewed as a significator , i.e. a linguistic unit representing some conceptual content without naming it. If analyzed in its relation to the conceptual reality, the article proves to be an operator , i.e. a marker of some cognitive operation, like identification, classification, and the like.

It is not a secret that articles often turn into stumbling blocks for students of English, especially for those whose first language is synthetic. Different language types represent different mentalities. Therefore, one of the ways to learn to use articles correctly is developing the necessary communicative skills through countless repetition, which can only be achieved in a corresponding language environment. Another way is trying to develop a system of rules governing the use of articles in the language by understanding the basic principles of their functioning. This is what we are going to do, though of course, both methods complement one another. A language student needs both theory and practice.

As you know, there are two articles in English: the definite article “the” and the indefinite one “a”. It has become a tradition to also single out the so-called “zero” article, which is found in the contexts where neither the definite nor the indefinite article is used. It is better to speak of the zero article rather than of the absence of the article for the same reason that we ascribe the zero marker to the “unmarked” member of the opposition. We speak of zero units in situations where the grammatical meaning needs to be made explicit.

The answer to the question “what do we need articles for?” can’t be too simple. We might have to enumerate quite a few functions articles can be used in. Some of them are common for all the three articles, others are only characteristic of individual function words. This is what we are going to speak of.

1. The Use of Articles as Determiners

The invariant function of all the articles (i.e. the function all of them are used in) is that of determination . Any human language has a system of devices used to determine words as parts of speech. In analytical languages the article is the basic noun determiner. In synthetic languages, like Ukrainian and Russian the same function is performed by inflexions.

e.g. Read the poem and comment on determiners:

Twas brilling, and the slithy toves Варкалось , хливкие шорьки

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. Пырялись по наве.

All mimsy were the borogoves, И хрюкотали зелюки ,

And the mome raths outgrabe. Как мюмзики в мове.

2. The Use of Articles as the Theme-and-Rheme Markers

The second function the articles can be used in is that of the theme-and rheme markers. As you know, the theme is the information already known, and the rheme is the semantic focus of the utterance, the new idea that is being introduced. An utterance where there is only the rheme can’t be understood. For example, if I entered the room and said something like that to you, “What about a wedding dress for Jane?” you would not understand anything, for there are three rhematic pieces of information in this utterance:

1. Jane (you don’t know who she is).

2. Jane’s forthcoming marriage.

3. You have to take care of Jane’s wedding dress.

Utterances that only contain the theme sound ridiculous. Can you imagine me saying something like that, «Let me share something important with you. This is a table.» You would probably think, something is wrong with me.

Traditionally the grammatical subject coincides with the theme, and the grammatical predicate is the rheme of the utterance. Still there are situations where there are disagreements between grammatical and communicative subjects and predicates.

In languages like Ukrainian or Russian the final position of the word in the sentence is rhematic, and the initial position is thematic. In English the same function is performed by the indefinite and the definite articles correspondingly. It is important to remember this principle when you translate something into English, for example:

До кімнати увійшов чоловік . A man entered the room.

Чоловік увійшов до кімнати. The man entered the room .

3.The Use of Articles as Generalizers

The object denoted by the word is called the “referent ”. Referents can be concrete, if something is said about a concrete object or phenomenon, and general, if what we say is true for the whole class of objects.

e.g. I have a dog at home (a concrete dog).

The dog is man’s friend (any dog).

In the second sentence the definite article is used as a generalizer. The generalizing function can be performed by both the definite, the indefinite and the zero article. The zero article is used in the plural or with uncountable nouns, for example:

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.

Iron is metal.

When concrete nouns are used in generic sense, they are usually preceded by the definite article. The indefinite article may be used when two classes of objects are compared, for example:

A dog is stronger than a cat.

If asked for an explanation, I would say that the general conclusion about the strength of cats and dogs is first made on the level of individuals, i.e. to determine who is stronger we would probably have to get a dog and a cat to fight. Then we would pick up another dog and another cat, until some general conclusion could be drawn. This is the reason the indefinite article appears in this sentence.

It is also important to remember that different parts of the utterance have to agree with one another semantically. So the articles are mostly used in their generalizing function in utterances characterized by generic reference, for example:

The noun is a part of speech which denotes substance.

The tragedy of life is indifference.

4. The Use of Articles as Concretizers

The generalizing function of articles is opposed to that of concretization. The latter is realized through some specific functions which are different for definite, indefinite and zero articles.


The indefinite article can be used in four functions:

1. The classifying function

2. The indefinitizing function

3. The introductory function

4. The quantifying function

Each of them is realized under specific contextual conditions.

1. The classifying function of the indefinite article is realized in

the so-called classifying utterances. Their invariant sentence pattern is: N + Vbe + N1. Those are:

a) structures with the verb “to be”, for example:

This is a computer.

b)exclamatory sentences beginning with “what” or such.

e.g. What a long story! He is such a nuisance!

c) sentences including an adverbial modifier of manner or comparison, for example:

e.g. You look like a rose! She works as a teacher.

2. The indefinitizing function is realized when the referent of the

noun is not a real thing, but it exists in the speaker’s imagination only. Those are sentences containing modal verbs or verbs with modal meaning, forms of the Subjunctive Mood, Future Tense forms, negative and interrogative sentences.

e.g. I wish I had a home like you do.

Have you ever seen a living tiger?

3. The introductory function

Before sharing some information about the object, we need to introduce it to the hearer. Fairy tales can be used as ideal illustrations of the use of the indefinite article in its introductory function.

e.g. Once upon a time there lived an old man. He had a wife and a daughter. He lived in a small house.

4. The quantifying function

The indefinite article developed from the numeral “one”. The meaning of “oneness” is still preserved when the article is used with nouns denoting measure, like “a minute”, “a year” or “a pound”.


The definite article may be used in the following functions:

1. The identifying function

When we speak, we may want to point out to something that both us and the hearer perceive with our organs of feeling. There are five different ways of getting the information about something existing in the objective reality. We can see it (Do you like the picture?), hear it (I believe, the music is too loud), feel it (The pillow is so soft!), smell it (What is the name of the perfume?) or taste it (The soup tastes bitter).

2. The definitizing function

The object or thing denoted by the noun is presented as a part of some complex. In modern science the term “frame ” is often used. The frame is a structurally organized system of images. For example, the frame “classroom” includes a window, a blackboard and a door. So if both the speaker and the hearer know what classroom they are speaking of, the constituents of the classroom don’t need any special concretization, and the indefinite article will be used.

e.g. I want to talk to the rector (even if you have never met the man).

3. The individualizing function

The object in question may be presented as a unique thing with the hearer’s attention focused on its distinguishing features, which are represented with the help of a particularizing attribute. The object is singled out from the class it belongs to. The particularizing attribute can be expressed by:

a) adjectives in the superlative degree

e.g. This is the easiest way out.

b) ordinal numerals

e.g. I have forgotten the first word.

c) attributive relative restrictive clauses

e.g. I need the book I bought yesterd ay.


In most cases the zero article performs the same functions as the indefinite one. The difference is that the combinability of the latter is restricted to the group of countable nouns used in the singular form, whereas the zero article combines with uncountable nouns and countable nouns in the plural.

e.g. It was a large room with many windows .

The toasts were in champagne .

Still there are situations where the zero article is used in its specific functions which are different from those of the indefinite article. When used with the zero article, the noun loses its general grammatical meaning of thingness to a certain degree and acquires the meaning of qualitativeness. For example, the nouns “day” and “night” used with the zero article stand for “light” and “darkness” rather than time units.

Theoretical Grammar

Kolomiytseva O.A.


For many years language was approached as just a system, outside the processes of its acquisition and use. Nowadays it has become quite popular to study language in action, taking into account the human factor. There has been a great interest in the analysis of different parameters of the communicative speech situation, like time place and social environment. It is evident that when we speak, we are influenced by everything around us as well as by our own inner selves. It would be very easy to analyze texts, if people spoke like computers, following the principle of formal logic and that of economy. Luckily, it is not so. If we were absolutely logical, trying to relate to others, our speech would be very dull and lifeless.

Psycholinguistics is one of several linguistic disciplines which focus on the relationship between language structures and the one who uses them It stands on the borderline between Psychology and Linguistics. The subject matter of Psychology is the nature and function of the human soul. The term itself is derived from the two Greek words “psyche” which means “soul” and “logos” which stands for “science”. There are three aspects in the human soul: “mind”, “will” and “emotions”, and all of them are studied by Psychology. The subject matter of Psycholinguistics is, of course, narrower. It is not concerned with human soul as it is. Its scope of interest is human ability to use language.

On the other hand, Psycholinguistics is not a completely independent discipline, it is a branch of General Linguistics .

Psycholinguistics can be briefly defined as a branch of language science studying speech behavior of man. B.Skinner , a famous American psychologist, suggests that language is a part of a more encompassing human behavior.

Psycholinguistics was officially recognized as a discipline, as a branch of linguistics in 1953, in the city of Bloomington, USA. It was based on the principles of the “theory of information”. The key terms that were used were “sender ”, “channel ” and “recipient ”. The importance of using the channel effectively was underlined. The channel is described in terms of “effectiveness” and “reliability”. The effectiveness of the channel is related to the number of the bites of information that can be conveyed for a certain time unit. It means that the more information is conveyed for, let us say, an hour or a minute the more effective the channel is.

The reliability of the channel can be defined as the answer to the question “Is there any difference between what was sent and what was received?” To increase the reliability the speaker may want to speak slower, repeating the same over and over again, which, of course, will decrease the effectiveness of the channel. It has been proved for example that the study material covered by an average half-an-hour lecture could be successfully presented for just twenty minutes, if the teacher were after the efficiency of the channel only. However, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the students to receive pure semiological (or logical) information, not dissolved by any flashbacks or jokes. Normal speech is half-reliable and half-effective.

In 1954 a book by Ch. Osgood and L. Sebeok was published. The title of it was “Psycholinguistics: A study of Theory and Research Problems” and it gave birth to psycholinguistics as an independent discipline. Psycholinguistics is defined as “a science which provides for the use of linguistic analysis of grammar to identify the mental and behavioral processes which underlie language acquisition and development”. Ch. Osgood suggested a three-level model of the derivation of the utterance. The speaker (sender) realizes his communicative intention step by step, level by level, choosing one of the possible phonetic, lexical and morphological variants. According to P.L. Newcomer and D.D. Hannill , psycholinguistics is the study of the mental processes which underlie the acquisition and use of language.

A.A. Leontyev , defines the subject matter of psycholinguistics as the relationship between language system and linguistic competence. What is meant, scholars no longer focus on language as a system, but they also analyze the person’s ability to use the linguistic units and structures more effectively.


Psycholinguistics focuses on the speaking individual. Therefore,

I. the human factor is extremely important in defining psycholinguistics as an independent discipline. It is not the product of speaking, that is of greatest importance, it is also the speaking person, with all of its strengths, weaknesses, creative abilities and disturbances. It is interesting to study the differences between women’s and men’s speech, for example. Men and women are sure to speak differently, because their personalities are not the same. Children’s speech is something to be studied too. It can hardly be denied that teenagers speak somewhat differently from senior adults. The speaker’s personality type as well as his current emotional state can’t but affect the choice of language structures.

II. Another thing is the situation factor . If we look at any text more or less carefully, we will see that all the parameters of the communicative speech situations are somehow reflected in it. We can basically determine where and when this or that conversation takes place.

III. Experimental factor is important too. The experiment is generally recognized as the leading method of psychology. The experiment helps to create an artificial situation, allowing the speaker to resort to special linguistic devices, those that are of special interest to the scholar. On the other hand, the experimental situation may cause the speaker to exercise certain linguistic abilities, so that the scholar may determine whether the latter are well developed, underdeveloped or impaired. Tests are extremely popular in psycholinguistic studies.

IV. The abnormal factor

Linguistics has always been a normocentric discipline . It means that linguists have analyzed “correct” texts only. It has never been clear what is to be done with “wrong” texts. Stories derived by illiterate people, foreigners or mentally sick individuals were merely defined as “incorrect’ and, therefore, not considered worth studying at all. However, those texts do exist, so something must be done with them. The term “wrong” is not a very lucky one, because it adds nothing to the understanding of what those texts are actually like and what are the mechanisms that bring them into being. It was the Russian academician L.V. Scherba that suggested the term “negative speech material”, including everything that does not meet the existing norms and standards. Here are some genres or types of the text that L.V. Scherba considers negative:

1. Children’s speech;

2. Mistakes in adults’ speech;

3. Foreigners’ speech;

4. Speech in stress situations;

5. Speech disturbances

Without any doubt all those phenomena are worth studying too.


Psycholinguistics is an interdisciplinary study of language development, language in relation to human mind, language in thought, etc. Therefore the analysis of different language units and structures can hardly be separated from the study of human mind and the way it functions. Let us proceed from the assumption that there are two spheres in human soul: the conscious sphere and the subconscious one. We will talk about those spheres in the next chapter.

When studying different aspects of the subconscious sphere, modern psychologists use the term “MIND SET” .

It was D.N.Uznadze , a Georgian psychologist, who defined mind set as a state that precedes every human activity, including speaking. It is a special form of soul modification that underlies every involvement into the world. The mind set is the person’s readiness to perform an action, it is the modality of human behavior. D.N.Uznadze shows that it is in the mind set that the person’s need and the concrete situation are reflected in the form of a drive. So the mind set is the beginning of every human activity, and it underlies both conscious and subconscious behavior.

Speaking about the language, we can think of two possible mind sets that underlie the process of speaking:

1) the communicative mind set and

2) the expressive mind s et,

which correspond to the two main

functions of language: the communicative function and the expressive function. Of course, when we speak, both functions are realized. However, the person’s desire to say something may proceed from the necessity to get something from the hearer, which can be either of material or ideal nature: an object, an action, a piece of advice, even understanding and compassion. Of course, the speaker will do his best to be understood by the hearer. He will control what he is saying, he will keep in mind the hearer’s social status, his specific character traits as well as different parameters of the communicative speech situation, like the time and the place. So when the speaker wants to share some information with somebody, he will proceed from the communicative mind set. Most speech acts are realizations of the communicative mind set.

Therefore, any speech activity, proceeding from the communicative mind-set is well controlled, and attention is highly involved, even though certain operations are realized automatically without the speaker actually controlling them.

When the expressive mind set is realized, the person is driven by the desire to pour out his soul, to get rid of something that is tormenting him. He doesn’t care whether he will be understood or not. He perceives linguistic signs as a part of himself. The speaker creates, he is just like an artist or a composer. And it doesn’t matter what will eventually appear: a poem, a hypnotic text, a joke or a schizophrenic text. What is really important is that the expressive mind set has been realized. The speaker forgets about the hearer or the reader to some extent. Of course, there can be different stages or levels of the speaker’s drift from reality. Still it is the logic of wish-fulfillment that underlies everything that goes on. That is why the texts that are the product of speech based on the expressive mind set are, in most cases, samples of the negative speech material.