Phrase. Classification.

Syntax. General Outlook.

Syntax. General Outlook.


Phrase. Classification.

Syntax deals with combinability of words, i.e. how words are combined to make meaningful utterances, what patterns they combine on, and what abstract grammatical meaning they express.

The main objectivesof Syntax are:

1) to study relations between words within word combinations;

2) to study the sentence as a structural unit which communicates a message in a definite situation.

The unitsof syntactic analysis are the sentence and the phrase. They represent different levels of a hierarchy.

The syntactic level is divided into two: syntax minor and syntax major. The first one deals with sentence structure and the second with text and its structure.

The term "syntax - minor" is common one for both language and speech levels and their unit "sentence" is also one common term for language and speech. Syntax - minor deals not only with simple sentences, with a smaller unit than the simple sentence i.e. word combinations and with the bigger unit than the simple sentence composite sentences.

In the same way the level syntax - major can be explained. The unit of this level is text - the highest level of language and speech. "Syntax- major" represents both language and speech levels due to the absence of separate term as well as "text" is used homogeniously for both language and speech units.

Word-combination (or phrase) is a syntactically connected group of notional words within the limits of sentence but which is not a sentence itself. H.Sweet calls it a word group.

The scientific theory on the phrase appeared abroad much later than in Russia. It acquired its theoretical interpretation only in the 30-s due to an American linguist Leo Bloomfield. The creation of the theory of a phrase is due to Russian linguists. This theory is connected with such linguists as Fortunatov, Shakhmatov, Peshkovsky. All through its development the theory underwent a lot of changes. Until the 50-s the wide understanding of the term phrase prevailed. And any syntactically organized group was considered as a phrase.

But by the 50-s there appeared a new interpretation of this problem in the modern linguistics, and the term phrase acquired an extremely narrow sense and was applied only to those phrases which include not less than 2 notional words, connected by the relations of subordination. Predicative and prepositional groups were excluded from the phrase theory. This point of view was introduced by Vinogradov and was supported by many Russian linguists.

Though this point of view was not supported by some of linguists (Ilyish, Jirmunsky), it became the predominant in the middle of the 20 century, and the traditional understanding of a phrase in the Russian linguistics is restricted to subordinate structures only.

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 (may be treated as a word-group as well).

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.

2) Each component of the word-group can undergo grammatical changes without destroying the identity of the whole unit.

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

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

I.According to the type of syntagmatic relationsword-groups can be coordinative, subordinate, predicative.

1) Coordinative word-groupings are based on the relations of independence between the constituents.

Coordination may be symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric coordination is characterized by complete interchangeability of its elements, e.g. pens and pencils. Asymmetric coordination occurs when the position of elements is fixed, e.g. ladies and gentlemen.

According to the presence or absence of connectors coordinative word-groupings may be syndetic when the connection is realised with the help of conjunctions (e.g. boys and girls) and asyndetic (e.g. boys, girls) when the connection is realised without the help of conjunctions.

According to the type of conjunctions forms of connection within coordinative word-groupings may be:

- copulative (e.g. you and me),

- disjunctive (e.g. you or me),

- adversative(e.g. strict but just).

2) 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", "kernel", "kernel element", or "headword" and the dependent element which is called the "adjunct", "adjunct-word", "expansion".

Subordination may be of three different kinds:

- adverbial(e.g. to speak slowly),

- objective(e.g. to see a house),

- attributive (e.g. a beautiful flower).

According to the type of the headword subordinate word-groups fall into:

- nominal -the head-word is a noun,noun-pronoun or a numeral (e.g. a new way, something curious, the second to enter),

- verbal the head-word is a finite verb or a verbal (e.g. to know him, speaking a foreign language),

- adjectival- the head-word is an adjective (e.g. kind enough, absent from classes),

- adverbial- the head-word is an adverb (e.g. rather well, fortunately for the student),

- statival -the head-word is a stative (e.g. aware of the danger, quite alone).

According to the syntactic function of the adjunct subordinate word-groups fall into:

- attributive(e.g. hot weather),

- object(e.g. answering letters),

- adverbial(e.g. very interesting).

According to the position of the adjunct subordinate word-groupings are classed into word-groupings:

- with prepositive adjunct (e.g. black coffee),

- with mitpositive adjunct (e.g. did not go),

- with postpositive adjunct (e.g. money to spend),

- frame structures (e.g. as old as).


3) Predicative word combinations are distinguished on the basis of secondary predication (e.g. his coming, for me to do). 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. There are gerundial, infinitive and participial word-groups (complexes) in the English language.

II. According to the number of the constituents word-groups can be binary(e.g. cold weather)and multiple(e.g. a girl with blue eyes).

III.According to their structure word-groups are classed into:

1) simple- all elements are obligatory (e.g. to do it),

2) expanded - expanded elements are equal in rank (e.g. to read and translate the text),

3) extended - a word takes a dependent element and this dependent element becomes the head for another word (e.g. a very beautiful flower).

IV.According to their nominative value one should distinguish between syntagmatic groupings of notional words alone, syntagmatic groupings of notional words with functional words, and syntagmatic groupings of functional words alone.

Notional Formative Functional
Equipotent Dominational
Consecutive Cumulative
Cumulative Coordinative Bilateral Domination Mono-lateral Domination

1) Combinations of a notional word with a functional word are equivalent to separate words by their nominative function. These combinations are called "formative" (e.g. to me).

2) Syntagmatic groupings of functional words are essentially analogous to separate functional words. They are used as connectors and specifiers of notional elements of various status. These combinations are called "functional" (e.g. from out of, so that).

3) Different combinations of notional words are called "notional" phrases. They have a clearly pronounced self-dependent nominative destination. They denote complex phenomena and their properties in their interconnections, including dynamic interconnections (semi-predicative combinations).

Groupings of notional words fall into two opposite types by their grammatical and semantic properties.

) Groupings of the first type are constituted by words related to one another on an equal rank, so that, for a case of a two-word combination, neither of them serves as a modifier of the other. Depending on this feature, these combinations can be called "equipotent".

Equipotent connection in groupings of notional words is realised either with the help of conjunctions (syndetically), or without the help of conjunctions (asyndetically).

If the constituents of the combinations form logically consecutive connections (e.g. came and went) they are classed as coordinative.

There exist equipotent connections of a non-consecutive type, by which a sequential element, although equal to the foregoing element by its formal introduction is unequal to it as to the character of nomination. The latter type of equipotent connections is classed as "cumulative" (e.g. agreed, but reluctantly). Cumulative connection in writing is usually signalled by some intermediary punctuation stop, such as a comma or a hyphen.

b) Groupings of the second type are formed by words which are syntactically unequal in the sense that, for a case of a two-word combination, one of them plays the role of a modifier of the other. Due to this feature, combinations of the latter type can be called "dominational".

Dominational connection is effected in such a way that one of the constituents of the combination is principal (dominating) and the other is subordinate (dominated).

The two basic types of dominational connection are bilateral (reciprocal, two-way) domination and mono-lateral (one-way) domination.

Bilateral domination is realised in predicative connection of words (e.g. for me to come), while monolateral domination is realised in completive connection of words. The predicative connection of words, uniting the subject and the predicate, builds up the basis of the sentence.

The completive, one-way connection of words (monolateraldomination) is considered as subordinative on ground that the outer syntactic status of the whole combination is determined by the head-word.

All the completive connections fall into two main divisions: objective connections and qualifying connections.

- Objective connections reflect the relation of the object to the process. By their form these connections are subdivided into non-prepositional (e.g. to write him) (word-order, the objective form of the adjunct substantive) and prepositional (e.g. to look for a job), while from the semantico-syntactic point of view they are classed as direct (e.g. to see a man) (the immediate transition of the action to the object) and indirect or oblique (the indirect relation of the object to the process).

- Qualifying completive connections are divided into attributive and adverbial. Both are expressed in English by word-order and prepositions.

Attributive connection unites a substance with its attribute expressed by an adjective or a noun (e.g. a good student) .

Adverbial connection is subdivided into primary / and secondary. The primary adverbial connection is established between the verb and its adverbial modifiers of various standings (e.g. to run fast). The secondary adverbial connection is established between the non-verbal kernel expressing a quality and its adverbial modifiers of various standings (e.g. very fast).