GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE STRUCTURE OF ENGLISH

1. THE SCOPE OF THEORETICAL GRAMMAR.

Language incorporates the three constituent parts ("sides"). These parts are the phonological system, the lexical system, the grammatical system. Only the unity of these three elements forms a language; without any of them there is no human language.

The phonological system is the subfoundation of language; it determines the material (phonetical) appearance of its significative units. The lexical system is the whole set of naming means of language, that is, words and stable word-groups. The grammatical system is the whole set of regularities determining the combination of naming means in the formation of utterances as the embodiment of thinking process (Blokh).

Any linguistic description may have a practical or theoretical purpose. A practical linguistic description is aimed at providing the student with a manual of practical mastery of the corresponding part of language (within the limits determined by various factors of educational destination and scientific possibilities). Since the practice of lingual intercourse, however, can only be realised by employing language as a unity of all its constituent parts, practical linguistic manuals more often than not comprise the three types of description presented in a complex. As for theoretical linguistic descriptions, they pursue analytical aims and therefore present the studied parts of language in relative isolation, so as to gain insights into their inner structure and expose the intrinsic mechanisms of their functioning. Hence, the aim of theoretical grammarof a language is to present a theoretical description of its grammatical system, i.e. to scientifically analyse and define its grammatical categories and study the mechanisms of grammatical formation of utterances out of words in the process of speech making.

The word "grammar" itself has many meanings.

For some people, grammar specifies the "correct" way to speak or write.

For others, the word refers to the inflections (the word endings) common in many languages.

For still others, the grammar is about how humans organize ideas into words.

The word "grammar" means all of those things. But, for us, the word means something quite specific: grammar describes how we choose and arrange our words.

Yet grammar is more than passively learning ideas about the organization of words in a language. Grammar is also an activity; it is something we do. For example, consider this paragraph from the opening of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brother, have forgotten what these mestos were like things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspaper not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no license for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they would put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet it with knives in it, as we use to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I'm starting off the story with.

As you read the paragraph above, your thinking probably went through several stages:

- first, you noticed the unusual words and felt a certain uneasiness about the language; it seemed to be English, but not quite right.

- then, you probably noticed that several of the unusual words had ending that you recognized or were surrounded by familiar words.

- finally, having guessed at the meaning of those unusual words from context clues in that paragraph, you could reread the paragraph more easily.

In other words, you were acting as a grammarian already: you

  • observed the language data (by noticing the unusual words in their contexts),
  • collected a few pertinent facts (by noticing that several words were placed near function words like the or of and by noticing word endings like -s or -ing, clues to how the strange words functioned in those clauses),
  • made and tested a hypothesis (by rereading a sentence after revising mentally to add the information you collected by noticing the word's position and endings), and
  • reached a conclusion (that your hypothesis was correct because the paragraph made more sense).

In short, those are the same steps any linguist takes when studying any phenomenon in language, including grammar.






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