Theoretical English grammar

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Учебное пособие
Иностранные языки и языкознание


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М. Я. Блох

Допущено Министерством просвещения СССР

в качестве учебника для студентов

педагогических институтов по специальности

№ 2103 «Иностранные языки»

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Орфография из амер. переведена в брит.


кафедра английского языка Горьковского педагогического института иностранных языков им. Н. А. Добролюбова и доктор филол. наук, проф. Л. Л. Нелюбин.

Блох М. Я.

Б70 Теоретическая грамматика английского языка: Учебник. Для студентов филол. фак. ун-тов и фак. англ. яз. педвузов. -- М.: Высш. школа, 1983. -- с. 383 В пер.: 1 р.

В учебнике рассматриваются важнейшие проблемы морфологии и синтаксиса английского языка в свете ведущих принципов современного системного языкознания. Введение в теоретические проблемы грамматики осуществляется на фоне обобщающего описания основ грамматического строя английского языка. Особое внимание уделяется специальным методам научного анализа грамматических явлений и демонстрации исследовательских приемов на конкретном текстовом материале с целью развития у студентов профессионального лингвистического мышления. Учебник написан на английском языке.

ББК 81.2 Англ-9 4И (Англ)

© Издательство «Высшая школа», 1983.



Chapter I. Grammar in the Systemic Conception of Language.

Chapter II. Morphemic Structure of the Word

Chapter III. Categorial Structure of the Word

Chapter IV. Grammatical Classes of Words

Chapter V. Noun: General

Chapter VI. Noun: Gender

Chapter VII. Noun: Number

Chapter VIII. Noun: Case

Chapter IX. Noun: Article Determination

Chapter X. Verb: General

Chapter XI. Non-Finite Verbs (Verbids)

Chapter XII. Finite Verb: Introduction

Chapter XIII. Verb: Person and Number

Chapter XIV. Verb; Tense

Chapter XV. Verb: Aspect

Chapter XVI. Verb: Voice

Chapter XVII. Verb: Mood

Chapter XVIII. Adjective

Chapter XIX. Adverb

Chapter XX. Syntagmatic Connections of Words

Chapter XXI. Sentence: General

Chapter XXII. Actual Division of the Sentence

Chapter XXIII. Communicative Types of Sentences

Chapter XXIV. Simple Sentence: Constituent Structure

Chapter XXV. Simple Sentence: Paradigmatic Structure

Chapter XXVI. Composite Sentence as a Polypredicative Construction

Chapter XXVII. Complex Sentence

Chapter XXVIII. Compound Sentence

Chapter XXIX. Semi-Complex Sentence

Chapter XXX. Semi-Compound Sentence

Chapter XXXI. Sentence in the Text

A List of Selected Bibliography

Subject Index


This book, containing a theoretical outline of English grammar, is intended as a manual for the departments of English in Universities and Teachers' Colleges. Its purpose is to present an introduction to the problems of up-to-date grammatical study of English on a systemic basis, sustained by demonstrations of applying modern analytical techniques to various grammatical phenomena of living English speech.

The suggested description of the grammatical structure of English, reflecting the author’s experience as a lecturer on theoretical English grammar for students specialising as teachers of English, naturally, cannot be regarded as exhaustive in any point of detail. While making no attempt whatsoever to depict the grammar of English in terms of the minutiae of its arrangement and functioning (the practical mastery of the elements of English grammar is supposed to have been gained by the student at the earlier stages of tuition), we rather deem it as our immediate aims to supply the student with such information as will enable him to form judgments of his own on questions of diverse grammatical intricacies; to bring forth in the student a steady habit of trying to see into the deeper implications underlying the outward appearances of lingual correlations bearing on grammar; to teach him to independently improve his linguistic qualifications through reading and critically appraising the available works on grammatical language study, including the current materials in linguistic journals; to foster his competence in facing academic controversies concerning problems of grammar, which, unfortunately but inevitably, are liable to be aggravated by polemical excesses and terminological discrepancies.

In other words, we wish above all to provide for the condition that, on finishing his study of the subject matter of the book, under the corresponding guidance of his College tutor, the student should progress in developing a grammatically-oriented mode of understanding facts of language, viz. in mastering that which, in the long run, should distinguish a professional linguist from a layman.

The emphasis laid on cultivating an active element in the student’s approach to language and its grammar explains why the book gives prominence both to the technicalities of grammatical observations and to the general methodology of linguistic knowledge: the due application of the latter will lend the necessary demonstrative force to any serious consideration of the many special points of grammatical analysis. In this connection, throughout the whole of the book we have tried to point out the progressive character of the development of modern grammatical theory, and to show that in the course of disputes and continued research in manifold particular fields, the grammatical domain of linguistic science arrives at an ever more adequate presentation of the structure of language in its integral description.

We firmly believe that this kind of outlining the foundations of the discipline in question is especially important at the present stage of the developing linguistic knowledge -- the knowledge which, far from having been by-passed by the general twentieth century advance of science, has found itself in the midst of it. Suffice it to cite such new ideas and principles introduced in the grammatical theory of our times, and reflected in the suggested presentation, as the grammatical aspects of the correlation between language and speech; the interpretation of grammatical categories on the strictly oppositional basis; the demonstration of grammatical semantics with the help of structural modelling; the functional-perspective patterning of utterances; the rise of the paradigmatic approach to syntax; the expansion of syntactic analysis beyond the limits of a separate sentence into the broad sphere of the continual text; and, finally, the systemic principle of description applied to the interpretation of language in general and its grammatical structure in particular.

It is by actively mastering the essentials of these developments that the student will be enabled to cope with the grammatical aspects of his future linguistic work as a graduate teacher of English.

Materials illustrating the analysed elements of English grammar have been mostly collected from the literary works of British and American authors. Some of the offered examples have been subjected to slight alterations aimed at giving the necessary prominence to the lingual phenomena under study. Source references for limited stretches of text are not supplied except in cases of special relevance (such as implications of individual style or involvement of contextual background).

The author pays tribute to his friends and colleagues -- teachers of the Lenin State Pedagogical Institute (Moscow) for encouragement and help they extended to him during the years of his work on the presented matters.

The author’s sincere thanks are due to the staff of the English Department of the Dobrolyubov State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages (Gorky) and to Prof. L. L. Nelyubin for the trouble they took in reviewing the manuscript. Their valuable advice and criticisms were carefully taken into consideration for the final preparation of the text.

M. Blokh


Language is a means of forming and storing ideas as reflections of reality and exchanging them in the process of human intercourse. Language is social by nature; it is inseparably connected with the people who are its creators and users; it grows and develops together with the development of society. *

Language incorporates the three constituent parts («sides»), each being inherent in it by virtue of its social nature. These parts are the phonological system, the lexical system, the grammatical system. Only the unity of these three elements forms a language; without any one of them there is no human language in the above sense.

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.

Each of the three constituent parts of language is studied by a particular linguistic discipline. These disciplines, presenting a series of approaches to their particular objects of analysis, give the corresponding «descriptions» of language consisting in ordered expositions of the constituent parts in question. Thus, the phonological description of language is effected by the science of phonology; the lexical description of language is effected by the science of lexicology; the grammatical description of language is effected by the science of grammar.

Any linguistic description may have a practical or theoretical purpose. A practical 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 grammar of 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.

In earlier periods of the development of linguistic knowledge, grammatical scholars believed that the only purpose of grammar was to give strict rules of writing and speaking correctly. The rigid regulations for the correct ways of expression, for want of the profound understanding of the social nature of language, were often based on purely subjective and arbitrary judgements of individual grammar compilers. The result of this «prescriptive» approach was, that alongside of quite essential and useful information, non-existent «rules» were formulated that stood in sheer contradiction with the existing language usage, i.e. lingual reality. Traces of this arbitrary prescriptive approach to the grammatical teaching may easily be found even in to-date's school practice.

To refer to some of the numerous examples of this kind, let us consider the well-known rule of the English article stating that the noun which denotes an object «already known» by the listener should be used with the definite article. Observe, however, English sentences taken from me works of distinguished authors directly contradicting

«I've just read a book of yours about Spain and I wanted to ask you about it.» -- «It's not a very good book, I’m afraid» (S. Maugham). I feel a good deal of hesitation about telling you this story of my own. You see it is not a story like other stories I have been telling you: it is a true story (J. K. Jerome).

Or let us take the rule forbidding the use of the continuous tense-forms with the verb be as a link, as well as with verbs of perceptions. Here are examples to the contrary:

My holiday at Crome isn’t being a disappointment (A. Huxley). For the first time, Bobby felt, he was really seeing the man (A. Christie).

The given examples of English articles and tenses, though not agreeing with the above «prescriptions», contain no grammar mistakes in them.

The said traditional view of the purpose of grammar has lately been re-stated by some modern trends in linguistics. In particular, scholars belonging to these trends pay much attention to artificially constructing and analysing incorrect utterances with the aim of a better formulation of the rules for" the construction of correct ones. But their examples and deductions, too, are often at variance with real facts of lingual usage.

Worthy of note are the following two artificial utterances suggested as far back as 1956:

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. Furiously sleep ideas green colourless.

According to the idea of their creator, the American scholar N. Chomsky, the first of the utterances, although nonsensical logically, was to be classed as grammatically correct, while the second one, consisting of the same words placed in the reverse order, had to be analysed as a disconnected, «ungrammatical» enumeration, a «non-sentence». Thus, the examples, by way of contrast, were intensely demonstrative (so believed the scholar) of the fact that grammar as a whole amounted to a set of non-semantic rules of sentence formation.

However, a couple of years later this assessment of the lingual value of the given utterances was disputed in an experimental investigation with informants -- natural speakers of English, who could not come to a unanimous conclusion about the correctness or incorrectness of both of them. In particular, some of the informants classed the second utterance as «sounding like poetry».

To understand the contradictions between the bluntly formulated «rules» and reality, as well as to evaluate properly the results of informant tests like the one mentioned above, we must bear in mind that the true grammatical rules or regularities cannot be separated from the expression of meanings; on the contrary, they are themselves meaningful. Namely, they are connected with the most general and abstract parts of content inherent in the elements of language. These parts of content, together with the formal means through which they are expressed, are treated by grammarians in terms of «grammatical categories». Such are, for instance, the categories of number or mood in morphology, the categories of communicative purpose or emphasis in syntax, etc. Since the grammatical forms and regularities are meaningful, it becomes clear that the rules of grammar must be stated semantically, or, more specifically, they must be worded functionally. For example, it would be fallacious to state without any further comment that the inverted word order in the English declarative sentence is grammatically incorrect. Word order as an element of grammatical form is laden with its own meaningful functions. It can express, in particular, the difference between the central idea of the utterance and the marginal idea, between emotive and unemotive modes of speech, between different types of style. Thus, if the inverted word order in a given sentence does express these functions, then its use should be considered as quite correct. E.g.: In the centre of the room, under the chandelier, as became a host, stood the head of (he family, old Jolyon himself (J. Galsworthy).

The word arrangement in the utterance expresses a narrative description, with the central informative element placed in the strongest semantic position in narration, i.e. at the end. Compare the same sort of arrangement accompanying a plainer presentation of subject matter: Inside on a wooden bunk lay a young Indian woman (E. Hemingway).

Compare, further, the following:

And ever did his Soul tempt him with evil, and whisper of terrible things. Yet did it not prevail against him, so great was the power of his love (O. Wilde). (Here the inverted word order is employed to render intense emphasis in a legend-stylised narration.) One thing and one thing only could she do for him (R. Kipling). (Inversion in this case is used to express emotional intensification of the central idea.)

Examples of this and similar kinds will be found in plenty in Modern English literary texts of good style repute.

The nature of grammar as a constituent part of language is better understood in the light of explicitly discriminating the two planes of language, namely, the plane of content and the plane of expression

The plane of content comprises the purely semantic elements contained in language, while the plane of expression comprises the material (formal) units of language taken by themselves, apart from the meanings rendered by them. The two planes are inseparably connected, so that no meaning can be realised without some material means of expression. Grammatical elements of language present a unity of content and expression (or, in somewhat more familiar terms, a unity of form and meaning). In this the grammatical elements are similar to the lingual lexical elements, though the quality of grammatical meanings, as we have stated above, is different in principle from the quality of lexical meanings.

On the other hand, the correspondence between the planes of content and expression is very complex, and it is peculiar to each language. This complexity is clearly illustrated by the phenomena of polysemy, homonymy, and synonymy.

In cases of polysemy and homonymy, two or more units of the plane of content correspond to one unit of the plane of expression. For instance, the verbal form of the present indefinite (one unit in the plane of expression) polysemantically renders the grammatical meanings of habitual action, action at the present moment, action taken as a general truth (several units in the plane of content). The morphemic material element -s/-es (in pronunciation [-s, -z, -iz]), i.e. one unit in the plane of expression (in so far as the functional semantics of the elements is common to all of them indiscriminately), homonymically renders the grammatical meanings of the third person singular of the verbal present tense, the plural of the noun, the possessive form of the noun, i.e. several units of the plane of content.

In cases of synonymy, conversely, two or more units of the plane of expression correspond to one unit of the plane of content. For instance, the forms of the verbal future indefinite, future continuous, and present continuous (several units in the plane of expression) can in certain contexts synonymically render the meaning of a future action (one unit in the plane of content).

Taking into consideration the discrimination between the two planes, we may say that the purpose of grammar as a linguistic discipline is, in the long run, to disclose and formulate the regularities of the correspondence between the plane of content and the plane of expression in the formation of utterances out of the stocks of words as part of the process of speech production.

Modern linguistics lays a special stress on the systemic character of language and all its constituent parts. It accentuates the idea that language is a system of signs (meaningful units) which are closely interconnected and interdependent. Units of immediate interdependencies (such as classes and subclasses of words, various subtypes of syntactic constructions, etc.) form different microsystems (subsystems) within the framework of the global macrosystem (supersystem) of the whole of language.

Each system is a structured set of elements related to one another by a common function. The common function of all the lingual signs is to give expression to human thoughts.

The systemic nature of grammar is probably more evident than that of any other sphere of language, since grammar is responsible for the very organisation of the informative content of utterances [Блох, 4, 11 и сл.]. Due to this fact, even the earliest grammatical treatises, within the cognitive limits of their times, disclosed some systemic features of the described material. But the scientifically sustained and consistent principles of systemic approach to language and its grammar were essentially developed in the linguistics of the twentieth century, namely, after the publication of the works by the Russian scholar Beaudoin de Courtenay and the Swiss scholar Ferdinand de Saussure. These two great men demonstrated the difference between lingual synchrony (coexistence of lingual elements) and diachrony (different time-periods in the development of lingual elements, as well as language as a whole) and defined language as a synchronic system of meaningful elements at any stage of its historical evolution.

On the basis of discriminating synchrony and diachrony, the difference between language proper and speech proper can be strictly defined, which is of crucial importance for the identification of the object of linguistic science.

Language in the narrow sense of the word is a system of means of expression, while speech in the same narrow sense should be understood as the manifestation of the system of language in the process of intercourse.

The system of language includes, on the one hand, the body of material units -- sounds, morphemes, words, word-groups; on the other hand, the regularities or «rules» of the use of these units. Speech comprises both the act of producing utterances, and the utterances themselves, i.e. the text. Language and speech are inseparable, they form together an organic unity. As for grammar (the grammatical system), being an integral part of the lingual macrosystem it dynamically connects language with speech, because it categorially determines the lingual process of utterance production.

Thus, we have the broad philosophical concept of language which is analysed by linguistics into two different aspects -- the system of signs (language proper) and the use of signs (speech proper). The generalising term «language» is also preserved in linguistics, showing the unity of these two aspects [Блох, 16].

The sign (meaningful unit) in the system of language has only a potential meaning. In speech, the potential meaning of the lingual sign is «actualised», i.e. made situationally significant as part of the grammatically organised text.

Lingual units stand to one another in two fundamental types of relations: syntagmatic and paradigmatic.

Syntagmatic relations are immediate linear relations between units in a segmental sequence (string). E.g.: The spaceship was launched without the help of a booster rocket.

In this sentence syntagmatically connected are the words and word-groups «the spaceship», «was launched», «the spaceship was launched», «was launched without the help», «the help of a rocket», «a booster rocket».

Morphemes within the words are also connected syntagmatically. E.g.: space/ship; launch/ed; with/out; boost/er.

Phonemes are connected syntagmatically within morphemes and words, as well as at various juncture points (cf. the processes of assimilation and dissimilation).

The combination of two words or word-groups one of which is modified by the other forms a unit which is referred to as a syntactic «syntagma». There are four main types of notional syntagmas: predicative (the combination of a subject and a predicate), objective (the combination of a verb and its object), attributive (the combination of a noun and its attribute), adverbial (the combination of a modified notional word, such as a verb, adjective, or adverb, with its adverbial modifier).

Since syntagmatic relations are actually observed in utterances, they are described by the Latin formula as relations «in praesentia» («in the presence»).

The other type of relations, opposed to syntagmatic and called «paradigmatic», are such as exist between elements of the system outside the strings where they co-occur. These intra-systemic relations and dependencies find their expression in the fact that each lingual unit is included in a set or series of connections based on different formal and functional properties. «

In the sphere of phonology such series are built up by the correlations of phonemes on the basis of vocality or consonantism, voicedness or devoicedness, the factor of nazalisation, the factor of length, etc. In the sphere of the vocabulary these series are founded on the correlations of synonymy and antonymy, on various topical connections, on different word-building dependencies. In the domain of grammar series of related forms realise grammatical numbers and cases, persons and tenses, gradations of modalities, sets of sentence-patterns of various functional destination, etc.

Unlike syntagmatic relations, paradigmatic relations cannot be directly observed in utterances, that is why they are referred to as relations «in absentia»" («in the absence»).

Paradigmatic relations coexist with syntagmatic relations in such a way that some sort of syntagmatic connection is necessary for the realisation of any paradigmatic series. This is especially evident -in a classical grammatical paradigm which presents a productive series of forms each consisting of a syntagmatic connection of two elements: one common for the whole of the series (stem), the other specific for every individual form in the series (grammatical feature -- inflexion, suffix, auxiliary word). Grammatical paradigms express various grammatical categories.

The minimal paradigm consists of two form-stages. This kind of paradigm we see, for instance, in the expression of the category of number: boy -- boys. A more complex paradigm can be divided into component paradigmatic series, i.e. into the corresponding sub-paradigms (cf. numerous paradigmatic series constituting the system of the finite verb). In other words, with paradigms, the same as with any other systemically organised material, macro- and micro-series are to be discriminated.

Units of language are divided into segmental and suprasegmental. Segmental units consist of phonemes, they form phonemic strings of various status (syllables, morphemes, words, etc.). Supra-segmental units do not exist by themselves, but are realised together with segmental units and express different modificational meanings (functions) which are reflected on the strings of segmental units. To the supra-segmental units belong intonations (intonation contours), accents, pauses, patterns of word-order.

The segmental units of language form a hierarchy of levels. This hierarchy is of a kind that units of any higher level are analysable into (i.e. are formed of) units of the immediately lower level. Thus, morphemes are decomposed into phonemes, words are decomposed into morphemes, phrases are decomposed into words, etc.

But this hierarchical relation is by no means reduced to the mechanical composition of larger units from smaller ones; units of each level are characterised by their own, specific functional features which provide for the very recognition of the corresponding levels of language.

The lowest level of lingual segments is phonemic: it is formed by phonemes as the material elements of the higher -level segments. The phoneme has no meaning, its function is purely differential: it differentiates morphemes and words as material bodies. Since the phoneme has no meaning, it is not a sign.

Phonemes are combined into syllables. The syllable, a rhythmic segmental group of phonemes, is not a sign, either; it has a purely formal significance. Due to this fact, it could hardly stand to reason to recognise in language a separate syllabic level; rather, the syllables should be considered in the light of the intra-level combinability properties of phonemes.

Phonemes are represented by letters in writing. Since the letter has a representative status, it is a sign, though different in principle from the level-forming signs of language.

Units of all the higher levels of language are meaningful; they may be called «signemes» as opposed to phonemes (and letters as phoneme-representatives).

The level located above the phonemic one is the morphemic level. The morpheme is the elementary meaningful part of the word. It is built up by phonemes, so that the shortest morphemes include only one phoneme. E.g.: ros-y [-1]; a-fire [э-]; come-s [-z].

The morpheme expresses abstract, «significative» meanings which are used as constituents for the formation of more concrete, «nominative» meanings of words.

The third level in the segmental lingual hierarchy is the level of words, or lexemic level.

The word, as different from the morpheme, is a directly naming (nominative) unit of language: it names things and their relations. Since words are built up by morphemes, the shortest words consist of one explicit morpheme only. Cf.: man; will; but; I; etc.

The next higher level is the level of phrases (word-groups), or phrasemic level.

To level-forming phrase types belong combinations of two or more notional words. These combinations, like separate words, have a nominative function, but they represent the referent of nomination as a complicated phenomenon, be it a concrete thing, an action, a quality, or a whole situation. Cf., respectively: a picturesque village; to start with a jerk; extremely difficult; the unexpected arrival of the chief.

This kind of nomination can be called «polynomination», as different from «mononomination» effected by separate words.

Notional phrases may be of a stable type and of a free type. The stable phrases (phraseological units) form the phraseological part of the lexicon, and are studied by the phraseological division of lexicology. Free phrases are built up in the process of speech on the existing productive models, and are studied in the lower division of syntax. The grammatical description of phrases is sometimes called «smaller syntax», in distinction to «larger syntax» studying the sentence and its textual connections.

Above the phrasemic level lies the level of sentences, or «proposemic» level.

The peculiar character of the sentence («proposeme») as a signemic unit of language consists in the fact that, naming a certain situation, or situational event, it expresses predication, i.e. shows the relation of the denoted event to reality. Namely. it shows whether this event is real or unreal, desirable or obligatory, stated as a truth or asked about, etc. In this sense, as different from the word and the phrase, the sentence is a predicative unit. Cf.: to receive -- to receive a letter -- Early in June I received a letter from Peter Mel" rose.

The sentence is produced by the speaker in the process of speech as a concrete, situationally bound utterance. At the same time it enters the system of language by its syntactic pattern which, as all the other lingual unit-types, has both syntagmatic and paradigmatic characteristics.

But the sentence is not the highest unit of language in the hierarchy of levels. Above the proposemic level there is still another one, namely, the level of sentence-groups, «supra-sentential constructions». For the sake of unified terminology, this level can be called «supra-proposemic».

The supra-sentential construction is a combination of separate sentences forming a textual unity. Such combinations are subject to regular lingual patterning making them into syntactic elements. The syntactic process by which sentences are connected into textual unities is analysed under the heading of «cumulation». Cumulation, the same as formation of composite sentences, can be both syndetic and asyndetic. Cf. :

He went on with his interrupted breakfast. Lisette did not speak and there was silence between them. But his appetite satisfied, his mood changed; he began to feel sorry for himself rather than angry with her, and with a strange ignorance of woman’s heart he thought to arouse Lisette’s remorse by exhibiting himself as an object of pity (S. Maugham).

In the typed text, the supra-sentential construction commonly coincides with the paragraph (as in the example above). However, unlike the paragraph, this type of lingual signeme is realised not only in a written text, but also in all the varieties of oral speech, since separate sentences, as a rule, are included in a discourse not singly, but in combinations, revealing the corresponding connections of thoughts in communicative progress.

We have surveyed six levels of language, each identified by its own functional type of segmental units. If now we carefully observe the functional status of the level-forming segments, we can distinguish between them more self-sufficient and less self-sufficient types, the latter being defined only in relation to the functions of other level units. Indeed, the phonemic, lexemic and proposemic levels are most strictly and exhaustively identified from the functional point of view: the function of the phoneme is differential, the function of the word is nominative, the function of the sentence is predicative. As different from these, morphemes are identified only as significative components of words, phrases present polynominative combinations of words, and supra-sentential constructions mark the transition from the sentence to the text.

Furthermore, bearing in mind that the phonemic level forms the subfoundation of language, i.e. the non-meaningful matter of meaningful expressive means, the two notions of grammatical description shall be pointed out as central even within the framework of the structural hierarchy of language: these are, first, the notion of the word and, second, the notion of the sentence. The first is analysed by morphology, which is the grammatical teaching of the word; the second is analysed by syntax, which is the grammatical teaching of the sentence.


The morphological system of language reveals its properties through the morphemic structure of words. It follows from this that morphology as part of grammatical theory faces the two segmental units: the morpheme and the word. But, as we have already pointed out, the morpheme is not identified otherwise than part of the word; the functions of the morpheme are effected only as the corresponding constituent functions of the word as a whole.

For instance, the form of the verbal past tense is built up by means of the dental grammatical suffix: train-ed [-d]; publish-ed [-t]; meditat-ed [-id].

However, the past tense as a definite type of grammatical meaning is expressed not by the dental morpheme in isolation, but by the verb (i.e. word) taken in the corresponding form (realised by its morphemic composition); the dental suffix is immediately related to the stem of the verb and together with the stem constitutes the temporal correlation in the paradigmatic system of verbal categories

Thus, in studying the morpheme we actual study the word in the necessary details or us composition and functions.

It is very difficult to give a rigorous and at the same time universal definition to the word, i.e. such a definition as would unambiguously apply to all the different word-units of the lexicon. This difficulty is explained by the fact that the word is an extremely complex and many-sided phenomenon. Within the framework of different linguistic trends and theories the word is defined as the minimal potential sentence, the minimal free linguistic form, the elementary component of the sentence, the articulate sound-symbol, the grammatically arranged combination of sound with meaning, the meaningfully integral and immediately identifiable lingual unit, the uninterrupted string of morphemes, etc., etc. None of these definitions, which can be divided into formal, functional, and mixed, has the power to precisely cover all the lexical segments of language without a residue remaining outside the field of definition.

The said difficulties compel some linguists to refrain from accepting the word as the basic element of language. In particular, American scholars -- representatives of Descriptive Linguistics founded by L. Bloomfield -- recognised not the word and the sentence, but the phoneme and the morpheme as the basic categories of linguistic description, because these units are the easiest to be isolated in the continual text due to their «physically» minimal, elementary segmental character: the phoneme being the minimal formal segment of language, the morpheme, the minimal meaningful segment. Accordingly, only two segmental levels were originally identified in language by Descriptive scholars: the phonemic level and the morphemic level; later on a third one was added to these -- the level of «constructions», i.e. the level of morphemic combinations.

In fact, if we take such notional words as, say, water, pass, yellow and the like, as well as their simple derivatives, e.g. watery, passer, yellowness, we shall easily see their definite nominative function and unambiguous segmental delimitation, making them beyond all doubt into «separate words of language». But if we compare with the given one-stem words the corresponding composite formations, such as waterman, password, yellowback, we shall immediately note that the identification of the latter as separate words is much complicated by the fact that they themselves are decomposable into separate words. One could point out that the peculiar property distinguishing composite words from phrases is their linear indivisibility, i.e. the impossibility tor them to be divided by a third word. But this would-be rigorous criterion is quite irrelevant for analytical wordforms, e.g.: has met — has never met; is coming --is not by any means or under any circumstances coming.

As for the criterion according to which the word is identified as a minimal sign capable of functioning alone (the word understood as the «smallest free form», or interpreted as the «potential minimal sentence»), it is irrelevant for the bulk of functional words which cannot be used «independently» even in elliptical responses (to say nothing of the fact that the very notion of ellipsis is essentially the opposite of self-dependence).

In spite of the shown difficulties, however, there remains the unquestionable fact that each speaker has at his disposal a ready stock of naming units (more precisely, units standing to one another in nominative correlation) by which he can build up an infinite number of utterances reflecting the ever changing situations of reality.

This circumstance urges us to seek the identification of the word as a lingual unit-type on other lines than the «strictly operational definition». In fact, we do find the clarification of the problem in taking into consideration the difference between the two sets of lingual phenomena: on the one hand, «polar» phenomena; on the other hand, «intermediary» phenomena.

Within a complex system of interrelated elements, polar phenomena are the most clearly identifiable, they stand to one another in an utterly unambiguous opposition. Intermediary phenomena are located in the system in between the polar phenomena, making up a gradation of transitions or the so-called «continuum». By some of their properties intermediary phenomena are similar or near to one of the corresponding poles, while by other properties they are similar to the other, opposing pole. The analysis of the intermediary phenomena from the point of view of their relation to the polar phenomena reveal their own status in the system. At the same time this kind of analysis helps evaluate the definitions of the polar phenomena between which a continuum is established.

In this connection, the notional one-stem word and the morpheme should be described as the opposing polar phenomena among the meaningful segments of language; it is these elements that can be defined by their formal and functional features most precisely and unambiguously. As for functional words, they occupy intermediary positions between these poles, and their very intermediary status is gradational. In particular, the variability of their status is expressed in the fact that some of them can be used in an isolated response position (for instance, words of affirmation and negation, interrogative words, demonstrative words, etc.), while others cannot (such as prepositions or conjunctions).

The nature of the element of any system is revealed in the character of its function. The function of words is realised in their nominative correlation with one another. On the basis of this correlation a number of functional words are distinguished by the «negative delimitation» (i.e. delimitation as a residue after the identification of the co-positional textual elements),* e.g.-. the/people; to/speak; by/way/of.

The «negative delimitation'' immediately connects these functional words with the directly nominative, notional words in the system. Thus, the correlation in question (which is to be implied by the conventional term «nominative function») unites functional words with notional words, or «half-words» (word-morphemes) with «full words». On the other hand, nominative correlation reduces the morpheme as a type of segmental signeme to the role of an element in the composition of the word.

As we see, if the elementary character (indivisibility) of the morpheme (as a significative unit) is established in the structure of words, the elementary character of the word (as a nominative unit) is realised in the system of lexicon.

Summing up what has been said in this paragraph, we may point out some of the properties of the morpheme and the word which are fundamental from the point of view of their systemic status and therefore require detailed investigations and descriptions.

the morpheme is a meaningful segmental component of the word; the morpheme is formed by phonemes; as a meaningful component of the word it is elementary (i.e. indivisible into smaller segments as regards its significative function).

The word is a nominative unit of language; it is formed by morphemes; it enters the lexicon of language as its elementary component (i.e. a component indivisible into smaller segments as regards its nominative function); together with other nominative units the word is used for the formation of the sentence -- a unit of information in the communication process.

In traditional grammar the study of the morphemic structure of the word was conducted in the light of the two basic criteria: positional (the location of the marginal morphemes in relation to the central ones) and semantic or functional (the correlative contribution of the morphemes to the general meaning of the word). The combination of these two criteria in an integral description has led to the rational classification of morphemes that is widely used both in research linguistic work and in practical lingual tuition.

In accord with the traditional classification, morphemes on the upper level are divided into root-morphemes (roots) and affixal morphemes (affixes). The roots express the concrete, «material» part of the meaning of the word, while the affixes express the specificational part of the meaning of the word, the specifications being of lexico-semantic and grammatico-semantic character.

The roots of notional words are classical lexical morphemes.

The affixal morphemes include prefixes, suffixes, and inflexions (in the tradition of the English school grammatical inflexions are commonly referred to as «suffixes»). Of these, prefixes and lexical suffixes have word-building functions, together with the root they form the stem of the word; inflexions (grammatical suffixes) express different morphological categories.

The root, according to the positional content of the term (i.e. the border-area between prefixes and suffixes), is obligatory for any word, while affixes are not obligatory. Therefore one and the same morphemic segment of functional (i.e. non-notional) status, depending on various morphemic environments, can in principle be used now as an affix (mostly, a prefix), now as a root. Cf. :

out -- a root-word (preposition, adverb, verbal postposition, adjective, noun, verb);

throughout -- a composite word, in which -out serves as one of the roots (the categorial status of the meaning of both morphemes is the same);

outing -- a two-morpheme word, in which out is a root, and -ing is a suffix;

outlook, outline, outrage, out-talk, etc. -- words, in which out- serves as a prefix;

look-out, knock-out, shut-out, time-out, etc. -- words (nouns), in which -out serves as a suffix.

The morphemic composition of modern English words has a wide range of varieties; in the lexicon of everyday speech the preferable morphemic types of stems are root-stems (one-root stems or two-root stems) and one-affix stems. With grammatically changeable words, these stems take one grammatical suffix {two «open» grammatical suffixes are used only with some plural nouns in the possessive case, cf.: the children’s toys, the oxen’s yokes).

Thus, the abstract complete morphemic model of the common English word is the following: prefix + root + lexical suffix+grammatical suffix.

The syntagmatic connections of the morphemes within the model form two types of hierarchical structure. The first is characterised by the original prefixal stem (e.g. prefabricated), the second is characterised by the original suffixal stem (e.g. inheritors). If we use the symbols St for stem, R for root, Pr for prefix, L for lexical suffix, Gr for grammatical suffix, and, besides, employ three graphical symbols of hierarchical grouping -- braces, brackets, and parentheses, then the two morphemic word-structures can be presented as follows:

W1 = {[Pr + (R + L)] +Gr}; W2 = {[(Pr + R) +L] + Gr}

In the morphemic composition of more complicated words these model-types form different combinations.

Further insights into the correlation between the formal and functional aspects of morphemes within the composition of the word may be gained in the light of the so-called «allo-emic» theory put forward by Descriptive Linguistics and broadly used in the current linguistic research.

In accord with this theory, lingual units are described by means of two types of terms: allo-terms and eme-terms. Eme-terms denote the generalised invariant units of language characterised by a certain functional status: phonemes, morphemes. Allo-terms denote the concrete manifestations, or variants of the generalised units dependent on the regular co-location with other elements of language: allophones, allomorphs. A set of iso-functional allo-units identified in the text on the basis of their co-occurrence with other lingual units (distribution) is considered as the corresponding eme-unit with its fixed systemic status.

The allo-emic identification of lingual elements is achieved by means of the so-called «distributional analysis». The immediate aim of the distributional analysis is to fix and study the units of language in relation to their textual environments, i.e. the adjoining elements in the text.

The environment of a unit may be either «right» or «left», e.g.: un-pardon-able.

In this word the left environment of the root is the negative prefix un-, the right environment of the root is the qualitative suffix -able. Respectively, the root -pardon- is the right environment for the prefix, and the left environment for the suffix.

The distribution of a unit may be defined as the total of all its environments; in other words, the distribution of a unit is its environment in generalised terms of classes or categories.

In the distributional analysis on the morphemic level, phonemic distribution of morphemes and morphemic distribution of morphemes are discriminated. The study is conducted in two stages.

At the first stage, the analysed text (i.e. the collected lingual materials, or «corpus») is divided into recurrent segments consisting of phonemes. These segments are called «morphs», i.e. morphemic units distributionally uncharacterised, e.g.: the/boat/s/were/gain/ing/speed.

At the second stage, the environmental features of the morphs are established and the corresponding identifications are effected.

Three main types of distribution are discriminated in the distributional analysis, namely, contrastive distribution, non-contrastive distribution, and complementary distribution.

Contrastive and non-contrastive distributions concern identical environments of different morphs. The morphs are said to be in contrastive distribution if their meanings (functions) are different. Such morphs constitute different morphemes. Cf. the suffixes -(e)d and -ing in the verb-forms returned, returning. The morphs are said to be in non-contrastive distribution (or free alternation) if their meaning (function) is the same. Such morphs constitute «free alternants», or «free variants» of the same morpheme. Cf. the suffixes -(e)d and -t in the verb-forms learned, learnt.

As different from the above, complementary distribution concerns different environments of formally different morphs which are united by the same meaning (function). If two or more morphs have the same meaning and the difference in (heir form is explained by different environments, these morphs are said to be in complementary distribution and considered the allomorphs of the same morpheme. Cf. the allomorphs of the plural morpheme /-s/, /-z/, /-iz/ which stand in phonemic complementary distribution; the plural allomorph -en in oxen, children, which stands in morphemic complementary distribution with the other allomorphs of the plural morpheme.

As we see, for analytical purposes the notion of complementary distribution is the most important, because it helps establish the identity of outwardly altogether different elements of language, in particular, its grammatical elements.

As a result of the application of distributional analysis to the morphemic level, different types of morphemes have been discriminated which can be called the «distributional morpheme types». It must be stressed that the distributional classification of morphemes cannot abolish or in any way depreciate the traditional morpheme types. Rather, it supplements the traditional classification, showing some essential features of morphemes on the principles of environmental study.

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