Grammatical Categories of Number, Case, and Gender in Modern English. A Field Approach

Study of the basic grammatical categories of number, case and gender in modern English language with the use of a field approach. Practical analysis of grammatical categories of the English language on the example of materials of business discourse.

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Grammatical Categories of Number, Case, and Gender in Modern English. A Field Approach



Chapter 1. Grammatical Categories and Functional-Semantic Fields

1.1Nature of grammatical categories

1.2Typology of grammatical categories

1.3The theory of functional-semantic fields

Chapter 2. The Categories of Number, Case, and Gender in Terms of Field Structure

2.1 Functional-semantic field of number in Modern English

2.2 Functional semantic field of case in Modern English

2.3 Functional-semantic field of gender in Modern English





The words of every language are divided into several word classes, or parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs and adjectives etc. The words of a given class exhibit two or more forms in somewhat different grammatical circumstances. These forms are not interchangeable and each can be used only in a given grammatical situation. This variation in form is required by the existence of a grammatical category applying to that class of words. Thus a grammatical category is "a linguistic category which has the effect of modifying the forms of some class of words in a language" [53, 32]. For example, English nouns have the grammatical category of number. Thus the singular `dog' and the plural `dogs' exist but are not interchangeable in a sentence. A noun can be used only in its singular or plural form as there is no possibility of another form. English adjectives vary for degree; verbs for tense; pronouns for case etc.

Traditional grammarians divide the words of English into eight classes or parts of speech- noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, preposition, conjunction, adverb, etc.

A grammatical category is an analytical class within the grammar of a language, whose members have the same syntactic distribution and recur as structural unit throughout the language, and which share a common property which can be semantic or syntactic. In traditional structural grammar, grammatical categories are semantic distinctions; this is reflected in a morphological or syntactic paradigm. But in generative grammar, which sees meaning as separate from grammar, they are categories that define the distribution of syntactic elements. For structuralists such as Roman Jakobson grammatical categories were lexemes that were based on binary oppositions of "a single feature of meaning that is equally present in all contexts of use" [51, 37]. Another way to define a grammatical category is as a category that expresses meanings from a single conceptual domain, contrasts with other such categories, and is expressed through formally similar expressions. Another definition distinguishes grammatical categories from lexical categories, such that the elements in a grammatical category have a common grammatical meaning - that is, they are part of the language's grammatical structure.

The topic of this paper has been chosen to be “Grammatical Categories of Number, Case, and Gender in Modern English. A Field Approach”.

The topicality of this work caused by several important points. The concept of `semantic field', like the concept of `semantic frame', opened up new domains of semantic research, first in Germany in the 1930s and then in the United States in the 1970s. Both concepts brought about `revolutions' in semantics, and provided semanticists with new tools for the study of semantic change and semantic structure. Although there have been several historical accounts of the development of field semantics, there exists no detailed study linking and comparing the development of field and frame semantics. In this article we shall reconstruct the contexts in which the concepts of `field' and `frame' appeared for the first time and highlight the similarities as well as the differences between the semantic theories built on them. One of the main differences between the older and the modern traditions is that the latter no longer study how lexical fields carve up a relatively amorphous conceptual mass, as most older traditions had done, but how lexical fields are conceptually and pragmatically `framed' by or grounded in our bodily, social and cultural experiences and practices. In doing so they establish forgotten links with certain communicational and functional conceptions of semantic fields developed in the past.

The object of the investigation - grammatical categories of number, case, and gender in Modern English.

The subject of the investigation - field approach to the study of the English language grammatical categories.

Having based upon the actuality of the theme we are able to formulate the general goal of our qualification work - to investigate grammatical categories of number, case, and gender in Modern English with the field approach of the topic investigation.

The tasks of the investigation are the following:

- to investigate the nature of grammatical categories;

- to consider typology of grammatical categories;

- to characterize the theory of functional-semantic fields;

- to analyze the categories of number, case, and gender in terms of field structure.

Methods of the investigation - analysis of theoretical and practical materials on the topic under investigation, comparative analysis.

Material of the investigation and its sources. Sentences, selected from the business discourse, required for the analysis of grammatical categories.

The practical significance of the work can be concluded in the following items:

The work could serve as a good source of learning English by young teachers at schools and colleges.

The lexicologists could find a lot of interesting information for themselves.

Those who would like to communicate with the English-speaking people through the Internet will be able to use the up-to-date words with the help of our qualification work.

Having said about the linguists studied the material before we can mention that our qualification work was based upon the investigations made by a number of well known English and Russian lexicologists as M.D. Stepanova, J.Trier, S. Atkins, Charles J. Fillmore and some others.

If we say about the methods of scientific approaches used in our work we can mention that the method of typological analysis was used.

The theoretical significance of the investigation is predetermined by the summarization of the theoretical material on English grammatical categories in accordance with the field approach.

The novelty of the investigation in characterized by the analysis of the English language grammatical categories with the field approach on the basis of business discourse materials.

The practical value of the research lies in the fact that it is impossible to reach high level of competence without understanding the nature of the concept grammatical categories in Modern English.

The volume of the investigation. The volume of the investigation includes 60 pages.

The structure of the investigation. The paper consists of the introduction, two chapters, conclusion, bibliography and summary.

Chapter 1. Grammatical Categories and Functional-Semantic Fields

1.1Nature of grammatical categories

The grammatical signals have a meaning of their own independent of the meaning of the notionalwords. This can be illustrated by the following sentence with nonsensical words: Woggles ugged diggles.

According to Ch. Fries [44] the morphological and the syntactic signals in the given sentencemake us understand that “several actors acted upon some objects”. This sentence which is a syntacticsignal, makes the listener understand it as a declarative sentence whose grammatical meaning is actor -action - thing acted upon. One can easily change (transform) the sentence into the singular (A woggleugged a diggle.), negative (A woggle did not ugg a diggle.), or interrogative (Did a woggle ugg adiggle?) All these operations are grammatical. Then what are the main units of grammar - structure.

Let us assume, for example, a situation in which are involved a man, a boy, some money, an actof giving, the man the giver, the boy the receiver, the time of the transaction - yesterday...

Any one of the units man, boy, money, giver, yesterday could appear in the linguistic structure as subject.

The man gave the boy the money yesterday.

The boy was given the money by the man yesterday.

The money was given the boy by the man yesterday.

The giving of the money to the boy by the man occurred yesterday.

Yesterday was the time of the giving of the money to the boy by the man.

"Subject" then is a formal linguistic structural matter.

Thus, the grammatical meaning of a syntactic construction shows the relation between the words in it.

We have just mentioned here "grammatical meaning", “grammatical utterance”. The whole complex of linguisticmeans made use of grouping words into utterances is called a grammatical structure of the language [43].

All the means which are used to group words into the sentence exist as a certain system; they are interconnectedand interdependent. They constitute the sentence structure.

All the words of a language fall, as we stated above, under notional and functional words.

A grammatical category is a property of items within the grammar of a language; it has a number of possible values (sometimes called exponents, or grammemes), which are normally mutually exclusive within a given category. Examples of frequently encountered grammatical categories include tense (which may take values such as present, past, etc.), number (with values such as singular, plural, and sometimes dual), and gender (with values such as masculine, feminine and neuter).

Although terminology is not always consistent, a distinction should be made between these grammatical categories (tense, number, etc.) and lexical categories, which are closely synonymous with the traditional parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.), or more generally syntactic categories. Grammatical categories are also referred to as (grammatical) features.

The name given to a grammatical category (as an uncountable noun) is generally also used (as a countable noun) to denote any of the possible values for that category. For example, the values available in a given language for the category "tense" are called "tenses", the values available for the category "gender" are called "genders", and so on.

A given constituent of an expression can normally take only one value from a particular category. For example, a noun or noun phrase cannot be both singular and plural, since these are both values of the category of number. It can, however, be both plural and feminine, since these represent different categories (number and gender).

Categories may be described and named with regard to the type of meanings that they are used to express. For example, the category of tense is considered to serve to express time of occurrence (as in past, present or future). However, purely grammatical features do not always correspond simply or consistently to elements of meaning, and different authors may take significantly different approaches in their terminology and analysis. For example, the meanings associated with the categories of tense, aspect and mood are often bound in up verb conjugation patterns that do not have separate grammatical elements corresponding to each of the three categories; see Tense-aspect-mood.

Categories may be marked on words by means of inflection. In English, for example, the number of a noun is usually marked by leaving the noun uninflected if it is singular, and by adding the suffix -s if it is plural (although some nouns have irregular plural forms). On other occasions, a category may not be marked overtly on the item to which it pertains, being manifested only through other grammatical features of the sentence, often by way of grammatical agreement.

For example:

The bird can sing./The birds can sing.

In the above sentences, the number of the noun is marked overtly by the absence or presence of the ending -s.

The sheep is running./The sheep are running.

In the above, the number of the noun is not marked on the noun itself (sheep does not inflect according to the regular pattern), but it is reflected in agreement between the noun and verb: singular number triggers is, and plural number are.

The bird is singing./The birds are singing.

In this case the number is marked overtly on the noun, and is also reflected by verb agreement.


The sheep can run.[36]

In this case the number of the noun (or of the verb) is not manifested at all in the surface form of the sentence, and thus ambiguity is introduced (at least, when the sentence is viewed in isolation).

Exponents of grammatical categories are often expressed in the same position or 'slot' in the word (such as prefix, suffix or enclitic). An example of this is the Latin cases, which are all suffixal: rosa, rosae, rosae, rosam, rosв ("rose", in nominative, genitive, dative, accusative and ablative).

Categories can also pertain to sentence constituents that are larger than a single word (phrases, or sometimes clauses). A phrase often inherits category values from its head word; for example, in the above sentences, the noun phrase the birds inherits plural number from the noun birds. In other cases such values are associated with the way in which the phrase is constructed; for example, in the coordinated noun phrase Tom and Mary, the phrase has plural number (it would take a plural verb), even though both the nouns from which it is built up are singular.

In traditional structural grammar, grammatical categories are semantic distinctions; this is reflected in a morphological or syntactic paradigm. But in generative grammar, which sees meaning as separate from grammar, they are categories that define the distribution of syntactic elements.[1] For structuralists such as Roman Jakobson grammatical categories were lexemes that were based on binary oppositions of "a single feature of meaning that is equally present in all contexts of use". Another way to define a grammatical category is as a category that expresses meanings from a single conceptual domain, contrasts with other such categories, and is expressed through formally similar expressions.[17] Another definition distinguishes grammatical categories from lexical categories, such that the elements in a grammatical category have a common grammatical meaning - that is, they are part of the language's grammatical structure.

"Grammatical category is a linguistic category which has the effect of modifying the forms of some class of words in a language. The words of everyday language are divided up into several word classes, or parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs and adjectives. It often happens that the words in a given class exhibit two or more forms used in somewhat different grammatical circumstances. In each such case, this variation in form is required by the presence in the language of one or more grammatical categories applying to that class of words.

"English nouns are affected by only one grammatical category, that of number: we have singular dog but plural dogs, and so on for most (but not all) of the nouns in the language. These forms are not interchangeable, and each must be used always and only in specified grammatical circumstances. And here is a key point: we must always use a noun in either its singular form or its plural form, even when the choice seems irrelevant; there is no possibility of avoiding the choice, and there is no third form which is not marked one way or the other. This is typically the case with grammatical categories."

"It is important to keep in mind that a grammatical category is a linguistic, not a real-world, category, and that there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between the two, though they are usually closely related. For example 'tense' is a linguistic category, while 'time' is a category of the world. While past tense usually expresses past time (as in I saw a movie last night), the past-tense auxiliary in the following expresses future time: I wish you would go. And the present-tense verb of I leave tomorrow expresses future time."[21]

"Words are assigned to grammatical categories in traditional grammar on the basis of their shared semantic, morphological and syntactic properties. The kind of semantic criteria (sometimes called 'notional' criteria) used to categorise words in traditional grammar are illustrated in much-simplified form below:

Verbs denote actions (go, destroy, buy, eat etc.)

Nouns denote entities (car, cat, hill, John etc.)

Adjectives denote states (ill, happy, rich etc.)

Adverbs denote manner (badly, slowly, painfully, cynically etc.)

Prepositions denote location (under, over, outside, in, on etc.)

However, semantically based criteria for identifying categories must be used with care: for example, assassination denotes an action but is a noun, not a verb; illness denotes a state but is a noun, not an adjective; . . . and Cambridge denotes a location but is a noun, not a preposition."[41]

Any research presupposes bringing into certain order the material being studied. The issue underthe consideration is also an attempt to generalize the grammatical means of language.

There are many conceptions on the problem today. According to B. Golovin [21] “a grammatical category is a reallinguistic unity of grammatical meaning and the means of its material expression”. It means that in order to call a linguisticphenomenon a grammatical category there must be a grammatical meaning and grammatical means.

M.Y. Blokh [37] explains it as follows: “As for the grammatical category itself, it presents, thesame as the grammatical "form", a unity of form (i.e. material factor), and meanings (i.e. ideal factor)and constitutes a certain signemic system.

More specifically the grammatical category is a system of expressing a generalized grammaticalmeaning by means of paradigmatic correlation of grammatical forms.

The paradigmatic correlations of grammatical forms in a category are exposed by the so - called “grammaticaloppositions”.

The opposition (in the linguistic sense) may be defined as a generalized correlation of lingualforms by means of which a certain function is expressed. The correlated elements (members) of theopposition must possess two types of features:common features and differential features. Common features serve as the basis of contrast whiledifferential features immediately express the function in question.

The grammatical categories are better to explain by comparing them with logical categories. The grammaticalcategories are opposed to logical ones. The logical categories are universal for all the languages. Any meanings can beexpressed in any language. For instance there's a logical category of possession. The meaning of possession can beexpressed in all the languages, compare: My book (English) - Моя книга (Russian) - Менинг китобим (Uzbek).

As it is seen from the examples the meaning of possession in English and Russian is expressed, by the possessivepronouns (lexical means) while in Uzbek it can be expressed either by the help of a discontinuous morpheme (...нинг ...им)or by one overt morpheme (…им). This category is grammatical in Uzbek but lexical in the other two languages. Thus theuniversal logical categories can be expressed by grammatical and non - grammatical (lexical, syntactic) means. Thegrammatical categories are those logical ones that are expressed in languages by constant grammatical means.

The doctrines mentioned above one - side approach to the problem. It is a rather complicatedissue in the general linguistics. But unfortunately we don't have universally acknowledged criteria tomeet the needs of individual languages.

One of the most consistent theories of the grammatical categories is the one that is suggested by L. Barkhudarov.

According to his opinion in order to call a linguistic phenomenon a grammatical category there must be thefollowing features:

- general grammatical meaning;

- this meaning must consist of at least two particular meanings;

- the particular meanings must be opposed to each - other:

- the particular meanings must have constant grammatical means to express them [15].

Thus, any linguistic phenomenon that meets these requirements is called a grammatical category.

English nouns have a grammatical category of number. This category has all the requirements that are necessary for a grammatical category:

1. it has general grammatical meaning of number;

2. it consists of two particular meanings; singular and plural;

3. singular is opposed to plural, they are antonymous;

4. singular and plural have their own constant grammatical means:

singular is represented by a zero morpheme and plural has the allomorphs like (s), (z), (iz). There are some other means toexpress singular and plural in English but they make very small percentage compared with regular means.

Another example. In English adjectives there's one grammatical category - the degrees ofcomparison. What features does it have?

1. It has a general grammatical meaning: degrees of comparison;

2. The degrees of comparison consist of three particular meanings: positive, comparative and superlative;

3. They are opposed to each - other;

4. They have their own grammatical means depending on the number of syllables in the word.

If in the category of number of nouns there are two particular meanings, in the grammaticalcategory of degrees of comparison there are three.

Few introductions to syntax or linguistics in general even mention the grammatical categories of tense, aspect, mood, case, number, gender and voice, or transitivity, to use the current term.

Formal models of syntax are unenlightening on such topics and most undergraduate courses in linguistics in the UK do not offer courses on grammatical categories. Nonetheless the categories are studied by language typologists; tense, aspect and mood have long attracted serious attention among cognitive scientists, discourse analysts and philosophers; and two recent semantics textbooks make room for tense, aspect, mood and case [31].

Why include grammatical categories in an undergraduate linguistics programme? Grammatical categories connect grammar and semantics. They are central to the syntactic structure of clauses; in logic they are important for the analysis of propositions. Briefly, case has to do with the relations between the verb in a given clause and the nouns; aspect has to do with the type of situation and whether the speaker presents a situation as on-going or completed; tense has to do with events being located in past, present or future time by the speaker; mood has to do with whether the speaker presents an event as a fact, a possibility or a necessity, with whether the speaker witnessed a given event directly or has merely heard about it - in short, with the attitudes and expectations of speakers regarding states of affairs and propositions.

Reference grammars of particular languages devote much space to grammatical categories but little or none to constituent structure. Constituent structure does not cause major problems for the non-native learners of a given language but its systems of case-marking, mood, tense and aspect do. All reference grammars for non-native learners covertly use theories of tense, aspect, etc. and a useful exercise for students of languages and linguistics is to compare a given reference grammar with theoretical work on a given category. [32]

Grammatical categories bear on various major issues. Logicians are concerned with truth and falsity. The analysis of, e.g., tense, aspect and case must be anchored in truth-conditions but detailed analysis of natural languages raises fundamental questions about language, the extra-linguistic world, mental representations and metaphor.

A currently salient topic of research is grammaticalisation. The central idea is that constructions with abstract meanings develop historically from constructions with concrete meanings. Grammaticalisation is relevant not just to semantics and historical change but to language and cognition, first language acquisition and the origin and evolution of language.

Thus, a grammatical category is a linguistic phenomenon that has a general grammatical meaning consisting of atleast two particular meanings that are opposed to each - other and that have constant grammatical means of their own toexpress them.

1.2Typology of grammatical categories

The grammatical category organizes grammatical functions into different categories. The functions might affect words in different ways due to their varied morphology, but they perform the same basic grammatical function. There are a total of 20 grammatical functions in linguistics; not all languages have all these functions, and they are often manifested in different ways. Such functions include tense, plurality, time and gender.

Grammar is a term given to the structural rules governing a language. Such rules are explained in textbooks and grammar books, and they are taught to new language learners, however, they are understood instinctively by native speakers. The use and importance of grammar came relatively late to the English language. From 1066 until the 15th century, it was the language of the lower classes, and grammatical theory was not applied to it until the 17th century. English grammar has since been inspired chiefly by Latin grammar, leading to problems such as the split infinitive.

The first grammatical category is animacy. Animacy is used to indicate whether a noun is animate or inanimate. It often affects the verb used with the noun. The aspect grammatical category adds a specific or general sense of time and is related to, but distinct from, tense.

Case indicates whether a noun is the subject, object or possessor in a sentence. Clusivity indicates whether a first-person pronoun such as `we' is inclusive or exclusive. For example, languages with clusivity can differentiate between we meaning `all of us' and we meaning `us, but not you.' The definiteness grammatical category tells the reader/listener how definite or not an action is. For example, it differentiates between `I listened to a song' and `I listened to the song.'

The degree of comparison regulates the three main types of adjectives and adverbs. These are divided into positive, comparative and superlative like `big,' `bigger' and `biggest.' Evidentiality indicates if the sentence is based on evidence or not, and if so, to what degree. Focus relates information in one sentence to information given previously [33].

Gender is used in various languages to indicate the gender of the speaker, subject or object by modifying nouns, adjectives and verbs. It used to be present in Old English, but has disappeared from modern English. The grammatical category mirativity is used in some languages to indicate surprise within a sentence by using suffices or other indicators rather than exclamation marks and intonation.

Modality allows a speaker or reader to analyze a sentence by the use of auxiliary verbs and adverbs. Verbs signal moods created by modality using changes from the grammatical category called mood. A noun class organizes nouns by either their meaning or by their morphological aspects. Person defines the usage of pronouns and, therefore, affects verb and noun forms.

Polarity is a grammatical category that distinguishes between positive and negative aspects. In English, the negative is shown as `not,' such as, `Dave does not play tennis.' Topic defines what the sentence is about and is usually linked to the subject of the sentence or clause. Transivity demonstrates the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. The final grammatical category is voice, which structures the relationship between the verb and the subject and object of a sentence.

As there are relatively many English verb tenses, verbs in English come in many forms that provide different shades of meaning. However, English verbs comprise a much easier verb system than that of other languages that have distinct inflectional verb endings for different persons and number, or even change the verb stem with various tenses and aspects. In English only one verb ending remained, for verbs in the third person singular in the Present Simple tense.

Dan cooks dinner for us 3 times a week.

[3rd person, singular, present, simple, indicative, active, meaning: habit in the present]

Yesterday we were cooking for hours on end.

[1st person, plural, past, progressive, indicative, active, meaning: action in the past that continued over an extended period of time]

She would have cooked, if you had asked her to.

(but in reality you didn't ask so she didn't cook)

[would have cooked: 3rd person, singular, past, conditional, active,meaning: hypothetic outcome in the past, contrary to fact]

[had asked: 2nd person, singular, past, perfect, subjunctive, active,meaning: hypothetic assumption in the past, contrary to fact]

I suggest that dinner be cooked no later than 20:00.

[3rd person, singular, present, subjunctive, passive,meaning: strong recommendation, which will not necessarily be fulfilled]

Jimmy wrote the letters.

Jimmy wrote two letters.

Clark unbuttoned his shirt.

Lois reread the chapter.

In the last section, we saw that morphemes can be divided into those with relatively specific meanings and belonging to large, open-ended classes -- lexical morphemes -- and those with very abstract meanings and belonging to small, closed classes -- grammatical morphemes. In this section and the next, we'll look more closely at some of the meanings and functions that grammatical morphemes have [27]. Grammatical morphemes are always associated with a particular lexical morpheme. They may be combined with the lexical morpheme to form a single word, as in apples or walked, or they may form a separate word that belongs to the same phrase as the lexical morpheme, as in the apple or is walking.

Grammatical morphemes have two basic kinds of functions distinguished from one another in terms of how the morphemes relate to the lexical morpheme that they combine with. One function, the subject of the next chapter, is the creation of a new concept based on the meaning of the lexical morpheme. For example, in shorten, the -en takes the meaning of the adjective short and turns it into a change of state along the dimension of length. In the process -en makes a verb out of the adjective. This function of grammatical morphemes is called derivation.

The other function of grammatical morphemes, the subject of the rest of this chapter, is similar to modification; the grammatical morpheme specifies some very abstract feature of the category that is the meaning of the lexical morpheme. In other words, its meaning is a very abstract grammatical category. For example, in walked, the -ed specifies that the walking took place before the time of speaking; it assigns the feature past to the event. In other words, past, contrasting with present and future, is a grammatical category in English. The combination of a grammatical morpheme with a lexical morpheme to form a word, as in walked, is called inflection. As we'll see, though, grammatical categories can also be defined by grammatical morphemes that are separate words.

Languages differ quite strikingly in terms of which grammatical categories are built into their morphology. In this section I'll describe a few of the kinds of grammatical categories that play a role in noun phrases. In the next section, I'll describe some grammatical categories that are marked on verbs.

People not only have the capacity to recognize individual objects in their environment and categorize them as apples, stones, people, etc. They have the ability to recognize sets of objects that share a category, for example, sets of apples, stones, or people. Though an individual and a set seem to be very different things, the categorization process for the individual and for the elements of the set must be similar. This is reflected in an apparently universal property of human language: the same morpheme is used for individual objects belonging to a category and for sets of objects whose members belong to that category. In English, the morpheme apple is applied both to individual apples and to sets of apples.

People have a further ability; they can assign a cardinality to a set, that is, they can tell (or estimate) how many elements are in the set. And apparently all languages have systems of numerals such as two and eight. Each numeral is a label for a category of set, independent of what kinds of members the set has. For example, eight labels the category of sets consisting of eight elements.

Now let's imagine two tribes of Grammies. One uses common nouns like apple and tiger and numerals like two and eight, as well as adjectives like many, to talk about individuals and sets and finds that these forms suffice. They say things like give me apple whether they want one or several, and when it matters, they say things like give me two apple or give me several apple.

In another tribe, for one reason or another, a subgroup of members begins to explicitly mention whenever they are talking about a set rather than an individual. So they say things like give me apple, some whenever they want more than one and give me apple when they want exactly one. But they leave out the some when there is a numeral because the numeral makes it clear that more than one is intended. This practice catches on, and eventually two things happen. First, because the some doesn't convey very much information, it gets pronounced more and more quickly and carelessly, and eventually all that's left of it is the s at the beginning. This s is pronounced as if it were part of the noun that it follows, and it even assimilates to the voicing of the last phone in the noun, so it is pronounced /z/ in apples. Second, the members of the tribe find it weird to say apple whenever they mean more than one, even when the context makes it clear that they do. So now they say things like give me two apples. [37]

Even though this story is completely fictitious, it illustrates what has apparently happened in two kinds of modern languages. English is a language of the second type. It is ungrammatical in English to say apple when more than one apple is referred to. It is of course equally ungrammatical to say apples when only one apple is referred to. English grammar makes a two-way distinction in the way objects are referred to: individual objects and sets of objects are referred to differently. That is, English has the grammatical dimension number with two values or grammatical categories, singular and plural. English nouns are inflected for number, and number inflection is obligatory. Thus three apple and lots of person are ungrammatical in English.

The grammar of a language may "force" its speakers to use certain morphemes in certain contexts, even when they seem to contribute nothing to the meaning.

Notice that in the case of the phrase three apples, the plural morpheme, -s, doesn't really carry any information; the numeral already makes it clear that more than apples is being referred to. That is, the grammatical morpheme is redundant. Redundancy is a frequent property of grammatical morphemes. Because they are obligatory, Speakers in a sense do not ask themselves whether they are necessary when producing sentences; they insert them in any case. It may seem odd that language would allow redundancy, but it is probably helpful to Hearers. Redundancy permits Hearers to understand the message even when they miss some part of it.

Number appears in English grammar in multiple places.

When a dimension such as number is part of the grammar of a language, it often turns up in more than one place. This is true for number in English. Consider the following sentences.

An apple is on the table.

Some apples are on the table.

Apple and apples are preceded by the words an and some. These words are called indefinite articles; both function roughly to say that the thing referred to is not already known to the hearer. But they differ in another way: an (or a) is used only before singular nouns, while some is used before plural nouns (and also before some singular nouns; more about this below). That is, these words also distinguish singular from plural. The verbs in the two sentences are also different. Is is appropriate only when the subject is singular, whereas are is used when the subject is plural. Again, the distinction between singular and plural matters somewhere in the grammar of the language.


In English we can say lots of milk, lots of sand, and lots of salt, but not normally lots of milks, lots of sands, and lots of salts. On the other hand, we can say lots of girls, lots of trees, and lots of rivers, but not normally lots of girl, lots of tree, and lots of river.

There is another grammatical dimension with two values in English that is tied up with the use of plural and the distinction between a(n) and some. Consider these sentences.

Some rice is on the table.

Two piles of rice are on the table.

Notice that in sentence 5, rice is singular, and the verb is also in the singular form is. However, instead of a, the noun is preceded by some, the form used with a plural noun in sentence 4. In fact no matter how much there is on the table, we still won't say some rices. If the Speaker wants to mention the amount of rice, they have to use another noun such as pile or bowl or cup, putting that noun in the plural, as in sentence 6.

In the English lexicon, peas are like beans and potatoes; rice is like sugar and vinegar.

Apparently English has two kinds of nouns. One kind, count nouns, is used mainly for objects (and for abstract things that are construed as object-like). In the singular these nouns may be preceded by the article a(n), and they are always pluralized when more than one of the objects is referred to. The other kind, mass nouns, is used mainly for masses (and for abstract things that are construed as mass-like). These nouns are always singular except in the special sense of 'multiple kinds' (for example, wines referring to different brands or varieties of wine), and they may be preceded by the article some. Of course there is a gray area between clear cases of objects and clear cases of masses, and in this area, a noun can go either way. Thus rice, as we have seen, is a mass noun. But pea, which designates something that, like rice, consists of small objects usually gathered together in a group, is a count noun. (In fact pea, in the form pease, used to be a mass noun like rice.)

So English has the dimension of countability built into its grammar. But note that it appears in the language in two places, in the grammatical forms that go with one or the other category (a(n) with singular, some with plural for count; some with singular and no plural for mass) and in the lexicon, where most nouns belong to one or the other type. That is, there is a strong tendency in English for the count grammatical patterns to go with certain nouns (such as apple and house) and the mass grammatical patterns to go with other nouns (such as rice and milk).


We have seen three ways in which languages may divide the things that speakers talk about into two very general categories, on the basis of whether they are individuals or sets, on the basis of whether they are masses or objects, and on the basis of a single conceptual property (biological gender) that is extended more or less arbitrarily to cover all labeled categories of things. Another possibility, found in many languages, is a somewhat finer-grained grouping into a larger set of categories, each of which is still more general than the kind of category represented by a noun such as apple, baby, or paper. Each of these abstract categories is represented by a grammatical morpheme called a classifier. The most common basis for the classification of things appears to be shape, but it may also be based on orientation, animacy, function, or cardinality (for sets) [34].

Boye [38] argues for a particular type of cross-linguistically valid grammatical categories, which he calls generic categories. Generic categories are categories encompassing conceptually related notions, e.g. present, past, and future, or epistemic and deontic. These can be described in terms of some more abstract notion that is used to define the category, such as tense or modality.

Generic categories are commonly used in linguistic analysis, but a great deal of controversy exists about what exact generic categories should be posited, for instance whether or not evidentiality can be regarded as a category in its own right. Boye argues that this is because proposals about generic categories are usually based on arbitrary notional criteria. Instead, generic categories should correspond to linguistically significant generalizations, that is, they should capture some organizing principle in the grammar of individual languages. In fact, Boye argues, generic categories are necessary in linguistic analysis precisely because they appear to play a role in a number of grammatical phenomena cross-linguistically. Claims about generic categories should be based on semantic maps, because the fact that the notions encompassed by a generic category cover a continuous region on a semantic map is evidence that the category corresponds to a linguistically significant rather than a linguist's arbitrary generalization.

In what follows, I will argue that Boye's proposal, along with much of the current literature on grammatical categories, does not distinguish between two possible senses of the notion of grammatical category, and that this distinction is essential to a proper understanding of what evidence can actually be used to posit individual categories, including evidence from semantic maps.

In principle, grammatical categories can be conceived of either as a linguist's classification device, or as components of the grammatical organization of individual languages, as presumably specified at some level of mental representation. In the first sense, individual categories, e.g. tense or evidentiality, are labels indicating that a number of linguistic elements share some selected property. This is a descriptive generalization over observed grammatical patterns, which does not imply that the relevant elements form a class in a speaker's mental representation. In the second sense, grammatical categories are classes that have psychological reality, that is, they exist in a speaker's mind independently of a linguist's description of observed grammatical patterns.

Boye [38] claims that he regards generic categories as a linguist's theoretical construct rather than cognitive entities with ontological reality. This suggests that he is using the notion of generic category in the descriptive sense, that is, to classify particular grammatical patterns rather than to make hypotheses about a speaker's mental representation. In this case, however, what generic categories (or grammatical categories in general, for that matter) should be posited for a language is basically a conventional issue which depends on what parameters are selectedto define individual categories, and any parameter can be chosen provided that it is applied consistently.

Boye's claim that generic categories should correspond to linguistically significant generalizations implies that positing particular generic categories should not be a matter of convention, and that these categories should rather play a role in the grammar of individual languages. There is, however, only one possible sense in which a category can be assumed to exist in the grammar of a language independently of a linguist's descriptive convention, namely, the category must have some form of mental reality for the speakers of the language. This may be either because the category is part of a speaker's mental representation of individual constructions, or because it plays a role in the diachronic processes that lead speakers to create particular contructions, even if it is not part of a speaker's mental representation of already attested constructions.

Thus, if generic categories are assumed to capture linguistically significant generalizations, they must be assumed to have some form of mental reality.

Boye's first argument for generic categories is that, in a number of languages, forms encoding notions within the same generic category do indeed display the same distributional properties (for example, Ngyambaa evidential clitics are characterized by specific ordering restrictions). These properties single out the forms as a separate class within the grammar of the language, which can be taken as evidence that the relevant generic categories (e.g. evidentiality) play a role in that grammar [38].

The fact that elements within the same semantic domain have the same distributional properties, however, does not mean that these properties are related to the corresponding generic categories. For example, it is well known that different forms within the domain of tense, aspect, or modality may all develop from verbs [39]. As a result, these forms may all be subject to ordering restrictions that reflect the position that verbs occupy or used to occupy in the clause. These restrictions will be different from those pertaining to forms that originated from sources other than verbs, and they will single out the relevant forms as a distinct grammatical class in the language. This, however, is due to the position of verbs in the clause, not any generic category of tense, aspect, or modality that can be used to describe the semantics of the forms.

Such examples, which could easily be multiplied, do not exclude that particular grammatical phenomena may actually be based on generic categories. The point is, however, that the fact that forms within the same semantic domain have the same distributional properties is not per se evidence for the corresponding generic categories, because the properties may be independent of these categories. Whether and in what ways generic categories play a role in particular grammatical phenomena should rather be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis.

Boye's second argument for generic categories presents a similar problem. The fact that particular semantic maps (e.g. those for indefinite pronouns) encompass notions that can be described in terms of generic categories, Boye argues, is evidence that these categories play a role in the grammar of the relevant languages [38]. From this, he concludes that semantic maps can be used to test claims about generic categories, because the members of a generic category should always cover a continuous region on a semantic map.

1.3The theory of functional-semantic fields

The field principle conception of the system organization of linguistic facts is fairly considered to be one of the most significant achievements of the XX century linguistics. The concept of “field” traces back to the definition of language as the system, representing complex mechanism, which was theoretically explained by I.A. Boduen de Kurtene and F. de Saussure. Field approach to the stock of words (lexis) is more than half-century history of development. Researchers of different generations, national schools and directions, interpret the term of “field” differently, which points to different experience of the problem development, rather than the differences of fundamental theoretical character [41].

The promoters of this direction in the study of language were G.Ipsen and J. Trier, German scientists. Originally the term “semantic field” was noticed on the pages of G. Ipsen's work “Der alte Orient und die Indogermanem”, in 1924, where it was determined as the assembly of words, possessing the same meaning [45].

J. Trier's conception was of a great popularity abroad. After F. de Saussure, Trier regards that the language of a certain period is a stable and relatively completed system, where words possess meanings not independently, but because other words, closely-spaced with former ones, possess them as well. Trier's merit is regarded to be the clearage of the terms of “lexical field”, divided into elementary items - concepts. He also introduced these terms into linguistic use. The fields of this kind are rightfully named paradigmatic ones.

It is regarded to be rightful for some scientists to confirm the existence of several types of fields. But there are also points of view, when preference is given to those semantic fields, which elements possess common meaning. So, O. Dukhachek considers that the word stock of any language represents a structural entire, where each word lies in a proper place owing to its semantic structure and attitude to other words. The linguist draws attention to generally recognized thesis, that the unity of form and content is realized in the word, owing to which words are connected to each other based on some collectivity of form and certain affinity of meaning. Therewith meaning is regarded as complex and determined as the realization of summation of national base and all conceptual, emotional, expressive, grammar and stylistic secondary components. It allows O. Dukhachek to postulate the two main types of linguistic fields: verbal linguistic fields, a centre of which is a word, and conceptual linguistic fields, where words are linked by the fact, that they contain one common meaning (elementary fields) and some close meanings (complex fields) in their semantics.

Verbal fields are divided by O. Dukhachek into morphological, syntactical (syntagmatic) and associative. In morphological fields their separate elements are grouped around frame word (it represents the field centre, shaping the whole unit based on relationship or similarity). Homographs, homophones, paronyms, words, derived from single radical, words, formed by dint of identical prefixes or suffixes or not having inflexions common in form, belong to this [44]. Within syntagmatic fields words are linked with central member with the help of associations, built upon formal or semantic likeness, and sometimes upon both of these simultaneously.

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