The individualizing function

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

a) adjectives in the superlative degree

e.g. This is the easiest way out.

b) ordinal numerals

e.g. I have forgotten the first word.

c) attributive relative restrictive clauses

e.g. I need the book I bought yesterday.

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

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

The toasts were in champagne.

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

Лекция № 27

Местоимение. Числительное

The Pronoun. The Number

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

1. Jane (you don’t know who she is).

2. Jane’s forthcoming marriage.

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

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

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

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

До кімнати увійшов чоловік. A man entered the room.

Чоловік увійшов до кімнати. The man entered the room.

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

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

The dog is man’s friend (any dog).

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

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.

Iron is metal.

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

A dog is stronger than a cat.

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

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

The noun is a part of speech which denotes substance.

The tragedy of life is indifference.

Лекция № 28

Слова категории состояния

Words of state

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Лекция № 29

Артикль, междометия

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