The forms that English words may be given and the sequences in which they are arranged with other words to express larger, more complex meanings make up the syntactic pattern or system of English.
The syntax of English –the third level of grammar and the third level of analysis –deals with the more complex combinations of linguistic forms. Identification of a word class is not, then, a matter of “What do these words mean?” but “How do they fit into a pattern?” “What forms will they take?” and “How do they behave in combination with other forms?” (1999, Herndon)
The way in which words are put together to form constructions (American Heritage Dictionary)
The devices used by structuralists for establishing word classes in English include consideration of ways in which certain types of words can be grouped into sets, called paradigms , on the basis of the inflectional and derivational affixes that they will take.
They are sets of forms. Each set is made up of a base form (singular), plus whatever morphemic changes –either the addition of suffixes or sound changes or both –may be used to adapt the base form to certain functions without changing the lexical meaning.
For example, the inflectional paradigm for the class form (NOUNS) is made up as follows.
NOUNS:INFLECTIONAL PARADIGMS Base (singular) Base Form + plural Base Form + possessive Base Form + Possessive plural teacher teachers teacher’s teacher’s desk teachers’ teachers’ rights student students student’s students’
derivational paradigms are made up of sets of endings that may be attached to bases that may shift their lexical meaning or part of speech or both. some examples of noun-marking derivational suffixes are –hood, -ship, -ness, and –ment. words having these endings are recognized, even in isolation, as nouns.
Intonation Patterns –contrasts made by the differences of stress, pitch, and juncture often identify a form as belonging to one word class or another. For example the difference between the noun contract and the verb contract, is determined by differences in intonation pattern.
Position or Word Order – word classes are usually identifiable on the basis of where they appear in a given sentence. Many words are not recognizable as a single part of speech when they are met in isolation. According to Herndon, we do not need the structuralists to prove this, but rather to rely on Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which lists the word round as adjective, noun, transitive verb, preposition, and adverb. In order to isolate the definition that you seek, you must have the word in a context .
Inflectional paradigm –generally speaking, nouns are forms that will accept inflections. (slide # 5)
Derivational paradigms –many forms may be recognized as nouns on the basis of various noun-marking derivational suffixes added either to bound bases or to other words –often words belonging to other classes. There are literally dozens of these endings. For example, -er, -or, and –ment adapt verbs to use as nouns;
Examples: verbs + derivational suffix = noun
work + er = worker
play + er = player
stimulate + or = stimulator
govern + ment = government
3. Intonation Pattern – differences of stress may distinguish nouns from verbs (slide # 7). Heavier stress on the first syllable almost always signals a noun; heavier stress on the second signals a verb. noun -súspect / verb -suspéct
Nouns fill certain characteristic positions in relation to other parts of speech. The most obvious is that just before the verb.
Examples: The _____ is here. These _____ are beautiful!
5. Function Words –In English, noun determiners immediately precede nouns or precede them with certain words in between. Some noun determiners never appear except when followed by a noun and invariably signal its coming. These are the articles the, a, and an and the possessive pronouns my, your, our, and their. Other pronouns are quite frequently used as determiners, but have other functions as well. These are the demonstratives this, that, these, and those and the other possessive pronouns, his, her, and its.
When considered a separate class, pronouns are Class II words, but most school texts consider them a subcategory of nouns.
In contrast to nouns, pronouns constitute a closed class –no new pronouns have been added to English for hundreds of years. If anything, the class has become smaller instead, as few speakers now make use of the forms thee, thou, thy, and thine.
Personal pronouns fall into an inflectional paradigm that is similar to, but not exactly like, that for nouns. Forms show both number and the possessive case, but they also show gender and the nominative and objective cases.
Example: he / his / him (see enclosures)
Pronouns, in most cases are identifiable by the ability of each to substitute for a type of noun or noun phrase.
a. Inflectional Paradigm –English verbs commonly have five forms , the base form and four inflected forms. These inflections are the present 3 rd person singular, the past, the present participle, and the past participle form. (see example below)
The present 3 rd singular is similar in many ways to the noun inflections
The past tense, or preterit, is commonly formed with the –ed ending, but there are several irregular allomorphs.
The present participle is formed by an – ing suffix.
The past participle makes use of –ed and – en endings or internal vowel changes. In a class by itself in many ways is the verb be , which has eight inflected forms (be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been)
Some verbs are marked by suffixes such as the –ate ending added to bound bases and nouns, the –ize added to bound bases, nouns, and adjectives, and the –fy added to bound bases, nouns, and adjectives, and the prefix –en added to nouns and some other verbs.
Examples: summarize, beautify, locate, etc.
c. Intonation Pattern See contrasts with nouns marked by intonation
d. POSITION OR WORD ORDER
Some positions mark verbs. Verbs commonly occupy the first position in requests, a position between two nouns or pronouns, or between noun and adjective or adverb. Here’s a simple set of test frames for verbs.
The child may___ something.
The children ___ friendly.
___ you ____ me that?
e. Function Words – function words that work with verbs are the various forms of have and be and the modals can, may, should, will, and others. (1999, Herndon)
In a few cases adverbs admit the comparative and superlative degree endings (er, est), usually they use more and most. Some adverbs have a base form that also serves as an adjective (fast, hard). In this case the class will depend upon other structural devices.
Derivational Paradigm –the most common adverb-marking suffix is the –ly added to adjectives (common + ly), (soft+ ly), (bare + ly). .
There are other combinations.
The intonation patterns of larger structures often show adverbs patterning closely with verbs, in contrast to adjectives which usually pattern with nouns.
Most adverbs in English are extremely mobile. Various types may fill any of several positions or positional combinations, but almost all can fill the position following a noun-verb-complement sequence like the following.
Determiners – The workings of the determiner class of function words is described in some detail under the form class with which they appear, the nouns or class I words. The most commonly used members are the, a, an, and some.
Auxiliary Verbs – Forms of the auxiliaries have and be work with various inflected forms of verbs. Modals are usually considered a subcategory because their operation is somewhat different from that of have and be. Other auxiliaries are forms of get and do.
Qualifiers – They work with both adjectives and adverbs. Some of the most frequently used are more, most, very, quite, rather, and somewhat.
Prepositions – They introduce modifying or qualifying phrases set apart by intonation pattern and the presence of the preposition form. They indicate the relation of words with other words. (eg. location, direction, time, etc.
When smaller structures enter into combinations, some consideration must be given to the relationship holding between them within the combination. For example, “Birds fly” consists of structures commonly called noun and verb.
The combination is a larger structure called a sentence. Within the sentence both words have a structure and a function.
Analysis of any larger structure involves sorting its parts into types of smaller structures and identifying the functions performed in the combination.
Structural grammarians vary somewhat in the methods used to analyze complex grammatical structures in English. (1999, Herndon)
This chapter discusses three of the principal methodologies used by grammarians.
a. phrase analysis b. immediate constituent analysis c. sentence formulas
One of these methods begins with consideration of word “clusters that are set apart on the basis of the intonation pattern that they show. A group of words appearing between well-defined junctures is described as a phrase or cluster.
The principal word in each phrase is called the head word.
In general, phrases function as units in larger structures, and they fall into groups based on the type of function the unit performs.
Noun phrases, verb phrases, and various types of modifying or qualifying phrases –adjectival, adverbial, prepositional, and so on –may be defined.
Analysis may then be made of relationships holding between the various types when they appear in various combinations. Finally, clause and sentence types may be defined.