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SOME GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS ON THE STRUCTURE OF ENGLISH




It is a very common statement that Modern English is an analytical language, as distinct from Modern Russian, which is synthetical. Occasionally this statement is slightly modified, to the effect that English is "mainly analytical" and Russian "mainly synthetical". These statements, on the whole, are true, but they remain somewhat vague until we have made clear two important points, viz. (a) what we mean by "analytical language'', and (b) what are the peculiar features distinguishing Modern English from other analytical languages, for instance, Modern French. It would be a gross error to suppose that English and French, being both analytical, are exactly alike in their grammatical structure.

The chief features characterising an analytical language would seem to be these:

(1) Comparatively few grammatical inflections (viz., case inflections in nouns, adjectives, and pronouns, and personal inflections in verbs).

(2) A sparing use of sound alternations to denote grammatical forms.


Order of Discussion 11

(3) A wide use of prepositions to denote relations between objects and to connect words in the sentence.

(4) Prominent use of word order to denote grammatical relations: a more or less fixed word order.

Now, features distinguishing the Modern English language from, say, Modern French, are also fairly numerous.

Without going into more minute details, it may be pointed out here that English adjectives are not inflected for either gender or number, whereas French adjectives are, or that English has no future tense formed without auxiliary verbs, whereas French has one, or again, that in English the attributive adjective (with a few exceptions) comes before its noun, whereas in French such an adjective (with a few exceptions, too) comes after it, etc. These examples may be sufficient to show that by calling the English language analytical we do not give an adequate description of its structure. We shall arrive at that adequate description only at the end of the book.

ORDER OF DISCUSSION

The order in which we are going to deal with the problems of English grammatical structure is roughly the following.

First, we shall have to attempt an approximate definition of the boundaries between morphology and syntax in present-day English.

Then, at the start of our morphological investigation, we shall have to establish the morphological resources of the English language, viz. the morphemes and other means of expressing morphological categories.

Our next point will be a general survey of the system of word classes (the so-called "parts of speech"), and a detailed investigation of the structure of each of them in particular. That will be the end of the morphological section.



The syntactical part will consist of two very unequal items: the theory of phrases and the theory of the sentence. These parts are bound to be unequal because the theory of phrases (in its syntactical aspect) seems to be the least developed element of English grammar, whereas the theory of the sentence has a long-drawn-out and fruitful history.

The phrase theory will have to deal with the various types of phrases (noun and verb, verb and adverb, etc.) in their grammatical, as distinct from their lexical, aspect. The theory of the sentence will include a review of the types of simple sentence and parts of the sentence, and of the various types of composite sentences.

At the end we shall try to give a general view of Modern English grammatical structure on the basis of the preceding investigation.


12 Introduction

Wherever it may seem desirable and illuminating, we shall draw parallels between the English language and other languages, notably Russian and German, pointing out both resemblances and discrepancies between them. This ought to help the reader acquire a more profound insight into the peculiarities of the language he is specialising in.


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