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The notion of sentence. The sentence as a language unit.

sentence is a group of words that are put together to mean something. A sentence is the basic unit of language which expresses a complete thought. It does this by following the grammatical rules of syntax.

A complete sentence has at least a subject and a main verb to state (declare) a complete thought. Short example: Walker walks. A subject is the noun that is doing the main verb. The main verb is the verb that the subject is doing. In English and many other languages, the first word of a written sentence has a capital letter. At the end of the sentence there is a full stop or full point (American: 'period').

Types of sentence

  • simple sentence is one clause. The dog is happy.
  • compound sentence is two or more clauses. These clauses are joined together with conjunctions, punctuation, or both. The dog is happy, but the cat is sad.
  • complex sentence is one clause with a relative clause. The dog, which is eating the bone, is happy.
  • complex-compound sentence (or compound-complex sentence) is many clauses, at least one of which is a relative clause: The dog, which is eating the bone, is happy, but the cat is sad.

Sentences have different purposes:

  • declarative sentence, or declaration, is the most common type of sentence. It tells something. It ends with a full stop . (The dog is happy.)
  • An interrogative sentence, or question, asks something. It ends with a question mark ? (Is the dog happy?)
  • An exclamatory sentence, or exclamation, says something out of the ordinary. It ends with an exclamation mark ! (That dog is the happiest dog I have ever seen!)
  • An imperative sentence, or command, tells someone to do something. (Give the dog a bone.)


Еще вариант

Notion of the sentence.

  1. A sentence is a proposition expressed by words (something true). A proposition is the semantic invariant of all the members of modal and communicative paradigms of sentences and their transforms. But besides sentences which contain propositions there are interrogative and negative sentences. Speech is emotional. There is no one to one relationship. Then a sentence can be grammatically correct, but from the point of view of logic it won’t be correct, true to life (Water is a gas). Laws of thinking are universal but there are many languages. Grammar and Logic don’t coincide. 
  2. A sentence is a subject-predicate structure. What are the subject and the predicate? Grammatical subject can only be defined in terms of the sentence. Moreover the grammatical subject often does not indicate what we are ‘talking about’ (The birds have eaten all the fruit. It is getting cold). Besides, this definition leaves out verbless sentences. There are one-member sentences. They are non-sentences? Conclusion – a sentence is a structural scheme. 
  3. Phonological: A sentence is a flow of speech between 2 pauses. But speech is made up of incomplete, interrupted, unfinished, or even quite chaotic sentences. Speech is made up of utterances but utterances seldom correspond to sentences.

Thus, it is more preferable to describe a sentence than to define it. The main peculiar features of the sentence are: integrity, syntactic independence, grammatical completeness, semantic completeness, communicative completeness, communicative functioning, predicativity, modality, intonational completeness

Predicativity is a syntactical category. It is actualized reference to reality. Logical understanding: combination of 2 parts of proposition. Formally syntactic understanding: relations of the structural components of the sentence (subject and predicate). Semantic approach: correlation of the contents of the utterance with the situation. The latter is most popular.

Modality is a semantic category. It is broader a notion than predicativity, it is revealed both in grammatical elements of language and its lexical, purely nominative elements. Prof.Pocheptsov: predicativity is mood plus tense (predicativity is broader than modality)




2. Mood and Modality

2. Mood

Mood is one of the two verbal categories that are to do with factuality. In English, it covers three subcategories

● the indicative: the 'fact mood' which presents situations as facts

● the subjunctive: the 'thought mood' or 'what-if mood' which presents situations as non-facts or hypotheses

● the imperative: the 'will mood' which expresses non-factual situations that are desired by the speaker/writer to become true and in which the speaker/writer wants the hearer/reader to be the primary DOER

2.1 The indicative mood

The indicative specifies that the speaker/writer considers the situation expressed by the verb phrase to be factual or conceivably real, and covers the standard uses (i.e. the non-modal uses) of the present and past tenses in English:

(1) a. I like pie

b. I had a budgie, but it died

c. These are not the droids you're looking for.

2.2 The subjunctive

The subjunctive expresses situations that are hypothetical or otherwise non-factual. In modern English this is primarily done through modality, using modal verbs and semi-modal verbs as well as the modal past (and modal past perfect), and the subjunctive is not used that often nowadays; yet it is still used often enough for it to be considered an important verbal category. Apart from the 'were'-subjunctive, the subjunctive is formally identical to the verbal base form.

There are three types of subjunctive in modern English:

● formulaic subjunctive: it typically used in formulas expressing wishes (and in other fixed expressions)  – note positive wishes  or  blessings  are sometimes  called  optatives  while negative ones or curses are sometimes called maledictives  (2)

● mandative subjunctive: expresses some sort of obligation, orders or intentions. It typically appears after nouns, verbs, and adjectives expressing requests, orders, compulsions and the like. This mood is rare in British English, but used quite extensively in American English.


● 'were'-subjunctive: expresses that the situation is a hypothetical wish  and has the form of 'were' across the board – even with 1st and 3rd person singular subjects.

a. God save the Queen.

b. Satan take your soul!

(3) a. I demand that he be executed.

b. It is imperative that he show respect and humbleness.

c. There's a standing order that any private present his weapon for inspection.

(4) a. If I were you, I'd put that gun away, son.

b. If Britney Spears were my girlfriend... I'd be very embarrassed.

2.3 The imperative

The imperative is used to indicate that the situation expressed is desired to such a degree  that the speaker or writer feels that he or she can order other people make that situation happen.

2.3.1 Uses of the imperative

This is the typical use of the imperative in English (but see the book and the examples in (6) and (7) for exceptions). Morphologically, the imperative is formally identical to the base form

(5) a. Give me that light saber, my apprentice.

b. Kill him now!

c. Stand at ease, privates!

Note that use of the imperative presupposes, or constructs, an unequal power relation between the speaker/writer and the hearer/reader because the speaker/writer is required to have some sort of authority over the hearer/reader in order to use the imperative like this. In addition to giving orders, there are other uses of the imperative, which are also sanctioned by unequal power relations:

(6) a. Stand up now! (command)

b. Stand up, please. (request)

c. Press play on tape. (instruction)

d. Buy that CD. It's the best they've ever recorded. (advice)

c. Take Ј50 in the safe, sonny. (permission)

e. Oh Lord, save us from the immoral forces in society. (prayer)

Note that (6d) is interesting, because it is based on a specific kind of power called expert power in which the speaker/writer has access to knowledge that the hearer/reader does not have access to.

The examples in (5) and (6) fall under the rubric of the directive imperative.


Grammar, spring 09 Kim Ebensgaard Jensen

Lecture notes – week 4 English SIS, AAU

The imperative may also be used in other situations where the directive-function is less

apparent or perhaps not even applicable at all:

(7) a. Go to hell. (rejection, insult)

b. Come on, you stupid car. Start, dammit, start! (wish)

c. Enjoy the movie. (wish)

d. Fuck that shit! (exclamation)

c. Say another word and I'll bite your knee caps off. (threat)

e. Yeah, just eat your orange. [to somebody eating an orange] (comment)

f. Get up, stand up. Fight for your rights. (encouragement)

Now let us do exercise this exercise (6.64 in the workbook):

Identify examples of the imperative below, describe its syntactic characteristics and explain what the imperative expresses:

a) Come and have a look at this!

b) Don't tell anyone about this.

c) Save the rain forests.

d) Have another chocolate.

e) Don't forget to post the letters, will you?

f) Would you please wait here, sir?

g) You be careful with that vase.

h) Do play that piece by Chopin again, will you?

i) Careful now!

j) Let's have a bite, shall we?

k) This way, please.

l) Don't be silly.

m) If you want more details, write to this address.

n) Hang on a minute. That's not the same car.

o) If you drink, don't drive.

p) Can you pass the salt?

20.06.2014; 00:54
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