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A General Outline of Functional Parts of Speech

According to the criteria of form, meaning and function, all words are

divided into notional and functional, which reflects their division in the earlier

grammatical tradition into changeable and unchangeable. 

Functional words are characterized by incomplete nominative meaning, they

are non-self-dependent and they perform mediatory functions in the sentence. 

On the principle of "generalized form" only unchangeable words are

traditionally treated under the heading of functional parts of speech. As for their

individual forms as such, they are simply presented by the list, since the number of

these words is limited, so that they don’t need to be identified on any general


To the basic functional series of words in English belong the article, the

preposition, the conjunction, the particle, the modal word, the interjection.

3. The Conjunction

Semantic features

Every conjunction has its own meaning, expressing some connection or

other existing between phenomena in extralinguistic reality.

When discussing prepositions, we noted that in a certain number of cases the

use of a given preposition is predicted by the preceding word: thus the verb depend

can only be followed by the preposition on (or upon), the adjective characteristic

only by the preposition of, etc. In such cases the preposition has no meaning of its

own. Conjunctions in this respect are entirely different. Their meaning is

independent of preceding words.

Syntactic features

Two levels are distinguished — that of phrases and that of sentences. 

On the phrase level it must be said that conjunctions connect words and

phrases. It is the so-called co-ordinating conjunctions that are found here, and only

very rarely subordinating ones.

On the sentence level it must be said that conjunctions connect clauses (of

different kinds). Here we find both so-called co-ordinating and so-called

subordinating conjunctions.

In comparing prepositions with co-ordinating and subordinating

conjunctions we cannot fail to notice that while prepositions have nothing in

common with co-ordinating conjunctions, some prepositions are very close in

meaning to subordinating conjunctions, and in some cases a preposition and a

subordinating conjunction sound exactly the same.

It should also be noted that the difference between prepositions and

conjunctions is much less pronounced in Modern English than in Russian, where

prepositions are closely connected with cases, while conjunctions have nothing


whatever to do with them. In English, with its almost complete absence of cases,

this difference between prepositions and conjunctions is very much obliterated. 


4. The Particle

Particles usually refer to the word (or, sometimes, phrase) immediately

following and give special prominence to the notion expressed by this word (or

phrase), or single it out in some other way, depending on the meaning of the


The question of the place of a particle in sentence structure remains

unsolved. The following three solutions are possible: 

(1) a particle is a separate secondary member of the sentence, which should

be given a special name; 

(2) a particle is an element in the part of the sentence which is formed by the

word (or phrase) to which the particle refers (thus the particle may be an element

of the subject, predicate, object, etc.); 

(3) a particle neither makes up a special part of the sentence, nor is it an

element in any part of the sentence; it stands outside the structure of the sentence

and must be neglected when analysis of a sentence is given.

Each of these three views entails some difficulties and none of them can be

proved to be the correct one, so that the decision remains arbitrary.


The Gerund

The gerund is originally a verbal noun in –ing. Similar to the infinitive, the

gerund is the name of a process, but its substantive meaning is more strongly

pronounced than that of the infinitive: unlike the infinitive, the gerund can be

modified by a noun in the genitive case or by the possessive pronoun and used

with prepositions. 

The general combinability of the gerund, like that of the infinitive, is dual,

sharing some features with the verb, and some features with the noun. 

The verbal features of the gerund. Like the verb, the gerund distinguishes the

categories of voice and temporal correlation: 

writing (non-passive, non-perfect) – being written (passive, non-perfect)

having written (non-passive, perfect) – having been written (passive,


It is obvious that gerunds derived from intransitive verbs have only two

forms: non-perfect active and perfect active, e.g. walking vs. having walked. 


The gerund has the following syntactic features of the verb: it can function

as part of the verbal predicate (e.g. If he stops working, he will die); it can be

followed by an object (e.g. I remember locking the door) and an adverbial modifier

(e.g. He avoids driving fast).

The nounal features of the gerund. Similar to the noun, the gerund can be

modified by a noun in the genitive case or in the common case, which, when

pronominalized, turn into the possessive and objective forms, respectively: 

She did nothing to encourage John’s going abroad.

She did nothing to encourage John going abroad. vs.

She did nothing to encourage his going abroad.

She did nothing to encourage him going abroad.

The standard form is the form with the noun in the genitive case or with the

possessive pronoun. The other form is more common in spoken English. The

gerund in the latter construction is traditionally called the half-gerund. 

Unlike the noun, the gerund cannot be used in the plural; it cannot be

preceded by the article (or its substitute); it cannot be determined by the adjective. 

Like the noun, the gerund can be used as the subject, the object, the

predicative, and the attribute. 

20.06.2014; 00:54
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