Grammar and text

I have repeatedly shown throughout the present work that sentences in continual speech are not used in isolation; they are interconnected both semantically-topically and syntactically.

Inter-sentential connections have come under linguistic investigation but recently. The highest lingual unit which was approached by traditional grammar as liable to syntactic study was the sentence; scholars even specially stressed that to surpass the boundaries of the sentence was equal to surpassing the boundaries of grammar.

In particular, such an outstanding linguist as L. Bloomfield, while recognising the general semantic connections between sentences in the composition of texts as linguistically relevant, at the same time pointed out that the sentence is the largest grammatically arranged linguistic form, i.e. it is not included into any other linguistic form by a grammatical arrangement.

However, further studies in this field have demonstrated the inadequacy of the cited thesis. It has been shown that sentences in speech do come under broad grammatical arrangements, do combine with one another on strictly syntactic lines in the formation of larger stretches of both oral talk and written text.

It should be quite clear that, supporting the principle of syntactic approach to arrangement of sentences into a continual text, we do not assert that any sequence of independent sentences forms a syntactic unity. Generally speaking, sentences in a stretch of uninterrupted talk may or may not build up a coherent sequence, wholly depending on the purpose of the speaker. E.g.:

Barbara. Dolly: don’t be insincere. Cholly: fetch your concertina and play something for us (B. Shaw).

The cited sequence of two sentences does not form a unity in either syntactic or semantic sense, the sentences being addressed to different persons on different reasons. A disconnected sequence may also have one and the same communication addressee, as in the following case:

Duchess of Berwic… I like him so much. I am quite delighted he’s gone! How sweet you’re looking! Where do you get your gowns? And now I must tell you how sorry I am for you, dear Margaret (O. Wilde).

But disconnected sequences like these are rather an exception than the rule. Moreover, they do not contradict in the least the idea of a continual topical text as being formed of grammatically interconnected sentences. Indeed, successive sentences in a disconnected sequence mark the corresponding transitions of thought, so each of them can potentially be expanded into a connected sequence bearing on one unifying topic. Characteristically, an utterance of a personage in a work of fiction marking a transition of thought (and breaking the syntactic connection of sentences in the sequence) is usually introduced by a special author’s comment. E.g.:

“You know, L.S., you’re rather a good sport.” Then his tone grew threatening again. “It’s a big risk I’m taking. It’s the biggest risk I’ve ever had to take” (C. P. Snow).

As we see, the general idea of a sequence of sentences forming a text includes two different notions. On the one hand, it presupposes a succession of spoken or written utterances irrespective of their forming or not forming a coherent semantic complex. On the other hand, it implies a strictly topical stretch of talk, i.e. a continual succession of sentences centering on a common informative purpose. It is this latter understanding of the text that is syntactically relevant. It is in this latter sense that the text can be interpreted as a lingual element with its two distinguishing features: first, semantic (topical) unity, second, semantico-syntactic cohesion.


Monologue and dialogue

The primary division of sentence sequences in speech should be based on the communicative direction of their component sentences. From this point of view monologue sequences and dialogue sequences are to be discriminated.

In a monologue, sentences connected in a continual sequence are directed from one speaker to his one or several listeners. Thus, the sequence of this type can be characterised as a one-direction sequence. E.g.:

We’ll have a lovely garden. We’ll have roses in it and daffodils and a lovely lawn with a swing for little Billy and little Barbara to play on. And we’ll have our meals down by the lily pond in summer (K. Waterhouse and H. Hall).

The first scholars who identified a succession of such sentences as a special syntactic unit were the Russian linguists N. S. Pospelov and L. A. Bulakhovsky. The former called the unit in question a “complex syntactic unity”, the latter, a “super-phrasal unity”. From consistency considerations, the corresponding English term used in this book is the “supra-sentential construction” (see Ch. I).

As different from this, sentences in a dialogue sequence are uttered by the speakers-interlocutors in turn, so that they are directed, as it were, to meet one another; the sequence of this type, then, should be characterised as a two-direction sequence. E.g.: “Annette, what have you done?” — “I’ve done what I had to do” (S. Maugham).

It must be noted that two-direction sequences can in principle be used within the framework of a monologue text, by way of an “inner dialogue” (i.e. a dialogue of the speaker with himself). E.g.: What were they jabbering about now in Parliament? Some two-penny-ha’penny tax! (J. Galsworthy).

On the other hand, one-direction sequences can be used in a dialogue, when a response utterance forms not a rejoinder, but a continuation of the stimulating utterance addressed to the same third party, or to both speakers themselves as a collective self-addressee, or having an indefinite addressee. E.g.:

St. Erth. All the money goes to fellows who don’t know a horse from a haystack. — Canynge (profoundly). And care less. Yes! We want men racing to whom a horse means something (J. Galsworthy). Elуоt. I’m glad we didn’t go out tonight. Amanda. Or last night. El-yоt. Or the night before. Amanda. There’s no reason to, really, when we’re cosy here (N. Coward).

Thus, the direction of communication should be looked upon as a deeper characteristic of the sentence-sequence than its outer, purely formal presentation as either a monologue (one man’s speech) or a dialogue (a conversation between two parties). In order to underline these deep distinguishing features of the two types of sequences, we propose to name them by the types of sentence-connection used.

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