Published:  12:44 AM, 17 November 2017

A short view of structural English

A short view of structural English

Structuralism in languages begins with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure; a twentieth century Swiss linguist and Semiotician who argues that language should be studied as if it were frozen in time and cut transversely like a leaf. He intends to propose that there is an implied order in every language. 

The noteworthy fact in all human languages is that they can be grouped together into a relatively small number of classes which is called syntactic categories. This classification focuses on factors including the type of meaning that words express, the type of affixes or suffixes that they take and the structure in which they occur.

According to Ferdinand de Saussure, words are signs and linguistics rightly belongs to another discipline called semiotics. The linguistic sign units represent not a thing and name but a concept and sound image.(the psychological imprint of the sound).

The green signal of traffic can be a sign or word.  For the formation of any full sentence combination of meaningful words are necessary. In English Grammar there are categories of words as lexical and non-lexical. The following table provides examples of word-level categories that are most central to the study of syntax:

The meaning of the words belonging to lexical categories is easier to describe than that of non-lexical categories. For instance, the meaning of noun 'good' is easier to describe than the meaning of a determiner 'the' or auxiliary as 'would'. A speech sound or combination of sounds which can come to signify and communicate a particular idea may give rise to confusion since they can belong to more than one category.

The word 'comb' can be used as both 'noun' in the sentence "The small girl wanted to buy a comb" and as a verb in the sentence "The small girl could not comb her hair properly."   Thus the categories differ based on meaning. Meaning is a very important factor in expression.  Structure and meaning are intertwined. The common form of English sentence is:

    Subject+    Verb+    Object
    Rahim     reads    the book
    Subject+    Verb+    Object
    The Cow    reads     the book
What is not followed in the second sentence is the meaning of the sentences or Semantics.  
Regarding structure we find both similarities as well as dissimilarities between languages. In Most European Languages we find a similarity in structure.

    Subject +    Verb+    Object
English:    John    reads    the book
German:    Adal    liest    das buch
French:    Abella    lit    des livres
 But there is a difference in Bangla as here object comes just after subject and the verb goes after that as follows:
    Subject +     Object+     Verb
Bangla:    Avwg    KvR    Kwi

Traditionally sentences in any language are taken to be the product of the rule maintaining the meaning conveyed. According to W.P. Lehmann, " A sentence is a sequence of selected syntactic items combined into a unit in accordance with certain patterns of arrangement, modification, intonation in any given language." Elsewhere while speaking one should follow the correct intonation of the sentences as  it will be different for interrogative, assertive or exclamatory.  Intonation means the modulation of voice or accent.

Actually the number of features necessary for the description of syntactic process in language cannot be explained very easily as they are numerous: often complex and different from one another.

The writer is Assistant Professor and former Director of Centre for English Language of
Jagannath University, Dhaka.                                                                            --------Protiva Rani Karmaker

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