sâmbătă, 4 august 2012


1.    Generalities

We distinguish several ways in which grammar is functional:
It has to express our interpretation of the world as we experience it (ideational/representational functional) and it helps us interact with others in order to bring changes to our environment (interpersonal function). In other words, grammar helps us organize our message in order to enable representation and interaction.
The regular patterns of different kinds reflect the uses which a language serves. For example, “declarative”, “interrogative”, “imperative” structural patterns (patterns of the Verb Group) help us to express a multitude of types of social behavior, whereas Nominal Group patterns enable us to encode information about entities: people, events, things, abstractions, etc. If  we come to describe patterns involving syntactic categories (Subjects, Objects, Themes, etc) then we expand our analysis beyond the one-to-one relationship between them, to larger units: CONTEXT, CO-TEXT in the speaker-hearer relationship.
Each linguistic element is seen not in isolation but in relation to others, since it has potential to realize different functions. From a multitude of patterns speakers are free to chose those patterns which best convey the message at every stage of their interaction with other speakers.
A communicative/functional grammar is a new direction in grammar writing devoted to the uses of grammar, rather than to grammatical structure, employing a communicative rather than structural approach. The conceptual framework of this grammar is a functional rather than a formal one. It is functional in three closely related senses, in interpretation of  texts, of systems and of elements of linguistic structures.
The conventional, traditional method of presenting English grammar in terms of structure, of its constitutive elements has a certain drawback in itself. It discuss elements in their individuality, underlining less the relations existing between them. Thus for example, in such grammar notions of time occur, or may be dealt with in four different places: the tense of the verb, time adverbs, prepositional phrases denoting time, temporal conjunctions and clauses. The student who is primarily interested in making use of the language will find it a boring and tedious job to look in detail at the theoretical aspects of grammar structures jumping from one place to another. The student will therefore benefit systematically related to meanings, uses and situations. (See G. Leech / J. Svartvik)
This “unconventional” type of grammar is designed to show how the language is used. Every text, said or written, unfolds in some context of use; furthermore, it is the uses of language that, in time, have shaped the system. Ever since it was intended, language has evolved to satisfy human needs and will continue to evolve along with humankind. Therefore, the way language is organized is functional with respect to these needs. From this point of view as M. A. K. Halliday puts it, a functional grammar is essentially a “natural” grammar, in the sense that everything in it can be explained by reference to how language is used.
Secondly, the fundamental components of meaning in language are functional components. According to Halliday, “all languages are organized around two main kinds of meaning: the “ideational (or reflective) and the “interpersonal (or active). These two components, also known as “metafunctions,” are [practically] manifestations in the linguistic system of the two very general purposes which underline all uses of the language:  to understand the environment (ideational), and  to act on the others in it (interpersonal).”
Thirdly, it is a matter of common knowledge that each element in a language should be explained closely related to its function within the linguistic system. In other words, each part is interpreted as functional with respect to the whole. In traditional grammar (linguistics) from its beginning in ancient Greece, first the forms of the words were studied (morphology) and then the forms of sentences (syntax). In a functional grammar the direction is reversed. A particular language is interpreted as a system of meanings, accompanied by forms through which the meanings can be realized. Therefore, the forms of a language become and are treated as means to an end, rather than an end in themselves.
The relation between semantics and grammar is one of realization, that is, the word “realizes” or encodes the meaning. In turn, the wording “is realized” by sound and writing. Nevertheless, there is really no use in asking which determines which, as the relation is a symbolic one. It is not possible to point to each symbol as an isolate item and ask what it means; the meaning is encoded in the wording as an integrated whole. The choice of one particular item may mean one thing, its place in the syntagm another, its combination with something else another, and its internal organization yet another. So, what grammar does indeed, is to sort out all these possible variables and assign them to their specific semantic functions.
Traditional grammar stops at sentence level. Below the sentence, the typical relationship is a constructional one, of parts into wholes. In a functional grammar this means an organic configuration of elements each having its own particular functions with respect to the whole (most elements in the grammatical structure are multifunctional). Two minor motifs are introduced into this constructional type:
(1)      structural patterns of another kind that are more like the dynamic processes of text formation, and
(2)      non-structural forms of organization that create cohesion — reference, ellipsis etc.
Above the sentence, the non-constructional forms of organization take over and become the norm, while only in certain cases, i.e. in particular kinds of text, are there recognizable units. In addition, the sequence in which things occur is no longer a variable available for realizing functional relationships; like the Subject before or after the Finite verb. Looked at from this angle, a sentence is the smallest unit that cannot be displaced in sequence. Changing the order of sentences in a text is as meaningless as putting the end before the beginning. So, the sentence does indeed constitute a significant border post, just like the word. Both are units in grammar that are not so sharply set off from one another. On the other hand, it is indeed true that the words get used over again more often than sentences do, much of the time a speaker does create new sentences that are new to him. But speakers also create new wordings; the larger the syntagm, the more likely it is to be original. A few recently created wordings: busybodyish, obstinacities, unselfasuredness—forms that the average speaker has obviously not yet stored for use. The natural tendency is to regard a text as a product, presented to us as a piece of writing. Even when we admit the category of “spoken text”, the latter is gradually turned into written text via the act of capturing on tape and transcription into written form. Some linguists thought of the text as Process, they referred to language as system and process.
This Process / Product distinction corresponds to that between our experience of speech and our experience of writing: writing exists, whereas speech happens. A written text is presented to us as product; we attend to it as product. Spoken language, on the other hand, is presented to us as process and, like many processes, it is characterized by a continuous flow.
Traditionally, grammar has always been the grammar of written language and it has always been a product grammar. Nevertheless, in its earliest origins classical Greek grammar was a grammar of speech and the first attempts to elaborate syntax were tied to rhetoric. But Aristotle took grammar out of rhetoric into logic, and since then it has been mainly a grammar of written discourse. In its turn, the latter became the foundation of medieval and renaissance syntax; and that is the received (accepted) “traditional grammar” that is still in use today. It is relatively unsuited to the spoken language, which needs a more dynamic and less constructional form of representation. The reason lies in the fact that the potential of the system is more richly developed, and more fully revealed in speech.
On the one hand, mention must be made of the unconscious nature of spoken language, responding continually to the small but subtle changes in its environment, both verbal and non-verbal. The context of spoken language is, as we have already mentioned before, in a constant state of flux, and the language, in turn, has to be equally mobile and alert.
On the other hand, much of what the written language achieves lexically is get by the spoken language through grammar. In fact, speech is no less complex than writing, but the two gain their complexity in different ways. The complexity of writing lies in its density, in the act of packing together the lexical content in simple grammatical frames, whereas the complexity of spoken language lies in the mobile and intricate phrasing, much of the meaning being expressed by grammar rather then by vocabulary. Consequently, the sentence structure is highly complex in speech reaching degrees of complexity that are rarely attained in writing.
The basic opposition, in grammars of the second half of the 20th century, is not between the “structuralist” and the “generative”, as it appeared in the public debates of the l960s, but rather between those that are syntagmatic in orientation (formal grammars having structure as their main organizing concept, and bringing in special devices to relate one structure to another) and those that are paradigmatic in orientation (functional grammars/systemic grammars which describe something and then relate it to everything else, because the description of any feature is its relationship to all the others). In other words, the former interpret a language as a list of structures, among which regular relationships may be established. They tend to emphasize universal features of language, to take grammar as the foundation of language, and to be organized around the sentence. The latter interpret a language as a network of relations, with structures participating in the realization of these relationships; they tend to emphasize variables among different languages, they take semantics as the foundation, and thus, tend to be organized around text, or discourse.
Now, irrespective of this basic opposition, a grammar is an attempt to crack the code of a particular language, and each language has its own semantic code, which is the grammatical system as a whole. To understand the code, we need an overview of the grammatical system; both in order to confront one part of it with another, and in order to interpret texts analyzed in the code. Whether the text is literature, or classroom discourse, or political or commercial propaganda, the basic grammar of the clause complex, the clause, the prepositional phrase, verbal and nominal group, and information unit, will always be involved. As already remarked, we have as yet no comprehensive semantics. However, we can attempt a comprehensive view of grammar; and for any code-oriented investigation, this is essential. You cannot interpret a text in its context of culture without an overall picture of the grammar through which it is encoded.
To sum it up: grammar is the central processing unit of a language, where meanings are accepted from different metafunctional inputs and connected together to form wordings. Without a grammar in the system, it would be impossible to mean more than one thing at once. In order to understand how language works we have to engage its grammar. We have to get at it through the meaning or through the expression in to discuss grammatical forms and structures in a systematic order.
In this respect, we will undertake a four-step investigation of the different types of formal units [ranging from: word, phrase or clause, to the sentence, to the utterance and to the discourse or the text] by focusing on four different levels:
(1)  concepts,
(2)   information, reality and belief,
(3)   mood, emotion and attitude,
(4)   meanings in connected discourse.
The first level is that of notional or conceptual meaning, with the basic categories of grammar: “number”, “definite meaning”, “amount”, “time”, “manner”, and “degree”. The structural units dealt with here are situated below the sentence level: i.e. words, phrases or clauses.
The second level represents logical communication, the interaction between Speaker and Hearer. In it, we make use of the categories from the previous section to make judgments about truth and falsehood and to give and get information about the world, via the categories of “statements, questions and responses”, “affirmation and denial”, “possibility”, and “certainty”. The structural unit dealt with here is the sentence.
The third level focuses on the attitudes and behavior of the speaker and of the hearer. At the speaker’s end, language can express attitudes and emotions, while at the hearer’s end it can control or influence the latter’s actions and attitudes. This occurs through speech acts such as commanding, suggesting, advising, threatening, promising, in fact, speech acts belonging to the “pragmatic” aspect of communication, the unit that we are dealing here with is the utterance, which may or may not correspond to a sentence in length.
Finally yet importantly, the fourth level refers to the organizational aspect of communication. The question that arises here focuses, on how our thoughts should be arranged, the order and how they should be put and bound together in order to communicate in the most appropriate way. Grammar is flexible enough to offer a considerable choice in such matters. This may be called the “textual” or “discourse” aspect of communication and it concerns the composition of a whole text or discourse, not just the way we construct a single sentence.
Briefly, the four sections represent a rational progress from the most limited and detailed sphere of meaning to the most general one. They will not be discussed independently but rather in interrelationship.
To use a language properly, we have to know the grammatical structures of that particular language and their meanings. But we must also know what forms of language are appropriate for given situations. English in this respect, like any other language, is marked by “variety labels” characteristic either of a particular geographical area, of regional dialects or of a particular kind of situation (formal, informal, polite, familiar). These labels actually remind us that the English language is, in a sense, not a single language used by over three hundred million of native speakers, but many languages, many varieties of English.

2.    Types of language

1. Written and spoken English
          Spoken English tends to be different from written English. In writing we usually have sufficient time to plan our message, to think about it carefully while writing, and to revise it afterwards, whereas in speech (unless it is a lecture, prepared in advance), we have not much time at our disposal and we must shape the message during the speech act. We often use in speech words and phrases like: well, you see, er, um, kind of thus adding little information or filling the gaps with “hesitation fillers” while we think of what to say next. We may also fail to conclude sentences or even mix up one grammatical construction with another. The grammar of the spoken language is simpler and less strictly constructed than that of the written language. On the other hand, the speaker is also able to rely on features of intonation, which tell us a great deal more than written punctuation.

2. Formal and informal English        ,
Formal language is used publicly for some’ serious, purpose and is nearly always written: in official reports, business letters and regulations. Exceptionally it is used in speech, in formal public speeches.
There are various degrees of formality:
(1)  casual conversation,
(2)  fairly neutral style or
(3)  the formal, stiff style occurring in a written report: 
e.g.    When his dad died, Pete had to get another job. (1)
After his father’s death, Peter had to change his job. (2)
On the decease of his father, Mr. Brown was obliged to seek alternative employment. (3)     ,
Informal language (colloquial) is used in private conversation, in private letters, nowadays also used in public communication: adverts, popular newspaper (media) etc. In terms of vocabulary there are many differences between formal and informal English. Much of the vocabulary in formal English is of French, Latin, and Greek origin, while in informal language we replace them by words or phrases of Anglo-Saxon origin: commence, continue, conclude vs. begin, keep (up)/go on, and end.
e.g. The meeting will commence at 4 p.m. [formal]
                                 -begin at 4 o’clock. [neutral/informal]
The government is   - continuing its struggle against inflation. [formal]
                                 - keeping up its fight against inflation. [rather informal]
Many phrasal and prepositional verbs are characteristic of informal style: discover vs. find out; encounter vs. come across; investigate vs. look into; surrender vs. give in.
However, there may not always be a direct translation between formal and informal English. This may happen because an informal term has qualities not present in formal language, or because formal language often insists on greater preciseness. The informal term job, has no formal equivalent, moreover we have to choose a more precise and restricted term, acc. to the context: employment, post, position, appointment, profession, vocation, etc.
There are also some grammatical differences between formal and informal English: for instance, the use of who and whom, and the placing of a preposition at the beginning or at the end of a clause (preposition stranding):
e.g.    She longed for a friend in whom she could confide. [formal]
She longed for a friend (who) she could confide in. [informal]
In what country was he born? [formal]
What country was he born in? [informal]

Impersonal style

The impersonal style, i.e. when the Speaker does not refer directly to himself or his readers / he avoids using the pronouns you, we, etc. will be often used in formal written language. [Use of introductory it]:
e.g.     “It has been noted with concern that the stock of books in the library has been declining alarmingly. Students are asked to remind themselves of the rules for the borrowing and return of books, and to bear in mind the needs of other students. Penalties for overdue books will in the future be strictly enforced.”

3. Polite and familiar language
In English, we tend to be more polite when we are talking to a person whom we do not know well or to a senior person in terms of age and social position. When we know someone well or intimately we drop the polite forms of language. Instead of using the polite vocative [Mr. Brown], we may use the first name [Peter], a short name [Pete] or even a nickname. Since English does not have special familiar pronouns [French vous, German Sie] we are forced to resort to auxiliary elements if we want to make a more polite address:
e.g.    Shut the door, will you? [familiar]
Would you please shut the door? [polite]
I wonder if you would mind shutting the door. [more polite]
But if we have a sentence like “Pete ‘s old woman hit the roof when he came home with that doll from the disco,” the tone is very familiar, we might be judged as being impolite vs. Pete’s wife and the girl. Moreover, the sentence is an example of slang and, since slang has a restricted use (only within a particular social group) and a rather short life, this level of the language will not be dealt with here.
Tactful and tentative language
Politeness is connected with tact and diplomacy. Being tactful avoids causing offence and distress to someone. Sometimes tact means disguising or covering up the truth: gone and passed away are used instead of mentioning death.
e.g.    Peter’s father has gone at last. vs. Peter’s father has passed away at last.
a tactful imperative: “Would you like to type this letter for me?”
A request, a suggestion can be made more tactful by making it more tentative:
e.g.    I suggest that we postpone the meeting until tomorrow. [common core] May I suggest that we postpone the meeting until tomorrow? [tactful]
Could I suggest that we postpone the meeting until tomorrow? [tentative, more tactful]
-        might is a more tentative way of expressing possibility than may
e.g.    Pete may have made a mistake going there.
          Pete might have made a mistake going there.

4.Literary, elevated or rhetorical language
Some terms/structures of limited use have a “literary” or “elevated” tone, belonging mainly to an archaic literary language, but still used by writers and public speakers of today when they want to impress and move the audience;
-use of the old-fashioned words forth, foe and the elevated let-construction;
e.g.     “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has passed to a new generation of Americans...”
[Inaugural Speech of President Kennedy —1961]

In addition to the above-mentioned labels, we sometimes use the ‘rhetorical’ tone, whether in speech or in writing, with an emphatic or emotive effect.
e.g.     Is no wonder (is it any wonder) that politicians are mistrusted?
Although met in the literature of earlier periods, literary, elevated and rhetorical forms are not particularly common in the everyday language of today.

To conclude, if we were to establish a diagram of the major levels of language, leaving out the more restricted variety labels — elevated, impersonal and slang — it should contain three pairs of contrasting levels:
          written        formal         polite
          spoken        informal     familiar

The features at the top of the diagram tend to go together, and likewise do those at the bottom. But this need not be the case, since it is possible to express oneself politely in spoken English, and it is possible to express oneself informally in written English.


·        Zdrenghea,Mihai and Greere, Anca Luminita – ‘A Practical English Grammar’, Cluj Napoca, 1999
·        Alexander, L.G. – Longman English Grammar, 1994
·        Dowing, Angela and Locke, Philip – ‘A University Course in English Grammar’, NY,1992
·        Sava, Dan-Serban – ‘Elements of Functional Structures’, Sibiu, 2004
·        Internet


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