2 Sentence, Utterance, Proposition
GRAMÁTICA INGLESA II UNLP
U N I T 1 HANDOUT # 2
Sentence, Proposition, Utterance What is a sentence? 1. Structural definition: Syntactically, a sentence consists of a subject and and a predicate ; categorially, a noun phrase and and a verb phrase . This is a traditional definition, based on the "structure" of the sentence. It is not necessarily the definition given by structural grammarians . It would have to be completed by defining the sentence-defining terms: subject, predicate, noun and verb phrase . And then, we would have to define the terms used in these definitions, and so on. This is Chomsky’s position, the whole grammar is the definition of the sentence in a particular language. It leaves open the question whether we can or not define the the sentence as a universal category of language . 2. Notional definition: a sentence is a group of words which express a complete idea, presumably, a proposition (static or dynamic) and a modality (cognition (cognition or volition). Structuralists have critized this definition (a traditional one) for being subjective and unscientific . The term "idea" is difficult to define because it is vague. However, if we interpret an idea as a semantic unit which consists of a proposition and a modality , the definition becomes quite acceptable.
3. Phonological definition: a sentence is an utterance with with a definite intonation contour . The attempt to define the sentence phonologically phonologically was made by structural grammarians , who identified language with with speech . It fails because there is no exact correspondence between sentence final intonation contours and and the end of sentences, sentences, e.g.: if we say “he said he would come he didn’t ” with a single intonation and a fall on“didn’t”. 4. Bloomfield’s definition: a sentence is an independent linguistic form , not included by virtue of any grammatical construction , in any larger linguistic form . This definition says simply that the sentence is the largest unit of grammatical description . Largest means highest in rank. We can discuss the structure of of the sentence in terms of clauses, phrases, etc , but we cannot talk about syntactic classes, roles, or distributions of of sentences, because the sentence does not operate (play a role) in any larger grammatical unit . We can talk about affirmative, interrogative and negative sentences , but these are types of sentences, not syntactic or distributional classes . We can also talk about statements, questions and commands , but these are different speech acts , not syntactic classes . The sentence cannot be put into any of one another. distributional (or syntactic) class . Sentences are distributionally independent of Is the paragraph a grammatical unit? No. It is a stylistic unit, not a grammatical one. We cannot set up rules to generate (or describe precisely) the structure of the and coherence , and these are matters of degree . Grammar deals with matters of yes or no. paragraph . We have to talk about cohesion and The paragraph may be considered as a pragmatic unit . Pragmatics studies studies the use of of language, performance, behaviour, utterances . We have to keep in mind the difference between language (an abstract system) and its use (a (a communicative activity). The study of language is linguistics proper (microlinguistics). (microlinguistics). The study of performance calls for an interdisciplinary subject (linguistics, (linguistics, sociology, stylistics, etc). Sentences are described in grammar . Paragraphs and more extended texts, discourse , are discussed in pragmatics , in discourse or text analysis. A sentence is an abstract category . It has different levels of structure: phonological, grammatical and semantic . The different definitions focus on the different levels. Lyons: The relationship between observed (or observable) utterances and the set of grammatical sentences postulated by the linguist in his description of a particular language is quite indirect . Utterances involve involve the use of of language ( performance ). Sentences are are ). Utterances are are the data of linguists. Sentences are are part abstract, scientific constructions . They make up the language-system ( competence competence of linguistic theory . Sentences *theoretical constructs *hypothetical entities *abstract
Utterances *behaviour, activity, performance, actual facts *things we say *concrete vocal signals
*Saussure’slangue *precise, technical, theoretical term Sentence types declarative interrogative imperative
*Saussure’s parole *intuitive, pre-theoretical, observational term *unique physical events Speech Acts Statements Questions Commands
The linguist is not concerned with unique observational entities . He is interested in types, not tokens . Pragmatists are interested in utterances, which are tokens of the same type . "Type" means there is some structural or functional identity by virtue of which we recognize their sameness. In describing a language, the linguist constructs a model , not of the actual language behaviour, but of the regularities manifest in that behaviour . He constructs a model of the language-system. Lyons distinguishes between: Text-sentence :
a sentence that can be uttered the product of a bit of language-behaviour (utterance) it may be complete or incomplete
System-sentence : a sentence as an abstract, theoretical entity. a construct in the linguist’s model of the language-system complete by definition in correspondence with grammatically complete text-sentences
Lyons defines text as any connected passage of discourse (spoken or written) Gramar & Semantics system-sentences Declarative interrogative imperative, etc
Pragmatics utterances statements questions commands, etc.
communicative speech act
The characteristic function (use) of a declarative sentence is to make a statement (to inform someone of something). The characteristic function, or use, of an interrogative sentence is to ask a question . The characteristic function, or use, of an imperative sentence is to express a command (or request). But this correspondence is not always held: questions may be asked by uttering declarative sentences , e.g.: I want to know...; commands may be given by uttering interrogative sentences , e.g.: why don’t you ...? The utterance of a sentence is understood to mean the production of a text-sentence .
SEMANTICS.A coursebook.by James Hurford& Brendan Heasley Semantics: basic definitions Semantics: the study of meaning in language. Speaker meaning: is what a speaker means (i.e. intends to convey) when he uses a piece of language. Sentence meaning (or word meaning) is what a sentence (or words) means, i.e. what it counts as the equivalent of ... in the language concerned. Theory is a precisely specified, coherent and economical framework of interdependent statements and definitions constructed so that as large a number as possible of particular basic facts can either be seen to follow from it or be describable in terms of it. Sentence: neither a physical event nor a physical object. Conceived abstractly, it is a string of words put together by the grammatical rules of a language. A sentence can be thought of as the IDEAL string of words behind various realizations in utterances and inscriptions. A given sentence always consists of the same words, and in the same order. Any change in the
words, or in their order, makes a different sentence. A sentence can also be defined as a grammatically complete string of words expressing a complete thought. Many times, non-sentences can be analysed as abbreviations of sentences. Utterance: any stretch of talk, used by one person, before and after which there is silence on the part of that person. An utterance is the USE of a particular speaker, on a particular occasion, of a piece of language, such as a sequence of sentences, or a single phrase, or even a single word. It is a physical, ephemeral, unique event (it dies in the wind). Proposition: that part of the meaning of the utterance of a declarative sentence which describes some state of affairs. The state of affairs typically involves persons or things referred to by expressions in the sentence. In uttering a declarative sentence a speaker typically asserts a proposition. The notion of truth can be used to decide whether two sentences express different propositions. If there is any conceivable set of circumstances in which one sentence is true, while the other is false, we can be sure that they express different propositions. *True propositions correspond to facts. False propositions, do not. *One can entertain propositions in the mind regardless of whether they are true or false, e.g., by thinking them, or believing them. But only true propositions can be known . *In the definition we explicitly mentioned declarative sentences, but propositions are clearly involved in the meanings of other types of sentences, such as interrogative and imperatives. Normally, when a speaker utters a simple declarative sentence, he commits himself to the truth of the corresponding proposition, i.e. he asserts the proposition. By uttering a simple interrogative or imperative, a speaker can mention a particular proposition, without asserting its truth. For example, in saying: Greg can go, a speaker asserts the proposition that Greg can go. In saying: Can Greg go?, he mentions the same proposition but merely questions its truth. We say that corresponding declaratives and interrogatives (and imperatives) have the same propositional content.
Can be loud or quiet Can be grammatical or not Can be true or false In a particular regional accent In a particular language
Utterances + + + + +
Sentences -+ + -+
* The same proposition may be expressed by different sentences. * The same sentence may be realized by different utterances. * Propositions cannot be said to belong to any particular language.
Propositions --+ ---