Lang1055 Linguistics Essay on Data Analysis & Justification
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English, an SVO language consists of lexical items that can fall under the category of various grammatical or word classes depending on the syntactic or semantic similarities they exhibit. Words that denote a specific object and are concrete in nature falls under the word class ‘noun’. They contain morphological features like plural marking ‘-(e)s’, articles, number, i.e., either singular or plural form (dog – dogs; child – children) and contains a pronoun as a genitive case marker along with the noun phrase (my car, our cars, etc.). Words that predicate properties of an action fall under the ‘verb’ word class. Verbs are also called action words and the morphological features they possess are as follows: they can be either in past or present tense (walk, walked); in case of third person singular subject (he, she, it) verbs possess the suffix ‘-s’ in its present form (he/she walks, nurse/doctor walks, etc.). Thereis also another type of verbs that helps the main verb to express a meaning like can, could, will, would, should, may, might, must, ought and sell. These are known as auxiliary verbs or modals. Words that fall under adjectives word class modifies noun phrases (the beautiful house) or attributes predicates in the copular verb ‘be’ (the house is red). Adjectives do not possess verbal (*it redded) or nominal properties (*my red). Lexical items that denote manner, time and location falls under adverb class. They do not possess nominal, verbal or adjectival properties, adverbs generally ends with ‘-ly’ (he ran quickly). This article looks at the morphological and the syntactic features of various verbs and analyses if they fall under subcategory of verb, class or whether they fall under the larger category of verb bearing similar properties.
Let us consider the verb ‘walk’ and the auxiliary ‘must’ in the sentences as follows:
- The nurse walked yesterday.
- The nurse walks.
- The doctor must walk.
- The doctors must walk.
- Must the doctor walk?
- The dogs walked yesterday.
- Mustn’t the dog walk?
- The nurses walk.
- The nurses mustn’t walk.
- *walks the doctor?
- *the nurses walkn’t.
- *the nurse musts walk.
From the above sentences it is clear that ‘walk’ falls under the word class ‘verb’ that bears the morphological feature ‘-s’ after the main verb when the noun phrase is in the third person singular subject (sentence 2). As seen in sentence 8, when the third person noun phrase changes into a plural subject (nurses) the verb continue to be in its bare form (no morphological features are added). The walk takes on ‘-ed’ form when the action has taken place in the past as in sentences 1 and 6. Again in sentences 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9 we find that the main verb ‘walk’ appears with the light verb (modal verb) ‘must’. As Ramchand explains in Verb Meaning and the Lexicon (2008) that in the presence of an auxiliary verb, the main verb bears the encyclopedic content while the semantically bleached modal verb bears the inflectional markers. In sentences 3 and 4, the main verb does not show any inflection because of the presence of the light verb which in turn does not possess inflectional marker ‘-s’ even in presence of singular subject. In sentences 5 and 9, the modal verb functions like an auxiliary in cases of questions and negation. The question is formed by inverting the modal with the subject, whereas the negation is formed by adding not to the modal verb (must not – mustn’t).
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