VI
GRAMMAR: THE SENTENCE

ORGANIZED grammar is based on the sentence and the sentence is essentially predication.

This view does not entirely commit us to belief in Wilhelm von Humboldt's thesis of the primacy of the sentence over the word. The term word may be understood in various ways, and if it is stretched to include cries and spontaneous utterances, these may well be anterior to the sentence proper. These utterances form groups of significant symbols not unlike the breath-groups of phonetics, but whether they are properly considered as organized sentences is open to doubt. It is from the organized sentences, however, that we deduce the fully organized word. The function of a single word in one language is played by two or more in another and in some of them, such as those of the Altaic group, a single word may play the part of a whole clause elsewhere. One cannot give the same account of what constitutes a word in languages of totally different types though the sentences of each are, as the definition requires, complete expressions of the speaker's intention within the frame of the given circumstances. The organized word thus comes after the organized sentence, and it is with this latter that the grammarian has to do.

To employ the term 'predication' of something so alogical as speech is perhaps awkward, but it is sanctioned by tradition and there is no other term equally convenient. It means only that something is said (P) about some subject (S), not always in the form 'S is P' but more often and characteristically SP, e.g. John runs. The predicate is termed ῥη + ̑μα = ('a saying') by Aristotle and the subject ὄνομα or τὸ ὑποκείμενον. A thing which can be singled out for predication is to that extent named and is a noun; it may be said metaphorically to underlie the statement (ὑποκει + ̑σθαι 'underlie'). At this stage we are dealing with the gross Subject and gross Predicate as in the division into two parts of 'The boy/stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled'. The gross subject (S) includes all that goes to define itself, as the boy, the brave boy, Casabianca's boy, the boy who was the hero of this poem. All that

-167-

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Aspects of Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editor''s Preface v
  • Prefatory Letter vii
  • Contents xi
  • I- Language 1
  • II- Change 34
  • III- Techniques 71
  • IV- Sounds 97
  • V- Grammar- Form and Function 145
  • VI- Grammar- The Sentence 167
  • VII- Grammar- Parts of Speech 187
  • VIII- Words 226
  • IX- Values 265
  • X- Classification, Description, Affiliation 286
  • XI- Languages 305
  • Index 363
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