V
GRAMMAR: FORM AND FUNCTION

GRAMMAR is the construction placed by mind on the unorganized materials of speech. It is a system of reference which determines the relations between the parties to an event and the circumstantial details of the event itself. With the affective value of symbols it is not concerned; grammar is a formal science, not a branch of aesthetics. The tools at the speaker's disposal are order, auxiliaries, and formal alterations of words.

That grammar is arbitrary seems to become evident as we consider opposite ways of effecting the same end. No one device can be deemed more natural than another. Each event, for instance, is unique, and it is quite natural to report it uniquely and massively. This way leads to the word-sentence, to synthesis and polysynthesis. It is also possible to observe in each event a number of parties and circumstances which appear in other events, to isolate these and to attach to them all the signs which will determine their mutual relations. The expression is then made up of masses in their relations to each other. But it is equally natural to discriminate not only the main concepts but also the relational concepts. The first way is that of the synthetic and agglutinative languages, the second that of the isolating and analytic. In French and other Romance languages we have a mixed economy. The parties to the event are treated analytically, but the event itself is recognized as a complex and is expressed synthetically. That has occurred despite the fact that the Latin tenses were often broken into combinations of separate words which expressed both verbal concepts and modified relational concepts. A synthetic conjugation has been reconstructed, partly by the chance that the relational symbols have followed the main stem and so have lost their separate identity, but partly also no doubt as the result of some obscure feeling that the verb, the specifically phenomenal element in the sentence, should be complex like the event itself.

One may predicate a quality concerning a substance by means of the order subject-predicate (SP), as in Arabic Allāhu 'akbar 'God is great', or the order PS, as in Samoan ua amiotonu le alii 'just

-145-

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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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