Resources for Communication Problems

Monday, March 10, 2008



A phrase-maker, then, is simply a graphic representation of how a speaker of English understands a sentence. Another way of saying the same thing is this: a person who knows a given language interprets a string of words by fitting a phrase-maker to it; he understands the sentence in terms of a phrase-maker. In the case of certain ambiguities, more than one phrase-maker (or interpretation) may be fitted, the selection of one or the other depending recipe the context of the sentence. Notice that a phrase-maker, or tree diagram, is not a “recipe for how to make a sentence.”It is an explanation of how a string of words is understood or structured in perception.


Although these considerations belong to simple high school grammar, certain implications that are of particular importance for a theory of language acquisition are frequently ignored. The ambiguity of the sentence quoted is in this case directly due to the fact that the word boring is once function as an inflected verb-form and once as an adjective, modifying the noun students. In Indo-European languages (and probably in most others as well), the words that are most critical for the conveyance of meaning of a sentence are not rigidly tagged as either adjectives, or nouns or verbs, but there is considerable freedom of syntactic categorization. In English, most one-syllable nouns may function as verbs; the gerund of most verbs may function as an adjective or noun; most nouns may enter compounds in which they come to function as a modifier of another noun (for example, table-tennis); and there are constructions in which nouns assume adverbial roles (for example, Go Navy).

雖然這些情況不過僅是高中文法,但實際牽連的對於理論是很重要的且常被語言使用者忽略。句子中被引述的多義詞是直接合乎於這種情況,因為事實上boring 這一個詞可因變化字形而作為動詞和形容詞用途,用來修飾student 這個名詞。在印歐語系當中(或者有可能在更多其他的語系),字詞在傳達一個句子的意思中最受爭議因為並沒有硬性規定附加字尾而同時可以是形容詞、名詞,抑或是動詞。不過這些被視為造句法類別上的自由。在英文中,大部分的單音節名詞都可以作為從使用;大部分動詞的動名詞也可作為形容詞或名詞來使用;而大部分的名詞可以變成複合詞而使得他的功能趨近於另一個當作修飾詞的名詞(如:table-tennis桌球);另外還有一種用名詞來扮演副詞腳色的造句法結構。(如:Go Navy)

If we go back to Fig.7.4 and move from level of abstraction to level of abstraction, that is, from parts of speech to the constituents of the sentence, we find similar freedom. A pronoun may appear in the subject or in the object, and the same is true of adjectives and nouns; nor is the left to right order constant (although it is regulated by rules) as shown earlier in the chapter. The freedom becomes broader as the syntactic categories become more comprehensive. In highly inflected languages the inflectional morphemes may mark a word unmistakably as belonging to one or the other syntactic category but the problem is basically no different, because even there most word roots may appear in all three syntactic categories (verb, adjective, noun), and the selection and coordination of inflectional morphemes is possible only after the speaker has already assigned the root to a given category.


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