Che materia stai cercando?

Riassunto esame Linguistica inglese, prof.ssa Maggioni, libro consigliato A handbook of presentday English, Pulcini

Riassunto per l'esame di Linguistica Inglese, basato su appunti personali e studio autonomo del testo consigliato dalla prof.ssa Maggioni: A handbook of presentday English, a cura di Virginia Pulcini.
Gli argomenti trattati riguardano: language change and variation in English, The pronunciation of English, The grammar of English, The English lexicon and Text linguistics.

Esame di Linguistica inglese docente Prof. M. Maggioni



same features.

Some examples from English and Italian will clarify this notion.

the morph that indicate {past tense} in English is -ed;

- the plural morpheme in English nouns is realised orthographically by adding the morph -s, which however

- has three different phonetic realisation: cups [s], hands [z], beaches [ɪ z];

the morphs in-, im-, il-, ir- are graphic allomorphs of the same morpheme meaning {not} or oppositeness of

- meaning;

a similar situation can be founded in Italian: illegale, irrazionale, impreciso, intollerante contain the morph il-,

- ir-, im-, in-, which are allomorph of the same morpheme expressing the opposite of what follows;

an example of graphic allomorph is given by the English indefinite article which has two orthographic shapese,

- a/an, depending on the word that follows it. It is realised as a before a phonetic consonant (a house), an

before a vowel (an apple).

2.2 Types of morphemes – We need to distinguish between different kinds of morphemes according to their form

and their function. There are two types of morphemes:

free morphemes: they can stand alone as words (a, in, student, party). Free morphemes that belong to lexical

- words and carry the semantic content ore core meaning of the word (like student, organise…) are called free

roots. Free morphemes can be divide into:

 free lexical morphemes: are free morphemes belonging to the class of lexical words, which carry

semantic content (headline = head + line);

 free functional morphemes: are morphemes belonging to the class of function words, which do not

carry semantic content (the, be, by, a);

bound morphemes: are morpheme which cannot occur on their own as separate words, but need to be

- attached to a another morpheme. There are two main types of bound morphemes:

 affixes: are morphemes attached to the beginning or end of another morpheme (prefixes and suffixes).

English affixes can be of two kinds: those which precede another morpheme are called prefixes (like re-

in reprint) while those which follow another morpheme are called suffixes (like -ness in sadness, -er in

teacher, -s in sisters);

 bound roots: many roots (morphemes that represent the core of the meaning of a world) are free

morphemes, since they can stand independently as word. However, there are some roots which cannot

occur on they own as independent words, but need to be attached to another morpheme: they are

called bound roots (-ceive, -fer, re-, per-, con-, de- like receive, prefer, reprint…).

Affixes are attached to the root, stem or base of a word. The meaning of these terms need to be clarified. A root is

the core of a word, the morpheme which determines the meaning of a word, with no affixes attached to it. For

instance, in the word unhappiness the root is happy.

Affixes can be further divided into two functional categories, according to their meaning and function:

derivational morphemes are affixes (prefixes and suffixes) used for deriving new words when attached to

- other morphemes (sadness = -ness is the suffix that turns an adjective into a noun). They are therefore


considered a tool of lexical productivity in a language;

inflectional morphemes, which are always suffixes in English, are not use to create new words and modify

- neither the core meaning of a word nor its word class. Their role is to express grammatical relations or

functions (books = -s indicates plural, organised = -ed signals past tense).

2.3 Morphological analysis – The word

unhelpful is made up of three

morphemes: the prefix un-, the free

morpheme help and the suffix -ful.

Each morpheme carrying a specific

meaning which contributes to the

meaning of the word: {negative} +

{HELP} + {adjective}. These

morphemes are represented by three

morphs: the bound morph, prefix -un

followed by three free morph help to

which another bound morph, the

suffix -ful is attached.

2.4 Inflectional morphology

According to the types of morphemes

that are taken into consideration,

morphology is traditionally divided into

two branches:

derivational morphology;

- inflectional morphology deals with

- changes in the form of words

according to the grammatical context.

Modern English has a more limited

presence of inflectional morphology

compared to Old English and compared to

other languages (ex. Italian), as it has lost

many of its inflections. In present-day

English, syntax and word order play a

greater role in signalling grammatical

relations in sentences.

Present-day English has regular inflection

suffixes, and also some irregular inflection

for the members of the word classes of 27

nouns, verbs, adjectives and a few adverbs. (see table 2)

English nouns have the category of number and, partially, that of the case, when indicating possession. English

noun do not express the category of gender. Most English nouns (count nouns) must be inflected to express the

grammatical category of number, which means that they have two word-forms: singular and plural. Non-count

nouns (advice, information, oil, sugar...), proper nouns (name of people, palces, organizations...) do not have a

plural form. Irregular plural forms include nouns such as child-children, foot-feet, mouse-mice, sheep-sheep. (see

table 3)

English nouns can express possession by adding the inflectional suffix 's. This is called genitivo sassone in Italian.

Through the suffix consists of a different particle separated from the noun by the apostrophe, this morpheme is

considered an inflection form of nouns as it expresses the grammatical category of the genitive case. English

nouns express only the genitive case, which indicate possession, by adding the suffix 's.

The difference between morpheme and morph, and the role of irregular plurals, can be seen from an analysis of

the morpheems and morphs of the following nouns:



cars car-s {CAR} + {plural}

singers sing-er-s {SING} + {noun } + {plural}

theeth / {TOOTH} + {plural}

sheep sheep {SHEEP} + {plural}

oxen ox-en {OX} + { plural}

women's women- 's {WOMAN} + { plural} +{ possessive}

Regular lexical verbs have four verb inflections:


1. -s inflection 3 person singular, simple present tense;

2. -ed inflection, simple past tense (the morph -ed can have different phonetic realisations);

3. -ed inflection, past participle (its function is clearly different from the other one);

4. -ing inflection, present participle and gerund.

English has several irregular verbs. Most of them are irregular only in their past tense and past participle forms,

while they tend to add regular inflection in the other cases. Irregular verbs can be grouped according to the type

of process or pattern they show:

put-put-put: the past tense and past particle have no inflectional suffix, the morphemes {past} and {past part.}

- do not have a concrete realisation. We could say that they are realized by a zero morph;

swim-swam-swum: there is a process of vowel mutation which entails the change of the base vowel;

- speak-spoke-spoken: we could classify this as a process of vowel mutation and irregular inflection -en for the

- past participle form;

lose-lost-lost: the past tense and past participle forms are identical, and are formed irregularly through the

- replacement of one or more phonemes with other phonemes, so we can speak of replacive morphs;

go-went-gone: some linguistics call this type of irregularity a process of suppletion. It takes place when two

- or more forms of a lexeme are phonetically different and seem unrelated. We could say that GO has a


suppletive past tens form, went.

3. Syntax

3.1 Word Order – In present-day English grammatical relations and meanings are expressed to a greater extent by

syntax and word order than by inflectional morphology. The order of constituents specifies and signals their

syntactic function. For example, the function of subject in English is not expressed by case, but by the position of

the word or phrase in the clause and its relation whit other consitutents.

The following clauses exemplyfy this point: Mark beat Luke at tennis vs Luke beat Mark at tennis. Those clauses

have different meanings: the first clause means that Mark won while the second means that it was Luke that won.

The different interpretation is not dictated by specific morphological features of the words, but by the order of the

words. Other changes of meaning determined by the order of consitutuent can be seen in the following clauses:

She is happy vs Is she happy? The two clauses are made up of the same constituents, but their different word

order renders the first one a statement and the second one a question.

In Englihs declarative clauses the subject is typically placed before the verb, while the object goes after the verb.

This is the unmarked order of constituents. In linguistic the term “unmarked” means typical, most common, while

“marked” means untypical, less common and less frequent.

Since the unmarked order of constituents in English is SVO (subject-verb-object), if a noun phrase is in initial

position, it has the function of S, where if it follows the verb phrase it has the function of O. One difference

between English and Italian is that in present-day Englihs the order of constituents is quite fixed, whereas in

Italian it can vary to a certani extent. In italian the order is also SVO, but it is more flexible. In English the O can be

placed in first position, but only in very specific cases when we want to give it a special emphasis (Her, I hate).

A common error due to the iterference of more flexible Italian syntax is the placing of the S after the V.

In Italian the S pronoun can be omitted, because it ca be understood from the context and from the verb

inflection, in English the S is always expressed.

3.2 Types of phrases – Words combine with other words and are arranged into larger constituents or phrases. The

identification of phrases ca be considered an intiutive process, as we tend to put together words which make up

meaningful chunks and which we think “go together”.

A phrase (in italian sintagma) is a meaningful syntactic unit which is made up of one or more words. Its minimal

form consist of a single word. A phrase is constructed around a head word, called the head of the phrase.

Accompanying words, which are called modifiers as they define and modify the head, are divided into

pre-modifiers when they precede the head post-modifiers if they follow the head. The headword is the most

important element in the phrase, the one without which the syntactic unit would not make sense; the one which

gives the phrase its name and which can stand alone as a phrase. The headword of a phrase is an obligatory

element, while other words accompanying it are optional.

Each lexical word has a phrase named after it, while among the function words only prepositions can be the head

of a phrase. Phrases can thus be of five types:

noun phrase (NP): is a phrase which has a noun as its head;

- verb phrase (VP): is a phrase having a verb as its head;

- 29

adjective phrase (AdjP): is a phrase with an adjective as its head;

- adverb phrase (AdvP): is a phrase which has an adverb as its head;

- prepositional phrase (PP): is a phrase with a preposition as its head, but it is always followed by anothet

- element, which is usually a NP.

3.2.1 The Noun Phrase – A noun phrase consists of a noun head (H) either alone or accompanied by other words

before or after it (determiners, pre-modifiers and post-modifiers). Determiners indicate the specific reference of

the noun and they occupy the first position in the NP; modifiers usyally express some characteristics of the head

noun, and some post-modifiers complete the meaning of the head noun.

Head noun are in bold while determiner, pre-modifier and post-modifiers are undelined.

The role of determiner (Det) can be filled by articles, demonstratives, possessives, quantifiers and numerals (a car,

that book).

The role of pre-modifier (Pre-Mod) can be filled by the following elements:

adjective (Adj) or adjective phrase (AdjP): a new car, young students;

- nouns (Ns) or nouns phrase (NP): summer clothes, my father’s birthday.


The role of post-modifiers (Post-Mod) can be filled by the following elements:

a prepositional phrase (PP): a luxory apartment in the heart of Oxford;

- a relative clause: a young girl who was using the pedestrian crossing;

- non-finite clauses: a solitary man walking with his faithful dog;

- some types of adjective phrases (AdjPs): something similar;

- some adverb phrases (AdvPs): your holiday aborad;

- a that-clause;

- appositive NPs: the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

- TABLE 5 – Possible structure of NPs

D P - H N P -


Two luxury apartments in the heart of Oxford

A young girl who was using the pedestrian crossing


3.2.2 The Verb Phrase (VP) – It consists of a head verb, either alone or accompanied by one or more other verbs.

There are different types of verbs which have different functions:

lexical verbs (go, live, think);

- primary auxiliaries functioning as main verbs (do, have, be);

- primary auxiliaries (be, have, do);

- modal auxiliary (must, may, can, should...).


If the VP contains only one verb, then it's a lexical verb, whereas if there are more verbs there is a lexical verb

pre-modified by one or more auxiliary verbs.

Auxiliary verbs have a specific function in the VP. They are used to express grammatical categories such as aspect,

voice and modality, and to signal negation and clause type.

A finite VP contains a verb in its finite or tensed form, which means that the verb indicates tense. A non-finite VP

contains a verb in its non-finite or non-tensed form, which means that the verb does not show tense.

The English VP can give different kind of information. It can express several types of variation or distinctions such

as contrasts in:

tense (present or past);

- aspect (unmarked, perfect, progressive or perfect progressive);

- voice (active or passive);

- modality (unmarked or expressing nuances of meaning with modal verbs);

- mood (indicative, subjunctive or imperative);

- negation (positive or negative);

- finiteness (finite or non-finite);

- clause structure type (declarative interrogative).


Tense in a grammatical category which in English is marked through verb inflections. VPs which signal tense are

called finite VPs. All lexical verbs can be marked for tense. English has only two tenses: present and past, while

Italian has three tenses, present, past and future. 31

It should be noted that tense does not coincide with time: tense is related to form, while time is related to


Since English has no morphologically marked future tense, i.e. it has no verb inflections that express future time, if

we want to refer to events or situations in future time we need to use different structures. The most common

forms that express future time are:

will/shall + verb;

- be + going to + infinitive;

- the present progressive form;

- the present simple form;

- be to + infinitive;

- be about to + infinitive.


The form will or shall + infinitive is used:

to predict future events based on present evidence which is not so obvious, and is often accompanied by

- perhaps, probably, definitely etc.;

when the future reference is based on a decision taken at the moment of speaking;

- to make a promise;

- to offer to do something;

- to make an offer, suggest to do something.


The form be + going to + infinitive is used:

to make predictions based on present evidence;

- to talk about plans, decisions and intentions.


The present progressive form is used to talk about something that has already been arranged and organised (I’m

starting a new job tomorrow). The present simple form can be used to make references to fixed events in the

future that cannot be changed, such as schedules, timetables, conference programmes, arrangements (the plane

leaves at 11 a.m.). The form to be + infinitive can be used when we want to refer to immediate future events

which are seen as obligations, requirements or parts of a fixed plan (we are to get there by noon). The form be

about to + infinitive is used to talk about future events which are considered as occurring in the immediate future

(she was about to burst into tears).

Aspect is another grammatical category which is also related to time, since it shows the speaker's/writer’s attitude

towards the time of an event/process/state. There are two aspects in English: the perfect aspect, and the

progressive aspect (also called “continuous” aspect). The perfect aspect refers to completed actions or states,

while the progressive aspect refers to an ongoing, incomplete actions or state.

The perfect aspect signals that the action, event or state occurred at an earlier time, and usually for a certain

period, which might include the time of utterance. The progressive aspect, on the other hand, indicates that the

action, event or state is in progress, unfinished at the time of utterance.

Voice is another grammatical category which can be expressed by some English verbs. Transitive verbs (i.e. verbs

which can be followed by an O) can occur in the active or in the passive voice. In the active voice the S is the agent


and performs the action expressed by the VP, while in the passive voice the S is actually the recipient of the action.

Ex. “The policeman arrested the criminal” vs “The criminal was arrested by the policeman”.

Passive VPs can also be constructed using the verb . This structure is less frequent and more informal than the


typical passive with , and is frequent in conversation.


The passive voice is employed in specific registers or with specific functions. For instance, it is used when one does

not know or does not want to specify the agent, or if one wants to highlight the receiver of affected entity of the

action. The passive voice is also frequently adopted in academic journal articles or essay. The main function of the

passive in such texts is to focus on the methodology and findings, as well to convey a more personal impersonal

and formal style. In the news, the passive voice is often adopted when reporting negative events of which the

agent is unknown or should be omitted.

The VP can also express a distinction in terms of shades of meaning through the use of modal verbs. English verbs

can thus be marked for modality. Modal verbs function as auxiliary verbs. There are nine central modal auxiliary

verbs in English: can, could may, might, shall, should, will, would and must. English also has some semi-modals,

which are multi-word verbs which behave like modals verbs: need (to), have to, have got to, ought to, had better,

used to, be supposed to, be going to.

In terms of meaning, modal auxiliaries express point of view or stance (the speaker's attitude towards what is

being said). Modals can be divided in three main groups according to their meaning:

1. permission/possibility/ability;

2. obligation/logical necessity;

3. volition/prediction;

Modality can be of two main kinds:

a) deontic or intrinsic modality: it refers to actions or events that can be controlled by humans. This type of

modality involves permission, ability, obligation, advise, volition or intention. Modal verbs that express

deontic or intrinsic modality are: can, could, may, might, must, should, have got to, had better, ought to, need

to, be supposed to, will, would, shall, be going to.

b) epistemic or extrinsic modality: it refers to different levels of likelihood or certainty of a specific event or

state. Epistemic modality expresses different degrees of possibility or probability of a fact; it is related to

human judgement of whether an event or state is possible, probable or certain. This type of modality involves

possibility, necessity and prediction. Epistemic modality is expressed by the modal verbs may, might, can,

could, must, have to, have got to, be supposed to, ought to, will, would, shall and be going to.

3.2.3 The Adjective Phrase – An adjective phrase is a phrase which has an adjective as its head. It can consist of a

single adjective or of an adjective with pre- and/or post-modifiers. Modifiers can be single words, phrases or


A head adjective is frequently pre-modified by an adverb, while the most frequent post-modifiers are PPs or


Pre-modifiers in an AdjP can be:


- 33

occasionally, a NP.




- a PP made up of Prep + NP;

- a preposition followed by a VP;

- a that-clause;

- a -ing clause introduced by a preposition.


3.2.4. The Adverb Phrase – The adverb phrase is a phrase which has an adverb as its head. AdvPs can consist of a

single adverb or of an adverb accompanied by modifying elements. Modifiers are similar to the ones found in

AdjPs. Frequent pre-modifiers are degree adverbs such as very, rather, quite, extremely and fairly. Frequent

post-modifiers are the adverbs enough and indeed. An AdvPs conveys information related to circumstances such

as manner, frequency, time, modality, place, degree or point of view or it links clauses.

As regard they sybtactic role, AdvPs can modify:

an AdjP;

- a VP;

- a clause, if they express modality, point of view or evaluation.


3.2.5 The Preposition Phrase – A prepositional phrase (PP) is a phrase which has a preposition as head, which is

followed by another element, usually a NP. The element that follows the preposition is called the complement of

the preposition (C). The C of the preposition may sometimes be a clause (a relative clause, an -ing clause or a


PPs can occur in different positions in clauses, as they usually modify other phrases and they can post-modify

head nouns. They can also post-modify head adjectives or adverbs in AdjPs and AdvPs. PPs are the most common

post-modifiers in NPs, and the most frequent PPs begin with of, in, for, on, to and with.

PPs can cause ambiguity of meaning in clauses → Ex: The doorkeeper hit the woman with the umbrella = The

doorkeeper used the umbrella to hit the woman VS The doorkeeper hit the woman who was carrying the umbrella.

3.3 Clause elements – Phrases function as clause elements. Each clause element has a specific grammatical

function in relation to the linguistic system. There are five major clause elements: subject (S), object (O), verb (V),

complement (C) and adverbial (A).

The subject element (S) in a clause is its topic, what the clause is about. The S it's obligatory in English, and its

position is typically before the verb element, except in interrogative clauses. The S determines the number of the

verb element. In term of form, the S element is most typically a NP or a pronoun.

There are clauses which contain a dummy S which do not carry semantic content. The dummy S it or there fills the

S slot before the verb element, but is semantically empty, while a second S follows the verb and is called

extraposed S. → It really hurts me to be going away or It was a big mistake to call him again.

The verb element (V) is a VP. As previously highlighted, the verb element can express tense, aspect, voice and

modality. It agrees in number with the S element, it is usually obligatory and it is the central part of the clause

since it controls the other elements. This means that the lexical verbs in the VP dictates what type of clause


elements, if any, can follow the verb.

The omission of the A element would result in a grammatically incomplete clause. This close relationship between

the lexical verb and the other elements preceding or following the verb in the clause is called verb

complementation. This notion refers to the fact that the verb determines the type of obligatory clause elements

that “complement” or can be added to the verb in order to make the clause grammatically complete.

Lexical verbs are classified according to the number and type of clause elements that they require an the patterns

they can create, known as valency pattern. Verbs can thus be one-place verbs (they combine only with a S),

two-places verbs (they combine with a S and another element) and three-places verbs (they combine with a S

and two other elements). Depending on the verbs complementation or valency pattern they allow, lexical verbs

can thus be classified in:

intransitive: clause pattern S + V;

- monotransitive: clause pattern S + V + O (direct object);

- d

ditransitive: clause pattern S + V + O (indirect object) + O ;

- i d

complex transitive: two clause patterns → 1. S + V + O + C (object complement) or 2. S + V + O + A

- d o d

(obligatory adverbial);

copular: two clause patterns → 1. S + V + C (subject complement) or 2. S + V + A.

- s

A clause can be divided into two parts: the subject (what the clause is about, its topic) and the predicate (what is

said about the Subject). The predicate consists of the verb element and its verb complementation → You (S) must

tell me the truth (P).

The object element (O) follows the verb and is affected by it. Objects only occur after transitive verbs. There are

two types of objects:

the direct object (O ): it refers to the entity which is directly affected by the process or action denoted by the

- d

verb. The O is typically a NP, but it can also be a subordinate clause;


the indirect object (O ): is the entity which receive something or benefits from the action or process

- i

expressed by the verb. The indirect object is found only with ditransitive verbs but also the O is usually


placed between the verb and the O and immediately follows the verb element. The O is typically a NP, but it

d i

can also be a PP or a subordinate nominal clause.

The complement (C) is an obligatory clause element which characterises or describes the S or the O, providing

information about them.

There are thus two types of complement:

subject complement (C ) follows a copular verb such as be, feel, seem, appear, look, remain, stay, become,

- s

turn, sound, taste. The C is often an AdjP, a NP or a PP but it can also be a subordinate nominal clause and it


correspond to the Italian complemento predicativo del soggetto;

object complement (C ): follows the direct object it characterises, and occurs with complex transitive verbs

- o

such as make, elect, consider, name, find, regard (as), call, see and get. The C is typically a NP or an AdjP, but


it can also be a PP or a subordinate clause.

 Adverbials (A), also called adjuncts in some grammars, are usually optional elements added to the main,


obligatory elements of a sentence. They can be of different types:

circumstance adverbials: they add information about the circumstance so the event, situation or state

- described by the clause. They answer to the question “Where? When? How? How much? Why? How long?”.

They can be adverbials of place, time, manner, process, reason, purpose, condition and degree;

stance adverbials: they add extra information about the speaker’s/writer’s feelings, attitude and opinion

- towards what is being said by the clause and this adverbials are always optional;

linking adverbials: they connect clauses or parts of clauses, therefore they do not add information as to what

- the clause is about; instead they have a linking function like nevertheless, however, in conclusion, yet, first.

The syntactic or grammatical role of adverbial can be filled by adverbs, AdvPs, PPs, NPs and subordinate clauses.

3.4 Types of Clauses – Phrases combine to form clauses. A clause is a larger grammatical unit which consists of

one or more phrases and which typically contains a VP around which other elements may be added (S - O - C - A ).

s s s

There are different types of clauses according to their structure or their function. We can distinguish:

finite VS non-finite-clauses: whether the VP is finite or non-finite and this distinction is based on the form of

- the clause;

main clauses VS subordinate clauses: whether the clause can stand on its own or whether it cannot stand

- alone and this distinction is based on the function of the clause;

declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamative clauses: this distinction is based on the clause structure

- and on its function – these are called clause types;

simple clauses, compound clauses and complex clauses: according to their structure, clauses can be classified

- as simple clauses if they consist of a main clause only, compound clauses if they are made up of coordinate

clauses or complex clauses if they consist of a main and a dependent clause.

3.5 Main Clauses – According to their structure, main clauses are classified into four major clause types.

1. declarative clauses: they typically have a SV structure, in which the S element is followed by the V element.

The type of verb in the VP determines whether other clause elements and which ones should be added. They

usually express statements and convey information. In declarative clauses the S is typically in initial position,

therefore this structure is the unmarked for such clauses. Marked structure may be used in order to imply


2. interrogative clauses: they have a VS structure, with or without a wh- word, and are characterized by the use

of an auxiliary in initial position (be, do, have). The typical function of interrogative clauses is to ask questions.

However, they can also be used to make requests, suggestions, offers or to give orders. A particular kind of

interrogative clause is the question tag, which is a typical feature of the English language used only in

conversation. A question tag consists of an auxiliary verb followed by a personal pronoun and it is a yes/no

question which is added to a statement made by the speaker. If the clause is positive the question tag is

negative, and vice versa. Tag questions don’t have an equivalent in Italian.

3. imperative clauses: they do not contain an overt S but have a V structure. The lexical verb may stand alone in

its base form or be accompanied by other elements. The typical function of imperative clauses is to express

directives. However, they may also be used to make invitations or requests. Imperative clauses are more


common in conversation, or in fiction and films.

4. exclamative clauses: they can have various structures, but they typically consist of what or how followed by a

SV structure. The verb may be omitted. Exclamative clauses express exclamations which are usually reactions

of surprise or shock, and they typically occur in conversation or in fiction and films.

Clauses are made up by combining the clause elements of S, V, O, C and A. As previously stated, it is the verb

element which determines the type and number of elements that can be added.

All declarative clauses in English are formed by combining the clause elements into one of the following 7 basic

clause patterns:

1. SV (intransitive verb);

2. SVA (intransitive or copular verb with obligatory adverb);

3. SVC (copular verb);


4. SVO (monotransitive verb);


5. SVO O (distransive verb);

i d

6. SVO C (complex transitive verb);

d o

7. SVO A (complex transitive verb with obligatory adverb).


In this basic clause patterns all the clause elements are obligatory.

Other variations which create more complex patterns involve changing order of constituents. These are marked

structures since they are less frequent and have the function of highlighting specific elements. One example is

clefting which divides a clause into two parts and has the function of placing focus on a specific element.

There are two types of cleft structures:

it-clefts: they are made up of the pronoun it followed by the verb be, which is in turn followed by the element

- that needs to be brought into focus and relative clause;

wh-clefts: it consist of a clause introduced by a wh- word followed by verb be and the element which is to be

- brought into focus.

3.6 Coordination and Subordination – Coordination is the linking of a main clause with another main clause,

thought coordinators (and, but, or). Subordination is the joining of a main clause with a subordinate clause

through subordinators (if, when, although, because, who, which, how).

When two clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction we talk about coordinate clauses → The woman left

her suitcase in the hotel room and she went to the theatre. The clause joined by the conjunction have equal status

and could stand alone as main clause. Coordinate clauses can also be joined by punctuation marks rather than

conjunctions. Coordinate clauses forma compound sentence.

When two clauses are linked to each other through a subordinating conjunction the relationship between the

clauses is called subordination and we have a complex sentence → you can go out with your friends when you

finish your homework. The subordinate clause is also called dependent clause, as it cannot stand alone. It must be

embedded as part of the main clause. It must be embedded as part of the main clause.

3.7 Subordinate Clauses – Subordinate or dependent clauses cannot stand alone as a clause, which means that

they are syntactically dependent on a main clause, to which they must be attached. They are usually joined to the


main clause either as a clause element (functioning as an O, S, C or A) or embedded as a modifier in a phrase

which functions as a clause element.

A subordinate clause can be finite or non-finite, according to whether the VP expresses tense or not.

3.7.1 Finite Subordinate Clauses – Finite subordinate clauses contain a VP which is marked for tense. They can be

divided into four categories according to their meaning or function, and their relationship with the main clause:

1. nominal clauses (subordinate completive o argomentali): their function is similar to that of a NP, they are

usually introduced by that (The important thing is that you fell better) or a wh- word (What I can’t

understand is why you lied to me).

2. relative clauses: a subordinate relative clause typically function as Post-Mod in a NP. Its role is to expand the

meaning of the head noun by defining or adding information about it. Relative clauses are introduced by a

wh-word. They can be of two types:

defining clauses (also called restrictive) define the head noun → The man who is crossing the road is my

- French teacher;

non-defining clauses (also called non-restrictive) provide extra information about the head noun, they

- describe it. The non-defining relative clause gives additional information on the head noun, whose

identity is already defined → We stayed at an excellent hotel, which we booked on the internet.

3. adverbial clauses: they function as adverbial clause elements in a main clause. They usually describe the

circumstances such as manner, place, time, condition, cause, degree and frequency. They are usually optional,

and their position in the clause may vary. They are linked to the main clause through subordinating

conjunctions which signals the meaning of the subordinate clause (when, if, where, before, after, because,

unless, although...).

A subordinate conditional clause (expressing a condition) and the main clause (expressing the consequence)

form a conditional sentence (periodo ipotetico). Conditional sentences can be of three types:

Type I: the action in the subordinate clause is quite probable or certain = if + present tense (sub) / will

- (main) + infinitive → If you do this, I won't talk to you ever again;

Type II: the action in the subordinate clause is improbable, or the supposition contrasts with known facts

- = if + simple past (sub.) / would (main) + infinitive → If we lived closer, we would spend much more time


Type III: the action in the subordinate clause is impossible, since it refers to a past time and the condition

- did not come about and can no longer take place = if + past perfect (sub.) / would (main) + present

perfect → If I had known that you we coming I would have picked you up at the airport.

4. comparative clauses: they are introduced by as or than and they post-modify and adjective or and AdvP

where there is a gradable adjective or adverb in its comparative form → This hotel is not as nice as I expected.

3.7.2 Non-finite subordinate clauses – They are not marked for tense or modality. All non-finite clauses must be

subordinate, since they cannot stand on their own. They also usually do not have a S, and interpretation is helped

by the context of the main clause. There are three main types of non-finite subordinate clauses:

1. infinitive clauses: they can play various syntactic roles, since they can function as S - C - C - O - A - Mod in

s o i


NP and Mod in AdjP;

2. -ing clauses: they can also have different syntactic roles, since they can function as S - C - O - A - Mod in a

s d

NP and Mod in a AdjP;

3. -ed clauses: they can function as O - A and Mod in a NP.



Maria Teresa Prat Zagrebelsky

1. The study of words

Lexicology deals with the description of the nature meaning history and use of the vocabulary of a language, also

referred to as its lexis. Lexicography covers the principles and the practices which are applied to writing od

different types of dictionaries and vocabulary reference works.

1.1 The dynamic nature of lexis – Lexis is the most dynamic level of language, the most easily affected by social

and cultural change. The lexicon of a language can form and develop through three different processes of lexical


coinages (coniare): the creation of completely new words;

- loanwords (prestito): the borrowing of words from other languages;

- word-formation processes: various ways of modifying already existing words.


Word-formation processes have been classified an labelled by linguistic in different ways:

the addition of prefixes, suffixes to a base (affixation) → a-moral / moral-ity;

- the addition of neoclassical combining forms of Greek or Latin origin (mini-)→ minivan;

- the combination of two or more existing lexemes to form a new one (compounding) → jet leg / screen saver;

- various types of shortening → BBC = British Broadcast Corporation;

- the fusion of two word in one (i.e. blending) → smog = smoke + fog;

- the change of meaning of an existing lexeme (semantic shift) → zap = from moving quickly to keeping

- changing TV programmes with a remote control;

the change of grammatical function without any formal change (functional shift or zero-derivation or

- conversation) → download and upload can be both nouns and verbs.

Word-formation processes can still be detected in word that have undergone a process of lexicalization, that is

that have become independent lexemes. For instance, happiness and business are both the result of a process of

forming abstract nouns from adjectives (happy + ness and busy + ness).

Moreover, word formation processes are at the basis of the concept of word families. A word family consists of a

headword accompanied by its inflected and derived forms. The family around the headword nation has several

members as national, nationality, nationalism, nationalist and so on.

1.2 The complexity of meaning – Semantics is the scientific study of the meaning of words and is a very complex

and challenging area, where several competing theories have been developed.

An important, and natural, concept to start from is that of reference. A referent is the entity in the real world that

a word refers to, or denotes. 39

Most word do not merely refer to, or denote objects and concepts (denotation), but they also have a stylistic and

emotional association. A lion is an African wild animal but it also suggests an image of courage, force and power.

And important semantical distinction is between words that have only one referent (monoreferential terms) and

words that express several meanings (polysemous words). Monoreferential terms are used to specific the object

and concept (computer refers to an electronic machine) while polysemous word may acquire a specialised

meaning and become monoreferential in a specific context. For example, in the field of computing a mouse is not

the animal but the object with a similar shape.

Researchers distinguish between cases where the meanings are related (polisemy) and cases where they are

totally unrelated (homonymy). Polysemous words are usually covered in the same entry whereas homonyms may

be given two different entries.

Homophones are words that are pronounced in the same way but have totally unrelated meanings.

Words do not exist in isolation. Their meanings are also identified through a network of sense relations they

establish with other words in the language.

Words are related to one another through three main types of sense relations, also called choice, or

paradigmatic, relations: similarity, opposition and hyperonymy.

Words can be synonyms, when they have the same referent and meaning. It is rarely the case that two words are

complete synonyms, that is, they can be used interchangeably in the same context.

Words are antonyms when they express opposite or complementary meanings → married / single.

Hyperonyms, or superordinates, are a category of words that are more general in meaning and subsume others

that are subordinate to them, or hyponyms → tulips, roses and violet = category of flowers.

The lexical, or semantic, field aims at presenting the lexis of an area of reality or knowledge in a systematic way.

1.3 “Words keep company with other words” – The field of phraseology has traditionally studied the well-known

expression of folk culture such as proverbs, commonplaces, quotations and slogans.

Phraseological phenomena are described through a plethora of different labels, which highlight their semantic,

communicative and formal properties. Those commonly used in the literature are the following:

pragmatic idioms is a fixed or semi-fixed social formulae How do you do? / Please to meet you;

- 

discourse organisers is a multi-word units that are used to structure discourse in conclusion / to sum up;

- lexical collocations is the preferred co-occurrence of two lexemes that belong to different word classes and

- 

retain their independent meanings rain co-occours with heavy or torrential nut not *strong, while in

Italian forti piogge or piogge torrenziali are acceptable but *piogge pesanti is not;

idioms is expression longer than a word and shorter than a sentence whose meaning cannot be derived from

- 

the sum of the meanings of its components to spill the beans not in its literal interpretation, but in its

idiomatic meaning of telling other people’s secrets, in Italian Spifferare i segreti altrui;

binomials are patterns made up of two (or more) fixed elements ups and downs, in Italian alti e bassi;

- 

similes are stereotypical comparison to be happy as a lark correspond to the Italian Felice come una

- Pasqua; 40

proverbs, commonplace, famous quotation and slogans: usually long self-contained statements that express

- 

popular wisdom or historical heritage the early bird catches the worm, which may correspond to the

Italian Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca or Chi dorme non piglia pesci.

1.4 What does knowing a word mean? – A first rather simplified distinction should be made between words that

we recognise when we hear or read them, and words that we currently use. So-called receptive, or passive, lexical

competence is always broader than productive, or active, lexical competence.

Scholars who have tried to define the concept of lexical competence have come up with a long and detailed list of

the types of knowledge that are required like to pronounce a word and to spell it correctly, to identify the parts it

may be composed of and their grammatical functions etc.

1.5 Where are words stored? – The answer that some people would give to this question is that words are stored

in dictionaries. Through the centuries, lexicographers have given birth to an impressive range of different types of

dictionaries, especially for a world language like English. They are considered authoritative source of information

in the educational system and in society al large. Dictionaries vary in relation to a number of features. The most

important ones are: 

the number of language they cover monolingual, bilingual and multilingual dictionaries;

- 

the number of lemmas they include from the so-called “unabridged”dictionaries (dizionario integrale) to

- pocket dictionaries;

whether the approach is diachronic (providing information on the history and the etymology of words) or

- synchronic (focusing mainly on the language of a specific period);

the areas of language covered, such as general language, specialised areas of knowledge (business, science,

- medicine) or specific linguistic areas (pronunciation, proverbs, abbreviations…);

the addresses, that is either native speakers or foreign learners of a particular language (learners’

- dictionaries);

the more or less tolerant attitude towards new words, foreign words, slang expressions and taboo forms like

- swearwords and insults;

the focus on “words” rather than on “things” (dictionaries vs encyclopaedic dictionaries);

- the organisation according to either alphabetical order or semantic fields;

- the type of publication, from the traditional paper format to the electronic format.


A corpus linguistic is a collection of naturally-occurring texts available in machine-readable form and assumed to

be representative of a given language, or a particular register of it.

1.6 Major trends in lexical research – Etymology is the origin and the history fo words through centuries.

Linguists can study words from a diachronical point of view and so through time because words may even die,

and new ones may be born, or from a synchronic point of view so studying the lexis in a precise moment.

Lexis and grammar are not considered by them as two separate components of language; in fact their integration

is stressed by Halliday, who coined the label of lexico-grammar. The interactions of lexis and grammar can be

seen, for instance, in the structure of complex noun phrases and in the different types of complementation that

follow different classes of verbs. 41

1.7 Today’s dynamic and multidivisional view of lexis – Lexis appears to be a very important, open and dynamic

component of language, well-integrated at the levels of booth paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations. The

lexicon of language is at the centre of a vast range of relations with etymology and history, spelling,

pronunciation, inflectional and derivational morphology, syntax and various types of meaning.

2. The lexicon of present-day English

2.1 The size of the English lexicon: dictionaries, corpora and lexical competence – Present-day English is often

described as a language with a very rich vocabulary. However, measuring the size of the lexicon of a language is

not an easy task. Three approaches can help provide some answer: reference to the number of entries in

dictionaries, counting the different

lexemes in corpora and evaluating the

lexical competence of native


The most authoritative unabridged

dictionary of English, the Oxford

English Dictionary on Historical

Principles (OED), consist of 20

volumes + 4 volumes of Addition and contains about 616.500 main headwords and related derived words and


phrases. The OED is a historical dictionary which covers the English language from the 14 century and provides

representative citations as evidence of the history of word meanings through the centuries. The OED is an

essential source of information for an in-depth exploration of the word stock of English, its origin and its

development in time. th

Monolingual general learner’s dictionaries (LDs) are addressed to EFL learners and constitute an innovative 20

century development in English lexicography. They provide various types of information that are relevant to EFL

learners rather than to native speakers like spelling, phonological transcription, grammatical and syntactic

information (word class, inflection, transitive or intransitive for verbs), definition, example of usage.

2.2 The mixed nature of the English lexicon – Present-day English is the result of many centuries of historical,

social and cultural events. Its various historical layers (Celtics, Germanic, Latin, Greek and French) are more

immediately reflected in lexis than in grammar or phonology.

English belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages and has a core of words of

Anglo-Saxon origin. We can recognise them because they are usually monosyllabic or short words that refers to

events, concept and objects of everyday life: house, food, time, go, look, good, new etc. According to some rough

calculations, they are said to constitute around 40% of the total lexicon but have a very high frequency and are

favoured by native speakers in everyday usage.

However, present-day English also contains a very important lexical component from classical and romance

languages, which has entered the language at different time in history and appears to constitute almost 60% of

the lexicon. These words of Latin, Greek and Romance origin are usually polysyllabic words such as parliament,


government, memorandum etc. and are likely to be used in specialised and formal contexts. The names of many

academic disciplines or scientific terms are of classical origin such as psychology, philosophy etc.

In today’s English it is easy to find doublets, or even triplets, of near-synonyms of Germanic and Romance origins.

One example is that of phrasal verbs, the is, verb composed of a usually monosyllabic verb an a particle, such as

get on, put off etc. Phrasal verbs are more frequently used in colloquial rather than in formal or academic English.

They may have a Romance near-synonym → to find out = discover.

English has become a “donor” language which influences many other languages in the world, from French to


Japanese. In Italy the popularity of Anglicism has evolved from the educated Anglomania of the 18 century to

the widespread present-day usage both in everyday communication and specialised fields such as computing and

economics. The identification and description of English loan words in Italian has become an important area of

study as well as a matter of controversy among Italian native speakers. Some people approve of the widespread

use ofo English words in the name of language freedom and efficiency in international communication.

2.3 Variation in the use of English lexis – Lexical usage varies according to users, that is, as a consequence of

some permanent or personal characteristics, such as where people are born or live, their education, gender and

age. Even though there is considerable lexical interchange between geographical varieties of English, there are

some fairly stable peculiarities which characterise each of them. Some examples that refer to the two main

varieties of English, British English and American English → flat (BE) vs apartment (AE), biscuit vs cookie, lift vs

elevator etc.

Similar institutions in English-speaking countries may be referred to in different ways. Some example taken from

the educational system in Britain and in the USA respectively → nursey (BE) vs Chidlcare (AE), secondary school vs

high school etc.

Other dimension of variation have to do with the use language users make of language, that is what they are

talking about (field or topic), who they are addressing (personal tenor) and whether they are speaking or writing

(medium). The interaction of these dimensions is known as the register model which was given broad currency

by the British linguistic Halliday.

The topic, or field, of communication is likely to affect lexical choice, depending on whether one is talking about

the latest film seen, family matters, car makes or politics. This is most likely to happen when what is said or

written refers to specialised fields of knowledge such as linguistic, computing, export-import, tourism or

economics. It is not easy to draw a line between general and specialised vocabulary.

The type of relationship between participants will also affect the choice of words in communication.

Different type of texts, or genres can be identified according to the (prevailing) function of the text or

communicative event, whether it is to inform, to persuade, to instruct, to express feelings and emotions or simply

to keep the channel of conversation open.

2.4 Word-formation processes – All the word-formation processes have contributed to the widening and

enriching of the English lexicon. Owing to the decline of borrowing from other languages in present-day English,

process of word formation internal to the language have played a predominant role in the development of lexis


from the 20 century onwards. 43

A constant strategy is the change of meaning of existing lexemes (semantic change). Most English words are

polysemous and new senses are easily added to existing ones to meet new practical and expressive needs (mail

refers to the letter but also to e-mail).

Compounding is the combination of two or more free morphemes to form a lexeme with a new meaning. A

blackbird is not simply a bird which is black, but a type of bird common in Europe, merlo in Italian. Compounding

has been used frequently since the Old English period and remains one of the most widespread ways of extending

lexis in present-day English.

Compounds are often described in terms of both the word classes they are composed of, and the word class of

the resulting compound. However, it is not always easy to identify the word class because many words in English

may be members of different word classes.

The most frequent combination are:

noun + noun (N+N) → country house; verb + noun (V+N) → checklist;

- -

adjective + noun (Adj+N) → green tea; verb + verb (V+V) → stir-fry;

- -

adjective + adjective (Adj+adj) → bitter-sweet; verb + participle (V+part) → dropout.

- -

noun + adjective (N+Adj) → user-friendly;


The meaning of both old and new compounds can be more or less transparent → night flight is flying by plane

during the night. Some help in understanding the meaning of compounds comes paying attention to semantics

relations between the elements of the compounds. In the compound bedroom, bed modifies the central element

room, and can be easily interpreted as a room people sleep in.

Compounds are sometimes not easily distinguishable from noun phrases (NP). They are usually given an

independent entry in dictionaries and they tend to have only one initial or main stress. Spelling, on the other

hand, is not always as helpful.

The combination of a free morpheme with at least one bound morpheme which is not inflectional (affixation) has

always been popular in English (ex. unhappy or happiness).

Prefixes do not usually change the class of the word class they are added to. Prefixes are usually classified

according to the different meanings they express. The main types of meaning expressed by prefixes are:

pejorative → maltreat; time → post-modern;

- -

degree or size →miniskirt, supernatural; numerical values → bilingual.

- -

attitude →antiword;


Suffixes often bring about a change in word class (class-changing). They are best descbribed by referring to the

word class that results when they are added to a lexeme. One of the most productive processes is that of deriving

nouns from verbs by adding the suffix -er (reader from read and writer from write), -ation (pollution from

pollute), -ery (bakery from bake), -ness (happiness from happy), -ment (managements from manage) and -ship

(friendship). Some of the suffixes signal adjectives: -a/ible (eligible), -ful (faithful), -al (practical); other verbs as -

ise (specialise), -ate (nominate). But also adverbs: -ly (honestly) and -wise (healthwise).

Many prefixes or suffixes are of neo-classical origin; for example eco- (ecosystem), bio- (biotechnology) and -logy

(psychology). 44

The process of changing the class of a word without any change of form (is called conversion/zero derivation) has

moved from marginal to central after Early Modern English due to the reduction of inflectional morphology in the

language. The most common types, in decreasing order of productivity, are the following:

 

noun to verb = bottle to bottle; adjective to verb = dry to dry;

- -

 

verb to noun = dump to dump; adverb to verb = out to out.

- -

Acronyms are composed of the initial letters of the components of a complex expression and the resulting form is

pronounced as one word → RAM = random access memory.

The process of clipping consists in cutting the beginning or end of a longer word → flu = influenza.

Blends are the result of the merging of two often longer words to form a new one with a corresponding fusion of

their meanings → smog = smoke + fog.

2.5 Phraseological phenomena – These fixed or semifixed expressions answer the need for fluency and

appropriacy through the use of socially shared and conventionalised formulae such as pramgamtic idioms and


In English, as in any language, most everyday spoken and written communication is based on prefabricated social

routines (or pragmatic idioms). This applies to a very wide range of everyday situations like opening greetings

(good morning, how are you?), politeness formulae (you're welcome), transactional formulae (can I help you?).

In the use of pragmatic idioms and speech acts there are significant differences among the geographical varieties

of English, which signal the influence of culture on language.

Lexical collocations are very pervasive feature of English. They affect the way in which the major word classes,

that is noun, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, co-occur with one another in a natural and appropriate way.

This area of study is a fairly recent development of research, which has been enhanced by corpus linguistics

methodology. The phenomenon is worth investigating because it constitutes a difficulty for EFL learners, even for

advanced ones. Some idiomatic expressions are shared by several languages, and can therefore be more easily

understood by foreign learners. Other idioms are instead culture-specific and may prove to be rather opaque

unless one already knows what they mean.

English proverbs and commonplaces have developed through the centuries retaining some popularity among

both old and young people. They originate from the Bible, literature and popular culture. They are skilfully built

on repetition, images and rhymes to allow effective retention. They are meant to express traditional wisdom even

though they are often contradictory in what they say.

Alongside proverbs there is a plethora of related phenomena such as slogans and famous quotations that are part

of the history of a people and range from high to popular culture.

English is rich in many different types of phraseological phenomena. This area is no longer felt to be a no man’s

land between lexis and grammar. Rather these phenomena can be described according to a cline of collocability,

fixity and idiomaticity and provide interesting insight into culture and linguistic creativity.

2.6 Words, culture and society – What is shared by many language users is the experience that new words

regularly appear in a language to answer the need to name new, or until then unnamed, realities or replace

overused expressions that no longer match people’s sensibilities and communicative needs.


However, the relationship between socio-historical events and lexical change is far from easy to ascertain, and

there may be considerable mismatches between the birth of a new word or meaning, its widespread usage and its

being recorded in a dictionary. th

Some innovative semantic areas in the 20 century are:

war and international terrorism: World War, videogame war, smart bombs, genocide, 9/11, Ground Zero;

- computing and information technology:

- words borrowed from a general language, which have acquired a specialised meaning also through

 metaphorical transformation: window, memory, address;

words derived from existing words through word-formation process such as compounding (hard disk,

 floppy disk), blends (blog from web + log) or derivation (the combing form cyber from cybernetic, ex.

cyberculture, cyberworld);

acronyms and abbreviations of very long technical expressions: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions);

political correctness:

- th

race: black people have been labelled in different ways → in the 19 century negro/nigger, in the 70’s

 black and the current preferred expression African-American;

gender: English is male-oriented (businessman business woman) and a non-sexist choice is the use of

 Ms with words like doctor, teacher etc.; there are taboo areas such as people’s sexual preference.


Valerio Fissore

1. Linguistic background

The branch of linguistics which is concerned with investigations and describing the compositional strategies of

texts is called text linguistics. The origin of text linguistics may be traced back to the early 1960s as an application

of discourse analysis, which originated specifically from the studies of sociolinguistics and anthropologists. These

had started to investigate language in action in a context, no longer only as a self-referential event, which has the

domain of grammatical studies.

1.1 Discourse –The notion of discourse is closely related to that of text. Discourse somehow precedes text, is its

super ordinate, even if it is often difficult to tell the one from the other. A discourse unit is a stretch of language

that interacts with other discourse units and with a context of application. The same definition might be applied

in the definition of text; however between discourse and text there is a difference in quality and quantity.

Discourse is characterised by “incompleteness” while text is more appropriately used to identify an “object”,

something that is self-sufficient. Discourse is a unit among interdependent units, text is a unit by itself.

Discourse units are language units in use and belong in the domain of “parole”, i.e. language actually used.

Discourse units are true utterances, not ones that are intended metalinguistcally, unless metalinguistics is itself

the object of investigation. Text and textuality are best described as a system-unit of discourse observed as

operating in context. 46

1.2 Discourse analysis – Discourse analysis deals with discourse units in use. It investigates discourse units in their

linguistic and communicative realisations in context and co-text. The context is the spatiotemporal environment

of the text’s realisation and the co-text is the extension of the text itself. Discourse analysis observes the

frequency and distribution of linguistics forms in texts.

Discourse analysis can of course be applied to all sorts of texts, including texts of mixed means: to intercultural

encounters like conversations, directions and instructions, lectures, and purely iconic texts like road signs and the


1.3 Textuality – What does textuality identify? Textuality is then that interaction of facts and words that urge

things to take a verbal and structural shape (one that generally car repeat itself): textuality is the force that drives

the action to take the shape it takes and makes the combination of words and context a text.

Textuality leads in succession to text-type and text. Text is any stretch of language that may stand alone as, and

function as, a self-sufficient object, or an object which is operative in a context and has functional unity in that

very context. The text “means” in its context. The text-context relationship may be purely verbal (a paragraph in a

chapter), social (a recipe book in kitchen) or it may be the interaction of words with a non-verbal surrounding (a

cry of help in the context of somebody drowning) or be entirely non-verbal (road sign).

A text is a text when it satisfies certain intuitively recognised and accepted criteria of entirety, which are

therefore expected before the approved identification of a text is reached.

1.4 Text-type – The notion of text-type is related to the notion of recursiveness: recursiveness of patterns of any

kind or extension.

In relation to the notion of textuality as described above, text-type is an infra-ordinate notion in that it identifies a

text in terms of it being about a restricted function, or field of action, whose identifying features are therefore

confined to the function dominant in the text-typology (teaching, entertaining...). We shall therefore say that

text-type is defined by its sociolinguistic function which enables text users to presuppose a-priori features and by

the entailed realisation habits which have materially produced that text-type (a-posteriori features).

There are as many text-types as there are occasions for using language in a social transaction, from the very

personal, like diaries and private letters, to the very public, like teaching manuals and public speeches.

1.5 Text – Text identifies complete units of discourse. It functions in term of its articulating a verbal or other

semiotic code with a context to communicate a message which has an independent textual status. Whether a text

is entirely verbal or verbal plus iconic, or entirely iconic etc., it is identified as text when it does not require other

textual constituent than those present to fulfil its communicative task. A text can be compared with other texts

with similar function/s. Text of the same king can be identified by comparing them in terms of the nature of their

communication. There are as many texts as there are scopes for textuality. Texts generally collocate in classes

(the text-type above) but each text exists in its own rights, a text at a time, individually.

1.6 Text linguistics – Text-linguistics is a branch of linguistics dealing with the description of the compositional

strategies of texts, their very textual constitutions. 47

2. Predicting texts

To identify the features of a text before its realisation may be a perilous exercise, still it is an activity all language

users undertake all the time, by forming expectations, by comparing their expectations with what is progressively

unravelled before their eyes by the text they experience.

Expectations will presumably be fewer where a literary text is concerned, unless the text belongs to a genre like

the fictions of detection, where positive dénoument is assumed, where clues are artfully scattered as the story

develops for the reader to be involved in the solving of the puzzle. Expectations may be fairly accurate when it

comes to communicative texts, such as notices and warnings and instruction-giving text.

2.1 Textuality and written texts – The notion of textuality is ordinarily attached to texts of the written variety.

With rare exceptions, written texts were identifies principally with literary texts. They were the only ones that

were believed to be worth preserving. The invention of printing of course caused texts other than the literary to

be produced in more copies than hand-writing could make and to be preserved in enough copies for some of


them to survive and be available even today. However, it was only in the 20 century that non-literary texts

attracted the interest of linguistics who investigated them in terms of their own constituents.

2.2 Textuality and spoken texts – Spoken textuality is less obvious. The notion began to emerge with the

distinction of Saussure between langue (language, or the language system) and parole (speech, or the language

actually used) and has become more and more conspicuous in relatively recent years owing to the development

of ever more sophisticated technology for the recording of the spoken words.

Spontaneous conversation and even other less difficult-to-pinpoint forms of spoken discourse, though often

recorded, like lectures or radio news, are so far not very easily obtainable in a fixed form outside sophisticated

academic environments. They are therefore not easy to investigate systematically and the science of spoken texts

is still in its infancy.

2.3 Textuality of “mixed means” – There are some texts which mix the written and the spoken varieties.

Theatrical drama, when performed, is one such text-type. The comment to a documentary film is yet another.

Communicative texts are also often the result of a combination of forms: for example lectures and public talks

mentioned above are rarely the result of spoken impromptu. They are generally intentionally written to be

spoken. Their mixed nature is usually revealed by some extraneous features. Sometimes the uncertainties of

spoken discourse (false starts, hesitations, tentative lexis, for example) are mimetically rendered; still their

realism is hardly such that the script behind it cannot be immediately detected.

To this mixed textual type belong other text of everyday experience, such as radio and TV news programs.

As has been seen, the very words “text” and “textuality”, with their connection with the notion of texture suggest

the status of a linguistic object whose pattern is verbally perceived like in cinema, television and computer.

2.4 Textual functions – The description and analysis of texts are the concern of that branch of linguistic which is

called text linguistic. The relevant textual descriptions and investigations rest on, and are justified by, the fact that

beside each text being a unique piece of organised discourse, text demand to be classified in typologies: which

implies the presupposition of common features across different individual text, whatever the domain, the

purpose and the format. 48

A definition of text linguistics may be completed with the identification of a textual constellation of text-types and

texts; these respond to and enforce the sociolinguistic functions which are regulated by Büler-Jacokbson’s six

functions of language: informative, expressive, directive / / poetic (or ahestetic), metalinguistic and phatic.

By textual constellation we identify an area of written and spoken texts which is ever expanding to respond to the

ever increasing (or changing) number of communicative contexts of modern Western societies. The letter writing

format of the e-mail message did not exist before the development of electronic communication.

The six language function listed above have been divided into two groups by a double slash because they operate

differently in the making of texts:

the first block (primary functions) are content functions because they deal with the substance referred to in

- any text concerted by the words and the logic of sentences:

informative regards the content of the message;

 expressive concerns the attitude and the point of view according to which communication is made;

 directive entails action on the part of the addressee).

the second block (secondary functions) are code and relational functions because they refer to the verbal

- modes of representations of the world:

poetic (or ahestetic) regards the internal harmonious arrangement of the code;

 metalinguistic or the code describing itself;

 phatic concerns the contact between the source of the intended communication and the addressee.

2.5 Locution, illocution and perlocution – Using Austin’s notions and terminology (1962), textuality is identified in

terms of its being locutionary acts, which can be described in terms of their illocutionary and perlocutionary

force: all text are locuitionary, but while a literary text is basically a locutionary text, a communicative text is

basically perlocutioniary; both are characterised by illocutionary force.

The label locutinary implies that text (written or spoken) has a shape in words; in other words, it is the meaning of

a sentence or of a utterance. But text are produced for a purpose and they are said to be characterised by

illocutionary force and by its perlocutionary force, the outcome in reality that discourse causes.

2.6 Sociolinguistic function – A sociolinguistic function defines the social function that a verbal text has been

designed and constructed to perform. Text are produced for a purpose, or multiple purpose: to a degree these

purposes determine the form that the text will embody to perform their function/s successfully.

Before a text is realised, language users are aware of a formal frame that a text will have to exhibit to be the text

it says it is, a frame suited to the purpose of its formulation.

2.7 Text-typology and change – This producer-receiver alliance also accounts for the changes that occur in time in

the shaping of texts. No change is introduced if it is not believed to be for the better.

A sociolinguistic function is pragmatically identified and defined in terms of which of the above mentioned six

functions are operative in the text/s under consideration.

Textual functions never occur in isolation. Somehow it can be said that all texts are informatively, expressively,

directively, phatically, metalinguistically and aesthetically relevant.


2.8 The medley of linguistic functions – Text-types changes depending on the different professional classes, but

also according to more general and subsuming classifications, such as expressive, informative and directive:

instructions, notices, warnings, propaganda, advertising, road sign texts, have progressively changed their

semiotic status, from linguistic, or partly linguistic, to iconic.

The six language functions in fact are exploited differently, and never in isolation.

3. Literary textuality vs general textuality

Literary text were for a long time the only texts whose typology (the literary genres) was conceived and believed

to be at all worthy of investigations; that was because of the belief that textuality rested primarily on the

aesthetic weight of their formulation. For practical reasons textuality is patently either literary or non literary. The

use of rhetoric in non-literary texts is not denied but is taken to be a non-creative application of textual rules: the

text’s rhetoric is an obligation induced by the text itself and its type.

General texts (the term is used here to refer to all other texts), like all texts, also undergo never-ending changes,

even if these changes are less conspicuously perceived. Linguistic research in textuality is now discovering and

disclosing even new territories. What characterises literary texts is the following: in terms of sociolinguistic

functions, literary texts show a tendency towards what could be called sociolinguistic zero function.

4. Negotiation

The classification of text-types as communicative and expressive and the identification of the notion of

sociolinguistic function have enabled linguistics to identify some texts outside the classes that tradition attributed

to them. For example the literature of entertainment has been extrapolated from the literary domain and has

been classified among the communicative rather than among the expressive texts. In other words, negotiation in

text-making consists, for example, in the coming to terms of an author with an established textual tradition or

with the expectations of the intended addressee.

While literary text may be conventionally identified as (prose) narrative, theatrical drama and (lyrical) poetry,

non-literary, “communicative”, texts are by far the larger class and are likely to be encountered by all language

users of modern societies far more frequently than literary texts: people will encounter them more often as

receivers, but ever more often as producers as well.

Language is used for two purposes: the transactional and the interactional purpose, which are terms that stand

for the “functional” dichotomies (representative/expressive – Bühler; referential/emotive – Jakobson;

ideational/interpersonal – Halliday and descriptive/social-expressive – Lyons).

Transactional describes that use of language that considers languages as a tool for transmitting information,

where information means facts and intellectually developed notions. Traditionally, texts have been considered

transactional. Interactional, a more recent concern of linguistics (sociolinguistics and sociologists), describes the

use of language for “establish[ing] and maintain[ing] social relationships”.

De Beaugrande and Dresseler subscribe to the transactional notion of the text; they say “a text will be defined as

a communicative occurrence which meets seven standard of textuality” → cohesion, coherence, intentionality,

acceptability, informativity, situationality, intertextuality.





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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in scienze linguistiche (BRESCIA - MILANO)

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher ilaria.possenti di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Linguistica inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Milano Unicatt o del prof Maggioni Maria Luisa.

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