The article deals with the study of propositional meaning from the point of view of how it is conveyed by modified-adjective constructions in the English language in contrast to sentences. By propositional meaning we understand a set of semantic relations in their reference to real events and settings. It is argued that along with sentences attributive phrases with propositional meaning (APsPM) represent a type of propositional meaning (as conceived by speakers of the English language) which distinguishes
Keywords: APsPM analysisattributive phrasespropositional meaningre-modelling
Among a wide range of Modified-Adjective Constructions there remains a need for analyzing a special type of attributive constructions in the English language that we call attributive phrases with propositional meaning (APsPM, for short) (see, for example,
The characteristic feature of APsPM is that they consist of the noun (the subject / head noun) in the final position that is preceded by attributives in their quasi predicative function. The attributives that modify the head noun are exemplified by non-finite verb-forms, verbal nouns or verbal adjectives and are involved in propositional meaning-making – that is what differs APsPM from other types of “pre-noun inserts” and underlies their basic semantic structure of subordination:
In this contribution, APsPM are analyzed from two perspectives:
The novelty of the approach lies in the interrelation of semantic and syntactic levels on which APsPM emerge as a new syntactic paradigm. All components that APsPM comprise have been scrutinized in terms of their syntagmatic and paradigmatic collocations and constraints. This perspective substantiated in the Theory of Linguistic Interpretation (Boldyrev 2016, 2018) is eligible for the study of propositional and relational meanings represented by two different constructions: that of an attributive phrase with propositional meaning and a sentence.
The research question we would like to answer is: “What makes APsPM special and different from other types of ‘pre-noun inserts’ and word combinations?” Specifically, we are interested in syntagmatic and paradigmatic aspects of APsPM as well as their universal and distinct characteristics.
Purpose of the Study
Under the new perspective we aim to analyze multi-component structured attributive word combinations in order to outline their characteristics that specify them from corresponding sentence structures. Basically, we focus on syntactically multi-component structures to identify grammatical differences among them. By taking into account a representative array of data we intend to obtain a viable type-representation of APsPM in the English language to facilitate reading and writing skills to advanced undergraduates who wish to reach a masterly level of the English language.
The methodology comprises methods of linguistic modeling and linguistic experiment as well as techniques of component transformation, i.e.
The analysis of the data (more than 4000 examples of APsPM) illustrates that there are twelve types and subtypes of APsPM in the English language:
The Subjective APsPM models comprise:
The subjective APsPM proper (P-p-S);
The subjective-objective APsPM (O-P-S);
The subjective-adverbial APsPM (A-P-S);
The subjective-objective-adverbial APsPM (A-P-O/S);
The subjective/objective – adverbial APsPM (A-O-P-S).
The Objective APsPM models comprise:
The objective-subjective APsPM;
The objective–instrumental APsPM;
The double–objective APsPM (O-P-O);
The objective–adverbial APsPM.
The Adverbial, Instrumental and Zero APsPM models:
The adverbial-objective APsPM (O-P-A);
The instrumental-objective APsPM (O-P-M);
The zero, or partially-structured, APsPM type (O-P)-H.
The Subjective APsPM models
The subjective APsPM proper (P-p-S) are represented by a two-seat structure with the first position occupied by a noun, whereas the second and the third elements comprise a composite predicative unity, which, in turn, is represented by an adjective or a noun and a linking verb, such as: look, smell, feel, seem, taste, sound, appear. For example:
The subjective-objective APsPM model-type (O-P-S) is a three-seat structure with the first position occupied by a subjective construct (expressed by a noun, as a rule), whereas the second – by a predicative construct represented in the form of Participle I of a transitive verb or an adjective; and the third position is occupied by an objective construct (a noun, generally). The subjective-objective APsPM model-type (O-P-S) is subdivided into eight sub-groups (a-h): a) APsPM denoting people or groups of people, as in the following examples:
e) APsPM denoting organizations, firms, institutions. The nouns that comprise these APsPM denote means of production as well as professional groups of people on the basis of which these nouns can denote agents of action:
All these and many other examples indicate that the subjective construct of APsPM correlates with the subject of the sentence, whereas the objective construct – with the direct or indirect object, depending on the lexical meaning of the predicative construct. The predicative construct corresponds to the simple verbal predicate on condition that it is represented by Participle I or verbal adjective. The predicative construct represented by the predicative adjective corresponds with the compound nominal predicate.
The subjective-adverbial APsPM (A-P-S) include verbs of motion and intransitive verbs. The subjective-adverbial APsPM model can be of three sub-types: L-P-S (subjective-locative model); T-P-S (subjective-temporal model); Q-P-S (subjective-qualifying model). For example, the subjective-locative model is exemplified by the APsPM comprising an adverb:
The subjective-objective-adverbial APsPM (A-P-O/S) is more complicated, for it involves a four-seat structure A-O-P-S, as in:
Among the data the examples of this model are not numerous due to the qualifying adverb in the position of the adverbial construct which describes qualitative characteristics of the action.
The subjective/objective – adverbial APsPM (A-O-P-S) model is illustrated by the following examples:
The Objective APsPM
The objective-subjective APsPM model is a three-seat construct (S-P-O). the first position is occupied by the objective construct represented by a noun; the predicative construct in the second position is represented by Participle II of transitive verbs, whereas the third position is occupied by the subjective construct represented by a noun, as in:
As these examples illustrate, the objective-subjective APsPM model correlates with Passive sentence structures.
In the objective–instrumental APsPM (M-P-O) model, the noun is in the first position, the predicative word, that is Participle II, is in the second position, whereas the instrumental construct, that is the noun, is in the third, as in:
The peculiar feature of the double–objective APsPM (O-P-O) model is that the nouns in the first and third positions denote objects that are bound by socially dependent relationships. They are established by a person, implicitly present, and are ascribed to the object, that is the noun in the first position. Participles II in this model activate passive meaning. For example:
As with the subjective-adverbial APsPM, the objective–adverbial APsPM (A-P-O) model is represented by three sub-types: L-P-O (objective-locative model); T-P-O (objective-temporal model); Q-P-O (objective-qualifying model).
The objective-locative model is represented by a noun or an adverb, as in:
The same structure is obvious for the objective-temporal model. Consider the following examples:
The objective-qualifying model includes adverbs, Participles II and adjectives ending in –able (-ible) that carry passive meanings.
The Adverbial, Instrumental and Zero APsPM types
The adverbial-objective APsPM (O-P-A) is characterized by its independence and nonconformity with a sentence structure. Depending on the meaning of the adverbial construct (locative or temporal) the model is subdivided into locative-objective (O-P-L) or temporal-objective (O-P-T). Consider the examples on the locative-objective model:
Consider the examples on the temporal-objective model:
In the instrumental-objective APsPM (O-P-M) model the first position is occupied by a noun denoting objects of every-day usage, as in:
The zero, or partially-structured, APsPM type (O-P)-H denotes: a) public organizations and social services (with no particular responsible agent):
The nouns carry the meaning of ‘control, being in charge’ with no specific person mentioned;
b) APsPM containing abstract words with broad meaning:
In contrast to sentence structure (S-P-O), all the APsPM demonstrate the so-called ‘backward’ movement: the attribute of the predicative word (objective, adverbial or subjective construct depending on a particular model-type) – the predicative word – the noun (the subjective, objective, adverbial, instrumental constructs).
Structure re-modeling of APsPM provides evidence for consistent patterns and variables. Compare:
The replacement is possible within APsPM, the components of which belong to the same logical and semantic category:
The evaluative meaning is expressed by: a) the linking verbs (
The evaluative meaning can also be expressed by adverbs (
The evaluative meaning can also be expressed by adjectives with the suffixes
The evaluative meaning can also be expressed by the prefixes (
The findings illustrate that there are twelve APsPM models typical of contemporary English language. They all represent a separate type of multi-component syntactic units of a propositional nature, the components of which cannot be omitted or replaced. Being rather stable in virtue of the order of the components, APsPM altogether are subjected to transformations. In this case, the relationships between the components can be consolidated into four types: subjective, objective, adverbial and attributive.
We conclude that APsPM as a syntactic paradigm can express modal (evaluative) meanings as well as temporal meanings by lexical units and grammatical means.
In contrast with sentences, APsPM do not abound in a variety of relational grammatical meanings. Unlike the predicate in a sentence, the predicative construct does not explicitly express aspect, time and modality; it names the action rather than makes reference to the real world, as is in the sentence. However, modality and time can be expressed lexically.
Further research of APsPM can emphasize their characteristics in terms of communicative preference: what makes participants opt for particular APsPM in the process of discourse construction.
The first author’s contribution to this research is financially supported by Russian Science Foundation, project No. 18-18-00267 at Derzhavin Tambov State University.
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20 April 2020
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Discourse analysis, translation, linguistics, interpretation, cognition, cognitive psychology
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Boldyrev, N. N., & Dubrovskaya, O. G. (2020). Interpretation Of Propositional Meaning In English Attributive Phrases. In A. Pavlova (Ed.), Philological Readings, vol 83. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 85-96). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.04.02.11