Monday, June 13, 2016
The play “The Bear” is a farce. It is full of many absurd situations and remarks. There are three main characters in the play and they all make us laugh with their absurd behavior and comments.
Popova is a widow. Her husband died seven months ago, but she is still in mourning. Her servant, Luka advises her to give up her mourning. He advises her to see her neighbors, but she says that she will keep on mourning until her death.
In the meanwhile, Smirnov comes to take 1200 roubles from Popova. Her husband used to buy oat from him. Popova tells him that her steward is out and she will pay him the day after tomorrow.
However, Smirnov insists on taking the money that day. He behaves rudely. He even makes fun of Popova’s mourning and her state of mind. Popova also becomes rude. They speak against each other’s sex and use insulting words. Smirnov thinks that he has been insulted. He challenges Popova to fight a duel.
Popova accepts the challenge and brings her husband’s revolver. However, she does not know how to fire. She asks Smirnov to teach her how to fire. The situation changes and Smirnov is impressed by her boldness and beauty. He says that he does not want to fight the duel. He expresses his love for her. He offers her his hand.
First, she insists on fighting, but then asks him to go. She changes her decision repeatedly and then decides to marry him. When Luka returns with other servants to beat Smirnov, he is surprised to see them touching each other.
1. Describe the reasons behind the marriage of Popova and Smirnov.
Both Popova and Smirnov had their own reasons of marriage. We shall discuss them one by one.
Popova had been mourning the death of her husband for the last seven months. She had been leading a lonely and sad life since then. Seven months was a long period. Now time had conquered her grief. Inwardly, she wanted some change in her life. She did not want to continue this mourning any more. Besides, it is human psychology that man gets sick and tired of doing the same thing for a long period.
The second reason may be the advice of her servant Luka. He shocked her by making her understand that in ten years’ time, she would not be beautiful anymore and no man would look at her. It was shocking for Popova.
The third reason was that Popova had a very romantic nature. Her mourning the death of her husband for seven months shows this. However, when Smirnov assured her of his love, she was greatly moved. It was very romantic that a man was on his knees, was offering her his hand, and was speaking very romantic dialogues. Smirnov said, “…I’m on my knees like a fool, offering you my hand…” It was all according to her romantic nature. She could not resist it and accepted the proposal.
Smirnov decided to marry Popova because he fell in love with her. He was greatly impressed by her beauty and boldness. He said, “But what a woman!” and, “That’s the sort I can understand!” He further says, “I’ve never in my life seen one like her!” He also says, “I love you as I’ve never loved before!”
Therefore, these were the reasons behind the marriage of Popova and Smirnov. (289)
2. What was the main issue or conflict between Smirnov and Popova?
When we go through the play “The Bear”, we find that at first, the main conflict between them was money, but later this conflict changed into another conflict – insult.
Popova’s late husband was to pay some money to Smirnov. He used to buy oats for his horses. However, before paying the money he died. Seven months had passed. Now Smirnov and come to Popova to take his money. Unfortunately, Popova’s steward was not present. Therefore, she was unable to pay his money that day. She plainly told Smirnov about this situation. She promised that she would pay his money the day after tomorrow. However, Smirnov insisted on taking the money on that day. Smirnov talked to her rudely and in an uncivilized manner. He made fun of her mourning. Popova also made fun of him. She even abuses him and calls him a bear. She said, “You’re a boor! A coarse bear! A bourbon! A monster!”
Smirnov thought that Popova had insulted him. On the other hand, Popova thought that Smirnov did not know how to behave before women. She wanted to kill him for that. This was the second main conflict between them. This conflict between them grew serious and they decided to fight a duel. Popova brought her late husband’s revolver.
Therefore, we can say that at first the main conflict between them was money. However, later this conflict changed into another conflict – insult. Both of them thought that they had been insulted. Luckily, these conflicts did not bring any serious consequences. (254)
3. The play “The Bear” is a farce (ridiculous situation). Discuss.
Describe the comic elements of the play “The Bear”.
When we go through the play “The Bear”, we find that it is a farce. A farce is full of many absurd situations and remarks. These situations and remarks make the readers laugh. There are three main characters in the play and they all make us laugh with their absurd comments. There are also many absurd situations. When the play starts, we see that Luka is advising Popova to leave her mourning and go out to see her neighbours. However, his way of advising her is very absurd. He gives the examples of cats, midges, and spiders. We simply laugh at these examples. Popova looks at the photograph of her husband and calls him a ‘bad child’. The word ‘bad child’ makes us laugh.
When Popova refuses to give Smirnov the money, he says, “I have not the pleasure of being either your husband or your finance, so please don’t make scenes.” These remarks are very funny and absurd and we laugh at them. When Popova accepts the challenge of duel from Smirnov, he says that he will bring her down like a chicken. The word ‘chicken’ is very funny.
We find the most comic and absurd situation in the play when Popova brings her husband’s revolvers and asks Smirnov to teach her how to fire. This is very absurd that she asks her enemy to teach her how to fire. It is also very absurd that Smirnov starts teaching her. What a funny and absurd situation it is! He not only teaches her how to fire, but he also tells her the prices of different revolvers. Another situation is very funny when Popova changes her mind repeatedly. At one time, she asks him to leave and at another asks him to stay.
From the above discussion, we can conclude that it is a farce and there are many comic and absurd elements in the play. The writer has created comedy through funny comments and absurd situations. (327)
4. Discuss the title of the play “The Bear”.
The title of the play “The Bear” is quite justified. This title suggests the attitude of Smirnov who is just like a bear. In everyday language, we call ‘bear’ to a person who is rude, bad mannered and bad tempered.
When we go through the play, we find that Smirnov is bad-tempered and rude. On his first appearance in the play, he calls Luka, the servant of Popova, fool and ass. Popova tells him that her steward is not present and so she cannot pay the money that day but Smirnov does not listen to her. When Popova tells him that she is in a state of mind, Smirnov makes fun of her state of mind. He even makes fun of her mourning. He makes fun of her wearing lipstick and powdering her face.
Then he talks against women. Popova is right when she says that he does not know how to behave before women. When Luka asks him to leave, he gets angry and threatens him. He says, “Shut up! Who are you talking to? I’ll chop you into pieces!” these words spoken by Smirnov clearly show how bad-tempered he is.
He is so rude that he challenges Popova to fight a duel. Now it is very rude to challenge a woman to fight a duel. He is ready to kill her and says, “I’ll bring her down like a chicken! I’m not a little boy or a sentimental puppy; I don’t care about this “softer sex.”
Therefore, from the above discussion we can conclude that the title of the play is quite justified. It suggests the attitude of Smirnov who is just like a bear in his attitude. (280)
5. Justify the end of the play “The Bear”.
No doubt, the end of the play “The Bear” is very sudden and unexpected. We see that both Smirnov and Popova have revolvers in their hands. They are going to fight a duel and to kill each other but suddenly they decide to marry. This is unexpected. However, when we go through the play, we find that this sudden and unexpected end has many reasons. We shall discuss them one by one.
The reason of Popova’s change of mind was that Popova had been mourning the death of her husband for the last seven months. She had been leading a lonely and sad life since then. Seven months was a long period. Now time had conquered her grief. Inwardly, she wanted some change in her life. She did not want to continue this mourning any more. Besides, it is human psychology that man gets sick and tired of doing the same thing for a long time.
The second reason may be the advice of Luka, her servant. He shocked her by telling her that in ten year’s time, she would not be beautiful anymore and no man would look at her. It was shocking for Popova. The third reason was that Popova had a very romantic nature. When Smirnov assured her of his love, she was greatly moved. It was all according to her romantic nature.
Smirnov decide to marry Popova because he fell in love with her. He was greatly impressed by her beauty. When Popova accepted his challenge of fighting a duel, he was greatly impressed by her boldness too. So, he changed his mind and decided to marry her.
The most important point in that it is a comedy and the end of a comedy cannot be serious. Its end must be funny and pleasant.
Therefore, we can conclude that although the end of the play is sudden and unexpected, yet it is quite justified. (318)
6. Both Smirnov and Popova have the same qualities of character. Discuss.
Both Popova and Smirnov are the chips off the same block. Discuss.
It is quite right to say that both Smirnov and Popova have the same qualities of character.
When we go through the play “The Bear” carefully, we find that both are rude, romantic, quarrelsome and hot-tempered. Both swear not to marry all their lives, but they change their decision.
When the play starts, we see that Smirnov comes right in without getting any permission. He calls Luka fool and ass. Later, he makes fun of Popova’s mourning and her state of mind. He speaks against women and uses insulting words. It is also very rude to challenge a woman to fight a duel. He threatens that he will chop Luka into pieces. He is romantic by nature. He falls in love with Popova. He tells Popova that he had fought duels three times because of women. He changes his decision and decides to marry Popova.
Popova is also just like Smirnov. She is rude too. She abuses Smirnov. She talks against men. When Smirnov challenges her to fight a duel, she at once accepts the challenge. She goes and brings revolvers. Smirnov wants to avoid the duel, but she insists on fighting it. This shows how quarrelsome and hot-tempered she is.
She is romantic by nature. She mourns the death of her husband for seven months. She talks to his photograph and promises to continue mourning until her death. This is romantic but she also changes her decision of mourning until her death and decides to marry Smirnov.
Therefore, we can conclude that both Smirnov and Popova are the chips off the same block and they have the same qualities of character. (272)
The Bear is a comedy play. It has two main characters. Popova and Smirnov. Popova is a young lady, whose husband is dead; but she is still mourning at his death. She does not leave the house and meet any one and she is wearing a black dress to prove that she loves her husband even after seven years of his death. Although he was so unkind and faithless to her, yet she is and will be true to him forever. Her servant, Luka, is reassuring and telling her that she is young and should forget her dead husband now. He says there are many good people around and she should get married again, but she is so attached to her husband’s memories that she does not agree with him.
A young man, named Smirnov, comes to Popova to get his debt back that Popova’s husband had borrowed from him because he used to buy oats for his horse, Toby. He tells Luka that he wants to see Popova, but she refuses to see him. He pushes his way in and sits in the drawing room. Luka goes to tell Popova that the devil has come in forcibly. Popova sees Smirnov and tells him that she is in a state of mind that she cannot pay attention to money matters. She also says that he will get his money when her steward comes back from town; but Smirnov says that he wants the money now because he has to pay the interest and if he does not do that the creditors will take his estate and give him a hard time. At this, Popova says that since she does not have money at the moment, she cannot pay.
Smirnov becomes angry because he has been calling on his debtors; but none of them has paid him and here he is met by Popova in a state of mind. This really annoys Smirnov and he says, “Madam, you have buried yourself within the four walls of your house; but you haven’t forgotten to powder your face yet.” Smirnov behaves awkwardly and rudely and says, “You cannot get round me with your dimpled cheeks and weeds. I have refused twelve women and nine have refused me. I have fought duels three times on account of women.” He calls all women insincere, selfish, faithless, and trivial to the marrow of their backbone. Popova also calls him a bear three times. This leads both of them to a fight, which may decide whether only men need pay for their insults or women must also pay, as they want emancipation. Luka becomes afraid and goes to call gardener and other servants to stop these people from fighting. Popova brings pistols; but she does not know how to fire. Smirnov teaches her. The process of asking for debt and Popova’s stylish attitude makes him fall in love with her. He madly loves her like a student. Popova also begins to like him. Instead of fighting, they are drawn close to each other. When Luka, returns with gardener and other servants, he finds both of them in happy union and Popova says, “Tell them in the stables that Toby is not to have any oats at all today.”
The Bear is a farce. The boisterous situations make it a complete farce. It is a direct criticism on hypocrisy of the people of Russian society that how their states of mind change and how they behave differently from their actual nature.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was born in Chile. She was a daughter of a poet and began to write poetry as a village school teacher after a passionate romance with a railway employee, who committed suicide. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She, who played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish Literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.
Central to the poem "Fear" by Gabriela Mistral is a mother's anxiety about losing her child. This is, in part, a selfish apprehension as the mother worries that the child will become like a swallow and metaphorically "fly off" to be with others, teachers, classmates, friends, and not her. That the mother is a poor person rooted to one place is evidenced in this metaphor that depicts the child like a bird escaping her sight. Also the mother worries that the child will leave her little "straw bed" and become "a princess." for if she becomes a princess, then the metaphorical "they" may make her a queen; with their royal obligations, the princess and queen will not be able to be together. Here, then, is also the expression of fear for the daughter as life's obligations and pitfalls meet her.
Through the use of metaphor and repetition, the mother expresses her fear of her daughter's growing up and leaving her and encountering potential harm. She combs the girl's hair and does other physical things that she may keep the child close as long as she can.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Let us now move on to another major structural aspect of language, syntax. The word syntax derives from the Greek word syntaxis, which means arrangement. Morphology deals with word formation out of morphemes; syntax deals with phrase and sentence formation out of words.
What is a sentence?
Although everyone knows or thinks they know what a word is and what a sentence is, both terms defy exact definition. The sentence as a linguistic concept has been defined in over 200 different ways, none of them completely adequate. Here are the most important attempts at defining the sentence:
The traditional, or common sense definition states that a sentence is a group of words that expresses a thought. The problem comes in defining what a thought is. The phrase an egg expresses a thought but is it a sentence? A sentence like I closed the door because it was cold expresses two thoughts and yet it is one sentence.
Another definition is that a sentence is a group of words expressing a topic (old information) and some comment (new information) about that topic: John left. (Notice how intonation--which is a part of phonology--interacts closely with syntax in delimiting topic from comment--another example of the grammatical interconnectedness of all the so called levels of language.) The problem with the topic-comment definition is that many sentences have no clear topic and comment structure: It's raining.
The grammatical definition of the sentence is the largest unit to which syntactic rules can apply. In terms of syntactic categories, most sentences--at least in English-- can be divided into a subject and a predicate. This applies to sentences with or without a clear topic/comment structure: John ---left. Many sentences have no clear topic and comment structure: It--is raining. (The word it here is the so-called dummy it used to fill the subject slot for impersonal verbs in English; cf. prshí, snezí.)
Another problem with grammatical, or syntactic, definitions of the sentence is that not all sentences--even in English--are divisible into subject and predicate. Some sentence types make no internal syntactic structure; there is no distinction between subject and predicate:
a) Emotive sentences such as Gee! Wow. Darn! Yes! No!
b) Imperatives: Go! Leave! Taxi! All aboard! Down with alcohol!
c) Elliptic sentences: Who took the car? John.
d) small talk phrases: Hello. Good-bye. Good morning.
In polysynthetic languages the single word serve as a complete sentence much more frequently. In such languages, morphology rather than syntax usually expresses the distinction between subject and predicate.
Types of sentences containing a subject and a predicate
Syntax usually examines sentences that have a clear inner division into subject and predicate. There are 3 types of subject/predicate structured sentences:
a) a simple sentence contains at least one subject and one predicate: John read Pushkin.
b) a compound sentence is two or more simple sentences joined into a single sentence: John read Pushkin and Mary read Updike. Each simple sentence maintains its own internal syntactic structure. They may be joined by a coordinating conjunction such as and or or, or asyndetically (without a conjunction).
c) a complex sentence is a sentence in which one of the syntactic roles is played by an embedded sentence: I made students read Chomsky. The simple sentence students read Chomsky plays the role of object of the verb made. Because the syntax of the two parts of a complex sentence is intertwined, it is often not possible to divide them into two free-standing simple sentences. *I made. Students read Chomsky. I saw Mary run.
Complex sentences, then, are said to consist of a main clause, with a subordinate clause imbedded into its structure (the subordinate clause is often referred to as an imbedded sentence). In phrase structure notation a subordinate clause, or imbedded sentence, is notated as S', pronounced s-bar.
The word that connects a subordinate clause to a main clause, such as the word that in the previous example, is known as a subordinate conjunction; in syntactic analysis a subordinate conjunction is known as a complementizer, and is notated as Comp. In some English complex sentences the complementizer is optional, in others obligatory: I know (that) you snore. vs. I hate when you snore (if the complementizer has a temporal meaning it can't be left out.)
Parts of speech
Words and phrases can be grouped according to their sentence building functions. Syntactic classes of words are traditionally called parts of speech. English has the following parts of speech: verb, noun, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, verbal particle (the off in turn off the light), article.
Note the following test to determine what is a preposition and what is a verbal particle in English:
a). The mouse ran up the clock--Up the clock he ran. (Prepositional phrases can be fronted).
b.) The man ran up a big bill.--*Up the big bill he ran. (Verbal particles cannot.) Also: The mouse ran up it (pronoun is object of the prep and can follow the preposition) but not *The mouse ran it up. But, The man ran it up (pronoun is object of the verb and follows the verb) not *The man ran up it.
Not all languages have the same parts of speech. Many languages have postpositions rather than prepositions, like Georgian skolashi, to school; skoladan, from school. Serbo-Croatian, Slovak and many other languages have clitics (clitics are affixes attached to phrases instead of single words). Dal som knigu prijatel'ovi/Knigu som dal prijatel'ovi/ Prijatel'ovi som dal knigu. I gave it to my friend. Spanish uses the object marking clitics le and lo after verbs: Dice mi lo.
A common assertion is that all languages have at least nouns and verbs. It is true that all languages have some means of conveying information as a concept or as an event, but what a noun or verb is differs from language to language. In the Salishan languages of the Puget Sound, a single word can be translated into English as village and a village exist or there is a village; in other words, morphemes denoting stationary concepts are often bound roots that require verbal affixes to stand as words. So parts of speech--even nouns and verbs-- turn out to be at best fuzzy categories across languages, not identical or even present in every language. Some people thing of parts of speech or grammatical categories as similar to protons, electrons and neutrons in how they contribute to the structure of languages, but such is not the case. The form/meaning connections differ from language to language. There are universal tendencies, but these do not seem to be absolute universal properties.
Parts of speech are based on syntactic function, not concrete, extra-linguistic meaning. Notice that words is different syntactic classes can have the same concrete meaning and differ only in their ability to combine with other words: The sky darkens, the darkening of the sky, a dark sky, the darkness of the sky.
Thus syntactic patterns as well as syntactic categories cannot be said to be limited to any concrete real-world meaning; they are linguistic structures relevant for expressing meaning and yet have no specific meaning of their own. Note Chomsky's famous semantically anomalous statement: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. This sentence is utter nonsense but it is nonsense stated in English and conforms perfectly to a complex set rules of English syntax; thus one is tempted to devise a surrealist interpretation of it. The utterance *green sleep colorless furiously ideas is not a sentence of English at all and even the most imaginative person could not devise a meaning for it.
The basic unit of syntax is not the word, but the syntactic atom, defined as a structure that fulfills a basic syntactic function. Syntactic atoms may be either a single word or a phrase that fulfills a single syntactic function.
Fido ate the bone.
The dog ate the bone.
The big yellow dog ate the bone.
Our dog that we raised from a puppy ate the bone.
Elements with syntactic equivalence all belong to the same type of syntactic atom (NP, VP)
A language also contains specific rules for properly connecting syntactic atoms to form sentences--these are called phrase structure rules (look at problem 5 on page 116). The sentence: The big yellow dog ate the bone. is well formed because it uses the parts of speech in a way that conforms to the rules of English syntax. The string of words: big the ate bone dog yellow the, is not a sentence because it violates syntactic rules. It is often not even possible to assign any meaning to a syntactically ill-formed utterance.
This is why the syntactic rules of a language can be followed perfectly to produce illogical or semantically highly improbable sentences: The bone ate the big yellow dog. Since a new context could be imagined to render such a statement at least fictionally logical, it is fortunate that our language has a ready made means of expressing it. The fact that syntactic structures are not restricted in the meanings they may express is one reason why we can so easily produce novel sentences never before heard. The semantic independence of the phrase structure rules is one of the main factors that provides for the infinite creativity of human language. Animal systems don't have any structural units that are meaningful yet totally independent of meaning.
Syntactic Relations and phrase structure rules
Let's examine syntactic relations within English sentences. One approach is to divide the words of a sentence into phrases (defined as words closely associated with one another syntactically). This technique is know as parsing. The most fundamental division is between subject and predicate. (of course, this is because we are cheating and ignoring sentence types that lack this division). Phrases containing different parts of speech can serve one and the same function.
The big yellow dog //ate /bones
He //ate the old bone.
The big yellow dog //slept.
The dog //growled at John.
Each of these sentences consists of a subject and a predicate. But in each sentence different syntactic types of words or combinations of words constitute subject and predicate. Different combinations of parts of speech fulfilling the same syntactic function are said to be syntactically equivalent. It is possible to write rules describing syntactic equivalence. These rules are called phrase structure rules. These rules use special symbols designed exclusively for syntactic descriptions. Grammatical terms or graphic notation devices devised to describe language structure are examples of meta-language, defined roughly as language about language. The syntactic metalanguage used in writing phrase structure rules involves mainly abbreviations from English words for parts of speech.
S--> NP VP A sentence consists of a noun phrase and a verb phrase. (These correspond to subject and predicate.)
NP--> (art) (adj) N or NP --> pronoun
(Go over exercise 5 on page116 in the textbook.)
Phrase structure rules are said to be recursive. That is, identical elements in the structure of a phrase can repeat. These repeating elements are sometimes known as parallel items in a series:
Parallel subjects: the sentence John came--John, Bill, and Mary came. is a simple sentence with a recursive subject. (Compare John came and Bill camewhich is a compound sentence each part of which has a simple subject.)
Parallel verbs: Caesar came, saw, and conquered.
adverbs: a very good book--a very, very good book; or
adjectives: a green and red and pink and blue book.
Parallel compound sentences:I came and Bill came and Mary came and...
Multiple subordinate clauses in a complex sentence: I know an old lady who swallowed a fly which was chased by her cat who had been bored because there was nothing to do in the house that Jack built when he. . .
Remember the ability of syntactic elements to occur in multiples is known as recursion.
It is possible to write an entire book consisting of just one single recursive complex sentence. The property of recursion means that it is impossible to propose limits on the length of sentences. No one will ever be able to state with certainty what the longest possible sentence can be. There are a limited number of words in each language, but a potentially infinite number of sentences. This realization prompted 19th century German linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt to say: "Language makes infinite use of finite means." Such a statement could not be made about animal systems of communication, in which the number of messages is strictly limited.
1) The syntactic atom is the basic unit of syntax; syntactic structures are made up of other syntactic structures; although syntax is separate from meaning (we can have syntactically correct sentences which are utterly anomalous semantically, it is not possible to separate syntax from morphology compeletely: there are some instances where specific phrase structure rules are constrained semantically, for instance in VP = V + NP (Subcategorization rules for verbal complements).
Let's take a closer look at verb phrases, which are more complex than noun phrases. First of all, VP can = a single verb (V) He ate; or the verb may have an auxillary (aux): He was eating, He has eaten; or the verb clause might contain verb + dependent words. There are several types of verb-dependent words, known collectively as verbal complements: He ate yesterday (Adv); He ate meat (NP); He ate in the cafe. (PP) Object noun phrases, prepositional phrases, and adverbs all fulfill the same syntactic function--the verb complement. (Yesterday we noted that in language typology the complement is notated as O.
The noun phrase complements of action verbs are called direct objects: He kicked the ball. Verbs that can take a direct object are called transitive verbs. Some transitive verbs are obligatorily transitive: that is, they cannot be used without a complement: *He made. Other transitive verbs may omit the object: I writevs. I write a letter.
Verbs that cannot take a direct object at all are called intransitive. For instance, the verb sleep cannot take a direct object complement: He slept (yesterday, at home), but not * He slept a fish.
The complements of linking verbs are called predicate nominals, which may be either nouns or adjectives: John arrived healthy. We became ill.
Sometimes the same verb can have two different meanings, one requiring a direct object, the other a predicate nominal: We smelled the roses. The chef made (created) a good salad. vs. The roses smelled good. He made (became) a good chef.
The study of what grammatical form may or may not be used after a verb is called verb government. It is also known as lexical subcategorization, the point being that it is not enough to know the meaning of a word and what part of speech the word belongs to. One must also know additional requirements about how the word may or must combine with other words in a phrase.
Mention that in polysynthetic languages this is part of morphology. (There is no clear division between morphology and syntax that can be drawn across all languages.) The division between syntax and morphology varies across languages.
Phrases and heads
Since they cannot be defined as having specific meanings, syntactic atoms (single words or whole phrases) are defined by how they interact with syntactic rules.
1) They do not allow reordering of their constituents, It's the bone the dog ate. The bone, he ate it. (cleft sentences and sentences with left dislocation). You can't front only part of a syntactic atom any more than you can change the order of morphemes in a word rewrite but not *write-re: *The big, he ate the bone. (NOTE: When used as examples, grammatically ill formed sentences and words are traditionally marked by an asterisk *. This also applies to morphologically ill formed words: *ingrun, *runre.)
2) One may not anaphorize, or substitute for, only a part of a morphologically complex syntactic atom (I like the tea's flavor. I like its flavor. Here is coffee and here is a coffeepot I like its pot.)
3) Also, if a morphologically complex syntactic atom takes inflectional endings, then only the head can be so modified, not any of the subordinate constituents. (Workaholic--workaholiclike, *workedaholic, *workingaholic.)
The head of a syntactic atom can sometimes be a zero morpheme: withstand, grandstand, leaf--> maple leaf Toronto Maple Leafs, fly--> fly out (a window), a fly ball--to fly out (in baseball) He flied out.
Notice that noun phrases often have internal rules. English noun phrases observe a strict word order: article, adverb, adjective, noun. Noun phrase structure rules differ from language to language: In French, Hawaiian, and many other language the adjectives come after the noun. In many languages the form of articles or adjectives changes to reflect the gender of the noun. When words in a phrase change grammatically to accommodate one another the process is called concord oragreement. French is a good example: le petit garcon vs. la petite fille; German: das Haus; der Apfel; die Blume. In such cases we say that the noun is the headof the phrase, since it causes other words to change and yet remains unaffected by whatever adjective or article is added to it. In English, the head of the syntactic unit called the sentence is the subject NP, since the verb agrees with it and not the other way around. Each syntactic atom has its head.
Diagramming sentences, how to deal with ambiguity
Let's now turn to instances of ambiguity in syntax. Sometimes a sentence or phrase allows for two different syntactic interpretations.
Parsing using parentheses to show syntactic relations can disambiguate such a phrase as: old men and women
Other sentences do not lend themselves to such a linear approach. Sometimes the words that belong to the same syntactic unit are separated by other words: The book that was lying under all the other books is the most interesting. Tree diagrams can be used to show such "long distance" grammatical relations.
Consider also the sentence The fish is too old to eat. Here, parsing and even tree diagramming cannot separate out the two potential meanings. In such cases of semantic ambiguity, paraphrases can be used to express two meanings hidden in a single linear form:
The fish is too old for the fish to eat. The fish is too old to be eaten.
Noam Chomsky, a linguist at MIT, became interested in the phenomenon of syntactic ambiguity. He noticed that languages contain systematic ways of paraphrasing sentences:
a.) Active sentences can regularly be turned into passives: The boy kicked the ball.--> the ball was kicked by the boy. (passive transformation)
b.) Statements can be regularly turned into questions: He is there? Is he there? (interrogative transformation)
He came to believe that such parallel syntactic means of expressing the same meaning were simply surface manifestations of deeper structural units of language. To study and describe such deep structures, he devised the theory of transformational grammar. The three main tenets of this theory are:
1) The surface forms of a language are reducible to a limited number of deep structures. The same deep structure is manifested in several different ways in actual sentences. This is similar to the use of the principle of allomorphs to describe morpheme variants.
2) These deep structures are universal--in other words, the same for all languages of the world; only the rules for deriving the surface forms from the deep structures differ from language to language.
3) The reason these deep structures are universal is that they are inborn, part of the human genetic code; being inborn they help children discover the surface forms of language so quickly.
Transformational grammar has maintained its popularity since 1957 when Noam Chomsky published his first book, Syntactic Structures. But major problems continue to dog the theory. The main problems are:
Transformational rules only work for sentences composed of separate noun and verb phrases. We have seen that not all sentences are of this type.
Mainly English data was used to find these supposedly universal deep structures. Usually one of the paraphrases is taken as the basic one and the other derived from it: cf. active and passive. But active is not more basic in all languages; Japanese uses the passive as its more basic form.
No deep structures have been described that would apply across all languages. Structural universals tend to be proposed, then disgarded as data from new languages disprove them. There seem to be universal tendencies in syntax, but no universal has yet been proven to exist that would be more specific than the general creativity in humans.
Thus, no real progress has been made in writing a universal grammar that would be applicable to all human languages, a sort of In chemistry we have the Periodic table of Elements--all substances on earth can be seen as compounds of a finite set of elements. Human language doesn't seem to work this way, and no such table of universal grammar elements has been found.
Definitions of Grammar
Since sentence formation is the most obvious and frequent manifestation of creativity in any language, the syntactic rules of a language are often referred to as the grammar of the language. But morphology and phonology are also part of the grammar in that they, too, are creative tools.
Here it might be pertinent to mention a few other definitions of the term grammar that are widely used.
a) A descriptive grammar is a description of the structure of a language in all its aspects--morphology, syntax, phonology--which attempts do portray the language as accurately as possible in terms of how it is naturally used by speakers.
b) A prescriptive grammar is a description of a language which assigns value judgments to competing ways native speakers use in forming words or sentences. Prescriptive grammars do not attempt to describe the language as it is naturally spoken, but rather to tell the speakers how they best should speak it.
c) A third type, grammars of foreign languages written for second language learners fall in between the other two types. They represent attempts to describe a language as it is spoken by natives in order to tell non-natives how to speak it.
When thinking of grammar in the general, descriptive sense, remember that there is no absolute division between syntax, morphology, and phonology. Even in the same language these so called levels of language are not completely separate.
It is not always possible to separate phonology from syntax. For instance, certain phonological rules depend on syntax. Look at these examples from fast speech:What are you doing? where are = an auxiliary verb, becomes Whacha doin? But What are you? where are = the main verb of the predicate, can't be run together as *Whacha? Similarly, I'm going to work now. (in the sense of I am planning to work now)--> I'm gonna work now. But I'm going to work now in the sense ofsetting out for work, can't be contracted. The phonetic environment is the same; but syntactic class the words belong to affect which of them can and cannot be contracted.
Morphology and syntax also interact, as we have seen. Compound words are part of morphology, yet they are dependent on syntactic parameters, as well. Compound words or adj/noun combinations that act as single words can express different syntactic functions. One must understand these underlying syntactic functions to understand the meaning of the words: magnifying glass, falling star vs. looking glass, laughing gas.
The difficulty of completely separating morphology, syntax, and phonology is especially evident when comparing different languages. What in one language is a part of syntax in another language will be a part of morphology, a fact particularly evident when comparing analytic languages like Chinese to polysynthetic languages like Eskimo.
Geoffrey Chaucer occupies a unique position in the Middle Ages. He was born a commoner, but through his intellect and astute judgments of human character, he moved freely among the aristocracy. Although very little is definitely known about the details of his life, Chaucer was probably born shortly after 1340. Although the family name (from French "Chaussier") suggests that the family originally made shoes, Chaucer's father, John, was a prosperous wine merchant.
Both Chaucer's father and grandfather had minor standing at court, and Geoffrey Chaucer's own name appears in the household accounts of Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster and wife to Prince Lionel. As a household servant, Chaucer probably accompanied Elizabeth on her many journeys, and he may have attended her at such dazzling entertainment as the Feast of St. George given by King Edward in 1358 for the king of France, the queen of Scotland, the king of Cyprus, and a large array of other important people. Chaucer's acquaintance with John of Gaunt (fourth son of Edward III and ancestor of Henry IV, V, and VI), who greatly influenced the poet, may date from Christmas 1357, when John was a guest of Elizabeth in Yorkshire.
Chaucer had a high-born wife, Philippa, whom he probably married as early as 1366. Chaucer may also have had a daughter, Elizabeth, and two sons, "little Lewis" (for whom he composed the Astrolabe, a prose work on the use of that instrument of an astronomer) and Thomas.
Chaucer was one of the most learned men of his time. He made numerous translations of prose and verse, including Boethius'Consolation of Philosophy, saints' legends, sermons, French poetry by Machaut and Deschamps, and Latin and Italian poetry by Ovid, Virgil, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. He also shows a wide knowledge of medicine and physiognomy, astronomy and astrology, jurisprudence, alchemy, and early physics. His knowledge of alchemy was so thorough that, even into the seventeenth century, some alchemists themselves considered him a "master" of the science — not a pseudo-science in Chaucer's time.
According to the legend on his tomb in Westminster Abbey, the poet died on October 25, 1400.
Public Positions and Service
During 1359 to 1360, Chaucer served with the English army in France and was taken prisoner near Reims. He was released for ransom — toward which Edward himself contributed sixteen pounds — and returned to England. Later that same year, Chaucer traveled back to France, carrying royal letters, apparently entering the service of Edward as the king's servant and sometimes emissary.
Although he again served with the English army in France in 1369, by 1370 Chaucer was traveling abroad on a diplomatic mission for the king. Having been commissioned to negotiate with the Genoese on the choice of an English commercial port, Chaucer took his first known journey to Italy in December of 1372 and remained there until May 1373. He probably gained his knowledge of Italian poetry and painting during his visits to Genoa and Florence.
Chaucer's high standing continued during the reign of Richard, who became king in 1377. Throughout most of 1377 and 1378, his public services were performed chiefly in England. Chaucer received various appointments, including justice of the peace in Kent (1385), Clerk of the King's Works (1389), and, after his term as Clerk of the King's Works (sometime after 1390), deputy forester of the royal forest of North Petherton in Somerset. During this time, he was also was elected Knight of the Shire (1386) and served in Parliament.
Chaucer continued to receive royal gifts, including a new annuity of twenty pounds, a scarlet robe trimmed with fur, and, after 1397, an annual butt of wine (104 gallons). When Henry IV was crowned, he renewed Richard's grants and gave Chaucer an additional annuity of forty marks. Throughout his public career, Chaucer came into contact with most of the important men of London as well as with many of the great men of the Continent. We have records of his frequent dealings with the chief merchants of the city, with the so-called Lollard knights (followers of Wyclif, to whom John of Gaunt gave protection), and with the king's most important ambassadors and officials.
Payments to the poet during the last years of his life were apparently irregular, and his various "begging poems" — "Complaint to his Purse," for instance — together with records of advances which he drew from the royal Exchequer, have sometimes been taken as evidence that Chaucer died poor; but this is by no means certain. At any event, Geoffrey Chaucer's son Thomas took over Geoffrey Chaucer's new house in the garden of Westminster Abbey and remained in high court favor after Chaucer's death.
Chaucer has presented caricatures of himself again and again — in such early poems as The Book of the Duchess, The Parliment of Fowles, Troilus and Criseyde, The House of Fame, and The Legend of Good Women, and also in his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales.Chaucer's narrators are, of course, not the "real" Chaucer — except in certain physical respects — but the various caricatures have much in common with one another and certainly reveal, either directly or indirectly, what Chaucer valued in a man.
With the exception of the Troilus narrator, a very complicated and special case, all Chaucer's narrators are bookish, fat, nearsighted, comically pretentious, slightly self-righteous, and apparently — because of a fundamental lack of sensitivity and refinement — thoroughly unsuccessful in the chief art of medieval heroes: love. We may be fairly sure that the spiritual and psychological qualities in these caricatures are not exactly Chaucer's. Chaucer's actual lack of pretentiousness, self-righteousness, and vulgarity lies at the heart of our response to the comic self-portraits in which he claims for himself these defects.
The ultimate effect of Chaucer's poetry is moral, but it is inadequate to describe Chaucer as a moralist, much less as a satirist. He is a genial observer of mankind, a storyteller, as well as a satirist, one whose satire is usually without real bite. He is also a reformer, but he is foremost a celebrator of life who comments shrewdly on human absurdities while being, at the same time, a lover of mankind.