|

5 :

.

. . .

:






Supra-Phrasal Units




The term supra-phrasal unit (SPU) is used to denote a larger unit than a sentence. It generally comprises a number of sentences interdependent structurally (usually by means of pronouns, connectives, tense-forms) and semantically (one definite thought is dealt with). Such a span of utterance is also characterized by the fact that it can be extracted from the context without losing its relative semantic independence. This cannot be said of the sentence, which, while representing a complete syntactical unit, may, however, lack the quality of independence. A sentence from the stylistic point of view does not necessarily express one idea, as it is defined in most manuals of grammar. It may express only part of one idea. Thus the sentence: "Guy glanced at his wife's untouched plate", if taken out of the context, will be perceived as a part of a larger span of utterance where the situation will be made clear and the purport of verbal expression more complete.

Here is the complete SPU.

Guy glanced at his wife's untouched plate.

"If you've finished, we might stroll down. I think you ought to be starting."

She did not answer. She rose from the table. She went into her room to see that nothing had been forgotten and then side by side with him walked down the steps. (Somerset Maugham)

The next sentence of the paragraph begins: "A little winding path..." This is obviously the beginning of the next SPU. So a supra-phrasal unit may be defined as a combination of sentences presenting a structural and semantic unity backed up by rhythmic and melodic unity. Any SPU will lose its unity if it suffers breaking.

But what are the principles on which the singling out of an SPU can be maintained? In order to give an answer to this question, it is first of all necessary to deepen our understanding of the term utterance. As a stylistic term the word 'utterance' must be expanded. Any utterance from a stylistic point of view will serve to denote a certain span of speech (language-in-action) in which we may observe coherence, interdependence of the elements, one definite idea, and last but not least, the purport of the writer.

The purport is the aim that the writer sets before himself, which is to make the desired impact on the reader. So the aim of any utterance is a carefully thought-out impact. Syntactical units are connected to achieve the desired effect and it is often by the manner they are connected that the desired effect is secured.

Let us take the following paragraph for analysis:

"1. But a day or two later the doctor was not feeling well. 2. He had an internal malady that troubled him now and then, but he was used to it and disinclined to talk about it. 3. When he had one of his attacks, he only wanted to be left alone. 4. His cabin was small and stuffy, so he settled himself on a long chair on deck and lay with his eyes closed. 5. Miss Reid was walking up and down to get the half hour's exercise she took morning and evening. 6. He thought that if he pretended to be asleep she would not disturb him. 7. But when she had passed him half a dozen times she stopped in front of him and'stood quite still. 8. Though he kept his eyes closed he knew that she was looking at him." (Somerset Maugham)

This paragraph consists of eight sentences, all more or less independent? The first three sentences, however, show a considerable degree I of semantic interdependence. This can be inferred from the use of the |following cluster of concepts associated with each other: 'not feeling I weir, 'internal malady', 'one of his attacks'. Each phrase is the key to the sentence in which it occurs. There are no formal connectives, the connection is made apparent by purely semantic means. These three sentences constitute an SPU built within the larger framework of the paragraph. The fourth sentence is semantically independent of the preceding three. It seems at first glance not to belong to the paragraph at all. The fact that the doctor's'cabin was small and stuffy' and that 'he settled himself... on deck' does not seem to be necessarily connected with the thought expressed in the preceding SPU. But on a more careful analysis one can clearly see how all four sentences are actually interconnected. The linking sentence is 4he only wanted to be left alone'. So the words with his eyes closed' with which the fourth sentence ends, are semantically connected both with the idea of being left alone and with the idea expressed in the sentence: 'He thought that if he pretended to be asleep she would not disturb him.' But between this sentence and its semantic links May with his eyes closed' and 'wanted to be left alone', the sentence about Miss Reid thrusts itself in. This is not irrelevant to the whole situation and to the purport of the writer, who leads us to understand that the doctor was disinclined to talk to anybody and probably to Miss Reid in particular.

So the whole of the paragraph has therefore semantic and structural wholeness. It can, however, be split into two SPUs with a linking sentence between them. Sentence 5 can be regarded as an SPU, inasmuch as it enjoys considerable independence both semantically and structurally. Sentences 6, 7 and 8 are structurally and therefore semantically interwoven. But when and though in the seventh and eighth sentences are the structural elements which link all three sentences into one SPU.

It follows then that an SPU can be embodied in a sentence if the sentence meets the requirements of this compositional unit. Most epigrams are SPUs from the point of view of their semantic unity, though they fail to meet the general structural requirement, viz. to be represented in a number of sentences.

On the other hand, an SPU, though usually a component part of the paragraph, may occupy the whole of the paragraph. In this case we say that the SPU coincides with the paragraph.

It is important to point out that this structural unit, in its particular way of arranging ideas, belongs almost exclusively to the belles-lettres style, though it may be met with to some extent in the publicistic style. Other styles, judging by their recognized leading features, do not require this mode of arranging the parts of an utterance except in rare cases which may be neglected. '

Let us take a passage from another piece of belles-lettres style, a paragraph from Aldington's "Death of a Hero."

It is a paragraph easy to submit to stylistic and semantic analysis: it falls naturally into several SPUs.

"1. After dinner they ,sat about and smoked. 2. George took his chair over to the open window and looked down on the lights and movement of Piccadilly.-3. The noise of the traffic was lulled by the height to a long continuous rumble. 4. The placards of the evening papers along the railings beside the Ritz were sensational and bellicose. 5. The party dropped the subject of a possible great war; after deciding that there wouldn't be one, there couldn't. 6. George, who had great faith in Mr. Bobbe's political acumen, glanced through his last article, and took great comfort from the fact that Bobbe said there wasn't going to be a war. 7. It was all a scare, a stock market ramp... 8. At that moment three or four people came in, more or less together, though they were in separate parties. 9. One of them was a youngish man in immaculate evening dress. 10. As he shook hands with his host, George heard him say rather excitedly, "I've just been dining with..."

Analysis of this paragraph will show how complicated the composition of belles-lettres syntactical units is. There is no doubt that,there is a definite semantic unity in the paragraph. The main idea is the anxiety and uncertainty of English society before World War I as to whether there would be, or would not be, a war. But around this main sense-axis there centre a number of utterances which present more or less independent spans of thought. Thus, we can easily single out the group of sentences which begins with the words 'After dinner' and ends with '...and bellicose'. This part of the text presents, as it were, the background against which the purport of the author stands out more clearly, the last sentence of this SPU preparing the reader for the main idea of the paragraphthe possibility of warwhich is embodied in the next supra-phrasal unit. This second SPU begins with the words 'The party dropped the subject of a possible great war' and ends with '...a stock market ramp...'. It is made structurally independent by the introduction of elements of uttered represented speech (see p. 238), the contractions wouldn't, couldn't, wasn't, the purely colloquial syntactical design there wouldn't be one, there couldn't, the colloquial word scare.

The shift to the third SPU is indicated by the dots after the word ramp (...). Here again it is the author who speaks, there are no further elements of represented speech, the shift being rather abrupt, because George's thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of the newcomers. The connecting 'At that moment' softens the abruptness.

The author's purport grows apparent through the interrelation an interrelation which seems to be organicbetween the three SPUs: sensational and bellicose placards in the streets of London, the anxiety of the people at the party, the conviction backed up by such a reassuring argument as Mr. Bobbe's article that there was not going to fee a war, and the new guests bringing unexpected news.

SPUs are not always so easily discernible as they are in this paragraph from "The Death of a Hero". Due to individual peculiarities in combining ideas into a graphical (and that means both syntactical and semantic) unity, there may be considerable variety in the arrangement of SPUs and of paragraphs, ranging from what might be called clearly-marked borderlines between the supra-phrasal unit to almost imperceptible semantic shifts. Indeed, it is often from making a comparison between the beginning and the end of a paragraph that one can infer that it contains separate SPUs.

It follows then that the paragraphs in the belles-lettres prose style do not necessarily possess the qualities of unity and coherence as is the case with paragraphs in other styles of speech and particularly in the scientific prose style.

SPUs are to be found in particular in poetical style. Here the SPUs, as well as the paragraphs, are embodied in stanzas. Due to the most typical semantic property of any poetical work, viz. brevity of expression, there arises the need to combine ideas so that seemingly independent utterances may be integrated into one poetical unity, viz. a stanza. Let us take for analysis the following stanza from Shelley's poem "The Cloud":

"I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers

From the seas and the streams; I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noon-day dreams. From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet buds every one, When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,

As she dances about the sun. I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under; And then again I dissolve it in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder."

Here there are three SPUs separated by full stops.

Within the first, which comprises four lines, there are two more or less independent units divided by a semicolon and integrated by parallel constructions (/ bring fresh showers; I bear light shade).

Within the second SPUalso four linesthere are also two interdependent ideasthe buds awakened by the dews and the earth moving around the sun. These are strongly bound together by the formal elements when and as forming one complex sentence and an SPU. The formal means used to connect different spans of utterance affect their semantic integrity.

The three SPUs of the stanza are united by one idea the usefulness of the cloud giving all kind of comfort, here moisture and shade, to what is growing..* showers, shade, dews, hail, rain.

The SPUs in sonnets qfe^ especially manifest. This is due to their strict structural and semantic rules of composition.

The Paragraph

A p a r a g r a p h is a graphical term used to name a group of sentences marked off by indentation at the beginning and a break in the line at the end. But this graphical term has come to mean a distinct portion of a written discourse showing an internal unity. As a linguistic category the paragraph is a unit of utterance marked off by purely linguistic means: intonation, pauses of various lengths, semantic ties which can be disclosed by scrupulous analysis of the morphological aspect and meaning of the component parts, etc. It has already been stated elsewhere that the logical aspect of an utterance will always be backed up by purely linguistic means causing, as it were, an indivisible unity of extralin-guistic and intralinguistic approach.

Bearing this in mind, we shall not draw a mark of demarcation between the logical and the linguistic analysis of an utterance, because the paragraph is a linguistic expression of a logical, pragmatic and aesthetic arrangement of thought.

Paragraph structure is not always built on logical principles alone, as is generally the case in the style of scientific prose. In the building of paragraphs in newspaper style, other requirements are taken into consideration, for instance, psychological principles, in particular the sensational effect of the communication and the grasping capacity of the reader for quick reading. Considerations of space also play important part. This latter consideration sometimes overrules the necessity for logical arrangement and results in breaking the main rule of paragraph building, i.e. the unity of idea. Thus, a brief note containing information about an oil treaty is crammed into one sentence, it being, in its turn, a paragraph:

"The revised version of an international oil treaty is to-day before the Senate Relation Committee, which recently made it clear that the Anglo-American oil treaty negotiated last August would not reach the Senate floor for ratification, because of objections by the American oil industry to it."

Paragraph building in the style of official documents is mainly governed by the particular conventional forms of documents (charters, pacts, diplomatic documents, business letters, legal documents and the like). Here paragraphs may sometimes embody what are grammatically called a number of parallel clauses, which for the sake of the wholeness of the entire document are made formally subordinate, whereas in reality they are independent items. (See examples in the chapter on official style, p. 312.)

Paragraph structure in the belles-lettres and publicistic styles is strongly affected by the purport of the author. To secure the desired impact, a writer finds it necessary to give details and illustrations, to introduce comparisons and contrasts, to give additional reasons and, finally, to expand the topic by looking at it from different angles and paraphrasing the idea. He may, especially in the publicistic style, introduce the testimony of some authority on the subject and even deviate from the main topic by recounting an anecdote or even a short story to ease mental effort and facilitate understanding of the communication.

The length of a paragraph normally varies from eight to twelve sentences. The longer the paragraph is, the more difficult it is to follow the purport of the writer. In newspaper style, however, most paragraphs consist of one or perhaps two or three sentences.

Paragraphs of a purely logical type may be analysed from the way the thought of the writer develops. Attempts have been made to classify paragraphs from the point of view of the logical sequence of the sentences. Thus, in manuals on the art of composition there are models of paragraphs built on different principles:

1) from the general to the particular, or from the particular to the general;

2) on the inductive or deductive principle;

3) from cause to effect, or from effect to cause;

4) on contrast, or comparison.

So the paragraph is a compositional device aimed either at facilitating the process of apprehending what is written, or inducing a certain reaction on the part of the reader. This reaction is generally achieved by intentionally grouping the ideas so as to show their interdependence or interrelation. That is why the paragraph, from a mere compositional device, turns into a stylistic one. It discloses the writer's manner of depicting the features of the object or phenomenon described. It is in the paragraph that the main function of the belles-lettres style becomes most apparent, the main function, as will be shown below, being aesthetico-cognitive and pragmatic.

In the paragraph from the "Death of a Hero", as we saw, there are three SPUs which together constitute one paragraph. If we were to convert the passage into one of the matter-of-fact styles it would be necessary to split it into three paragraphs. But Aldington found it necessary to combine all the sentences into one paragraph, evidently seeing closer connections between the parts than there would be in a mere impersonal, less emotional account of the events described.

The paragraph in some styles, such as scientific, publicistic and some others, generally has a topic sentence, i. e. a sentence which embodies the main idea of the paragraph or which may be interpreted as a key-sentence disclosing the chief thought of the writer. In logical prose the topic sentence is, as a rule, placed either at the beginning or at the end of the paragraph, depending on the logical pattern on which the paragraph is built. In the belles-lettres style the topic sentence may be placed in any part of the paragraph. It will depend on how the writer seeks to achieve his effect.

Thus in the paragraph we have been referring to, the topic sentence ('The party dropped the subject of a possible great war, after deciding that there wouldn't be one, there couldn't') is placed in the middle of the paragraph. The parts that precede and follow the topic sentence correspondingly-lead to ft O'the placards...') and develop it ('George, who...'). The topic sentence itself, being based on uttered represented speech, is stylistically a very effective device to show that the conclusion (no war) was not based on sound logical argument, but merely on the small talk of the party ('there wouldn't', 'there couldn't').

However, paragraph building in belles-lettres prose generally lacks unity, inasmuch as it Is4govefned by other than logical-principles, two of the requirements being emotiveness and a natural representation of the situation depicted. Hence it- is sometimes impossible to decide which sentence should be regarded as the topic one. Each SPU of several combined into one paragraph may have its own topic sentence or be a topic sentence. In other words, there are no topic sentences in emotive prose as a rule, though there may be some paragraphs with one due to the prevalence of the logical element over the emotional or the aesthetic. In publicistic style paragraphs are built on more apparent logical principles, this style being intermediate between the belles-lettres and the scientific style. Let us subject to stylistic analysis the following paragraph from Macaulay's essay on Oliver Goldsmith:

"While Goldsmith was writing "The Deserted Village" and "She Stoops to Conquer," he was employed in works of a very different kind, works from which he derived little reputation but much profit. He compiled for the use of schools a "History of Rome," by which he made £ 300; a "History of England," by which he made £ 600; a "History of Greece," for which he received £250; a "Natural History," for which the book-sellers covenanted to pay him 800 guineas. These works he produced without any elaborate research, by merely selecting, abridging and translating into his own clear, pure, and flowing language what he found in books well known to the world, but too bulky or too dry for boys and girls. He committed some strange blunders; for he knew nothing with accuracy. Thus in his "History of England" he tells us that Naseby is in Yorkshire; nor did he correct this mistake when the book was reprinted. He was nearly hoaxed into putting into the "History of Greece" an account of a battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. In his "Animated Nature" he relates, with faith and with perfect gravity, all the most absurd lies which he could find in books of travels about gigantic Patagonians, monkeys that preach sermons, nightingales that repeat long con* versations. "If he can tell a horse from a cow," said Johnson, "that is the extent of his knowledge of zoology." How little Goldsmith was qualified to write about the physical sciences is sufficiently proved by two anecdotes. He on one occasion denied that the sun is longer in the northern* than in the southern signs. It was vain to cite the authority of Maupertuis. "Maupertuis!" he cried; "I understand those matters better than Maupertuis." On another occasion he, in defiance of the evidence of his own senses maintained obstinately, and even angrily, that he chewed his dinner by moving his upper jaw.

Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was, few writers have done more to make the first steps in the laborious road to knowledge easy and pleasant..." - .

The topic sentence of this paragraph is placed at the beginning. It consists of two ideas presented in a complex sentence with a subordinate clause of time. The idea of the topic sentence is embodied in the main clause which states that Goldsmith derived 'little reputation but much profit' out of some of his works. The subordinate clause of time is used here as a linking sentence between the preceding paragraph which deals with "The Deserted Village" and "She Stoops to Conquer" and the one under scrutiny.

The next paragraph of the passage, as the reader has undoubtedly observed, begins with a new topic sentence and is built on the same structural model: the subordinate clause sums up the idea of the preceding paragraph ('Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was'), and the main clause introduces a new idea. This pattern is maintained throughout the essay and, by the way, in most of Macaulay's essays. This easy, flowing manner of exposition has a high degree of predictability. The reader, having read the first sentence and being conscious of the author's manner of building paragraphs, will not fail to grasp the gist of the passage at once.

It is interesting to point out how Macaulay develops the idea expressed in the topic sentence. He wished to show why Goldsmith derived 1) 'little reputation' and 2) 'much profit' from certain of his works. Of the two, Macaulay considers the former to be undoubtedly more significant than the latter. That is why he begins with insignificant details enumerating Goldsmith's profits, and then devotes all the rest of the paragraph to instances of Goldsmith's ignorance.

A paragraph in certain styles is a dialogue (with the reader) in the form of a monologue. The breaking-up of a piece of writing into paragraphs can be regarded as an expression of consideration for the reader on the part of the author. It manifests itself in the author's being aware of limits in the reader's capacity for perceiving and absorbing information. Therefore paragraphs in matter-of-fact styles, as in scientific prose, official documents and so on, are clear, precise, logically coherent, and possess unity, i. e. express one main thought. Paragraphs in emotive prose are combinations of the logical and the emotional. The aim of the author in breaking up the narrative into paragraphs is not only to facilitate understanding but also for emphasis. That is why paragraphs in the belles-lettres prose are sometimes built on contrast or on climax, as is the paragraph from "A Christmas Carol" by Dickens, quoted on p. 220.

The paragraph as a unit of utterance, is so far entirely the domain of stylistics. Yet there are obvious features of a purely syntactical character in the paragraph which must not be overlooked. That is why there is every reason to study the paragraph in syntax of the language where not only the sentence but also larger units of communication should be under observation. This would come under what we may call the 'macro-syntax' of the language.




, ? :

vikidalka.ru - 2015-2019 . ! |