Semantic features


The Preposition

A General Outline of Functional Parts of Speech

Functional Parts of Speech
Lecture 8
1. A general outline of functional parts of speech.
2. The preposition.
3. The conjunction.
4. The particle.
5. The interjection.
6. The modal word.
 According to the criteria of form, meaning and function, all words are divided into notional and functional, which reflects their division in the earlier grammatical tradition into changeable and unchangeable.
Functional words are characterized by incomplete nominative meaning, they
are non-self-dependent and they perform mediatory functions in the sentence.
On the principle of «generalized form» only unchangeable words are traditionally treated under the heading of functional parts of speech. As for their individual forms as such, they are simply presented by the list, since the number of these words is limited, so that they don’t need to be identified on any general scheme.
To the basic functional series of words in English belong the article, the preposition, the conjunction, the particle, the modal word, the interjection.It is common knowledge that prepositions are a most important element of the structure of many languages, particularly those which, like Modern English, have no developed case system in their nominal parts of speech. Prepositions in English are less closely connected with the word or phrase they introduce than, say, in Russian. This greater independence of English prepositions manifests itself in various ways.The preposition is traditionally defined as a word expressing relations between words in the sentence. The weakness of the traditional definition is that it
does not allow us to distinguish prepositions from subordinating conjunctions.
Cf. She never saw him after the concert. vs. She never saw him after he left town.
In traditional analysis, the preposition is used with the noun phrase, not with
the verb phrase. Such being the case, after in the first sentence is a preposition,
while after in the second sentence is a conjunction. In other words, the status of
after is determined by the linguistic status of the following phrase. Accepting this
approach, we shall have to treat the two uses of after as homonyms.
A new approach to prepositions and subordinating conjunctions is to treat
the two traditional categories as prepositions (Geoffrey K. Pullum and Rodney
Huddleston, 2002: 600). The said scholars include in the preposition category all of
the subordinating conjunctions of traditional grammar with the exception of whether and that. Prepositions are taken as heads of phrases and are comparable to

verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs which also function as heads. This approach
to prepositions makes it possible to combine prepositions and subordinating
onjunctions into one class and thus solve the problem of the discrimination of
prepositions and conjunctions.
Sometimes the boundary line between a preposition and another part of
speech is not quite clear. Thus, with reference to the words like near there may be
doubtful cases from this viewpoint. For instance, there certainly is the adjective
near, used in such phrases as the near future. On the other hand, there is the preposition near, found in such sentences as They live near me.
Functionally, prepositions can be divided into grammatical, and nongrammatical (the latter are subdivided into spatial and non-spatial).
Grammatical prepositions have no identifiable meaning independent of the grammatical construction in which they occur. Consider:
1. He was interviewed by the police.
2. They were discussing the speech of the President.
3. She sent the letter to John.
In all these examples the prepositions have no identifiable meaning of their
own: it is only in the co-text that we can say what meaning they express. In (1) by
marks the element that is the Agent; in (2) of marks the possessive relationship
between the speech and the president; in (3) to marks the Recipient.
In their grammatical functions, prepositions are similar to inflections in
synthetic languages.

Cf. interviewed by the police: допрошены полицией;
the speech of the President: речь президента;
sent to John: отправила Джону.
As already indicated, non-grammatical prepositions can be divided into spatial and non-spatial, the term spatial including two types of space: non-temporal
and temporal. Spatial non-temporal prepositions mark the position of entities with
respect to each other: one entity is treated as a reference point (the deictic centre)
with respect to which another is located.

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