ТОП 10:

Language system: paradigms and syntagmas


There is a system underlying seemingly random sign of a language. One may note, for instance, that not all the words are compatible with each other; their range of application has certain limitations, and through their lexical meanings and associations they may be united into individual groups.

For example, to take an extreme case, in English speech one will never find two articles in a row or in an official obituary an English speaker will never say that the minister pegged out. An evident example of grouping by meaning and association gives the group of colors in which even a little child will easily include black, red, blue, etc.

Thus, there is some order organizing hundreds of thousands of words making it easier to memorize and properly use them in speech. This order is called the system of a language. Any system is an organized set of objects and relations between them, but before discussing objects and relations in the system of a language it is worthwhile to describe the traditional approach to language system descriptions.

In any language system two general planes are usually distinguished: the formal plane, comprising spoken or written language signs (words and word combinations as well as minor elements, morphemes) and the semantic, comprising mental concepts (meanings) the language signs stand for.

A language system is traditionally divided into three basic levels: morphological (including morphs and morphemes as objects), lexical (including words as objects) and syntactic (comprising such objects as elements of the sentence syntax such as Subject, Predicate, etc.).

For example, -tion, -sion are the English word-building morphemes and belong to objects of the morphological level, book, student, desk as well as any other word belong to objects of the lexical level, and the same words (nouns) book, student, desk in a sentence may become Subjects or Objects and thus belong to the set of syntactic level objects of the language.

At each language level its objects may be grouped according to their meaning or function. Such groups are called paradigms.

For example, the English morphemes s and es enter the paradigm of Number (Plural). Words spring, summer, autumn and winterenter thelexico-semantic paradigm of seasons. All verbs may be grouped into the syntactic (functional) paradigm of Predicates.

One may note that one and the same word may belong to different levels and different paradigms, i.e. the language paradigms are fuzzy sets with common elements. As an example, consider the lexico-semantic paradigm of colors the elements of which (black, white, etc.) also belong to the syntactic paradigms of Attributes and Nouns.

It’s worth mentioning that the elements of language paradigms are united and organized according to their potential roles in speech (text) formation. These roles are called valences. Thus, words black, white, red, etc. have a potential to define colors of the objects (semantic valence) and a potential capacity to serve as Attributes in a sentence (syntactic valence).

The paradigms of the language brought together form the system of the language which may be regarded as a kind of construction material to build sentences and texts. Language paradigms are virtual elements of the language which are activated in syntactically interdependent groups of sentence elements called syntagmas.

In simple language a syntagma is a pair of words connected by the master-servant relationship (This is an approach typical of Immediate Constituent (IC) Grammar).

As an example, consider sentences in English and in Ukrainian: He used to come to Italy each spring and Зазвичай кожної весни він приїздив до Італії.

The following paradigms were used to form these sentences and the following paradigm elements were activated in syntagmas during their formation:


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