Lingual hierarchy

Segmental units form the hierarchy of levels:

  •  The lowest level is phonemic: it is formed by phonemes which have no meaning.
  •  The level located above the phonemic one is the morphemic level. The morpheme is the elementary meaningful part of the word.
  •  The third level in the segmental lingual hierarchy is the level of words, lexemic level.
  •  The next higher level is the level of phrases (word-groups), or phrasemic. To this level belong combinations of two or more notional words.
  •  Above the phrasemic level lies the level of sentence, or proposemic level.
  •  Then, lies supra-proposemic level, which is formed by a supra-phrasal construction (supra-phrasal unity). In the printed text, the supra-phrasal construction very often coincides with the paragraph.
  •  The next level of language is the level of text, which consists of the group of supra-phrasal constructions.
  •  And the highest level of this hierarchy os the level of discourse. Discourse is interpreted as a difficult communicative phenomenon, which includes social context, info about participants of communication, knowledge of process production and perception of texts.

Segmental lingual units form a hierarchy of levels. The term ‘hierarchy’ denotes a structure in which the units of any higher level are formed by the units of the lower level; the units of each level are characterized by their own specific functional features and cannot be seen as a mechanical composition of the lower level units.

The 1st level is formed by phonemes, the smallest material lingual elements, or segments. They have form, but they have no meaning. Phonemes differentiate the meanings of morphemes and words. E.g.: man – men.

The 2nd level is composed of morphemes, the smallest meaningful elements built up by phonemes. The shortest morpheme can consist of one phoneme, e.g.: step-s; -s renders the meaning of the 3rd person singular form of the verb, or, the plural form of the noun. The meaning of the morpheme is abstract and significative: it does not name the referent, but only signifies it.

The 3rd level consists of words, or lexemes, nominative lingual units, which express direct, nominative meanings: they name, or nominate various referents. The words consist of morphemes, and the shortest word can include only one morpheme, e.g.: cat. The difference is in the quality of the meaning.

The 4th level is formed by word-combinations, or phrasemes, the combinations of two or more notional words, which represent complex nominations of various referents (things, actions, qualities, and even situations) in a sentence, e.g.: a beautiful girl, their sudden departure. In a more advanced treatment, phrases along with separate words can be seen as the constituents of sentences, notional parts of the sentence, which make the fourth language level and can be called “denotemes”.

The 5th level is the level of sentences, or proposemes, lingual units which name certain situations, or events, and at the same time express predication, i.e. they show the relations of the event named to reality - whether the event is real or unreal, desirable or obligatory, stated as a fact or asked about, affirmed or negated, etc., e.g.: Their departure was sudden (a real event, which took place in the past, stated as a fact, etc.). Thus, the sentence is often defined as a predicative lingual unit. The minimal sentence can consist of just one word, e.g.: Fire!

The 6th level is formed by sentences in a text or in actual speech. Textual units are traditionally called supra-phrasal unities; we will call such supra-sentential constructions, which are produced in speech, dictemes (from Latin ‘dicto’ ‘I speak’). Dictemes are characterized by a number of features, the main one of which is the unity of topic. As with all lingual units, dictemes are reducible to one unit of the lower level; e.g., the text of an advertisement slogan can consist of just one sentence: Just do it!; or, a paragraph in a written text can be formed by a single independent sentence, being topically significant.

Not all lingual units are meaningful and, thus, they can not be defined as signs: phonemes and syllables (which are also distinguished as an optional lingual level by some linguists) participate in the expression of the meaning of the units of upper levels; they are called “cortemes” (from Lat. cortex: ‘bark, crust, shell’) as opposed to the majority of meaningful lingual units, called “signemes”.

Discourse after T. Van Dijk is a difficult communicative event of socio-cultural cooperation, characteristic lines of which are interests, aims and styles.

Barbara Johnstone determines discourse as ‘combining text in an aggregate with extra-linguistic, socio-cultural, pragmatic, psychological factors; Discourse is a communication which is submerged in life’.

Emille Benvenist understands discourse as “every itterance, which pre-determines the presence of communicants: an addressee, a recipient, and intentions of the sender definitely to influence the interlocutor”.

The chief features characterizing an analytical language:

  1.  A lot of analytical forms

An analytical form consists of one or more functional words, which have no lexical meaning and only express one or more of the grammatical categories of person, number, tense, aspect, voice, mood and one notional word.

E.g. He has come, I am reading.

The analytical forms are:

  •  Tense and Aspect Verb-Forms (the Contionuous form, the Perfect form, the Perfect continuous form, all the Future forms, interrogative and negative forms)
  •  The Passive Voice
  •  The Analytical form of the Subjunctive Mood: I should go there if I had time
  •  With some adjectives the categories of degrees of comparison: more beautiful, the most beautiful.
  1.  Comparatively few grammatical inflections


  •  -s in 3rd person Sg. in the Present f. of v.
  •  -s in the Pl. of n.
  •  -s in the Posessive case
  •  -d, ed in the Past Simple of reg. v.
  •  -ing in present participle and gerund
  •  -en in Participle II of some irreg. v.
  •  -er, -est in comparative and superlative degrees of comparison of some adjective and adverbs
  1.  A rare use of sound alterations to denote grammatical forms: speak-spoke, write-wrote, mouse-mice, man-men
  2.  A rare use of suppletive formations: be-am-is-are, go-went, bad-worse-worst
  3.  A wide use of prepositions to denote relations b/w objects and to connect words n the sentence: the roof of the house
  4.  Prominent use of word order to denote grammatical relations: a more or less fixed word order, which acquires extreme importance.
  5.  Extensive use of substitutes. A word substitute saves the repetition of a word in certain conditions. Here belong one, that, do.
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Exam Questions. The Subject of Theoretical Grammar. Syntagmatic relations. Segmental units. History of English Grammars. Parts of speech. The noun as a part of speech.

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