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GRAMMATICAL PATTERNS OF THE COMMUNICATION VERB TO SAY IN ENGLISH: CORPUS-DRIVEN STUDY

GRAMMATICAL PATTERNS OF THE COMMUNICATION VERB TO SAY IN ENGLISH: CORPUS-DRIVEN STUDY
Lukashchuk Michael, assistant professor, department of english, faculty of foreign languages, докторант

Черновицкий национальный университет им. Ю.Федьковича, Украина

Участник конференции

UDC 811.111’367.625

This paper explores grammatical patterns of the communicationverb to say in the British National Corpus. It is a corpus driven study that enables us to bring to light how lexico-grammatical properties of the verb to say are influenced by the lexical and grammatical parameters of a verb in modern British speech. The focus of the study is on the central and peripheral grammatical patterns of the verb to say.As spoken register was not available for studies for Ukrainian linguists, or, even if some studies were done before, the material was numerically insignificant compared with that of spoken subcorpus of the BNC.The spoken subcorpus contains transcripts of 154 people from across the United Kingdom. It is a balanced databank of recordings that cover all regions of the UK, is socially, demographically, gender balanced material. Apart from establishing grammatical patterns, it is topical in teaching English as a second language as the verb to say is a frequently used verb in any register, as well as spoken one, and it might be helpful to a teacher of English in explaining how it functions in speech. Another facet is that the study specifies the concrete patterns including the ones that are quite rare that is important from the point of view of the grammatical theory.

Keywords: to say,communication verbs, pattern grammar, colligation,spoken register, corpus studies, corpus driven research.

 

1. Introduction.

Traditionally, lexical and grammatical studies of different vocabulary units were widely conducted in Ukraine and elsewhere over the decades. An example of speech act (communication) verbs study may be a dissertation of A. R. Keropyan where a comparative analysis of Russian and English communication verbs have been conducted on fiction works (the research material included works of W. S. Maugham through the 1970-ies and the newest were published in early 1990-ies) [1]. Most of the studies were undertaken on the works of fiction, the media or sometimes scientific texts available in local libraries (e.g. physics, economics, etc.). Western studies encompass such insights into lexical study of speech act verbs as English Speech Act Verbs: A Semantic Dictionaryby Anna Wierzbicka [2] where she provides a new approach to speech act verbs definitions, and Linguistic Action: Some Empirical-Conceptual Studiesedited by JefVerschueren [3] where linguists discuss different semantic issues of communication verbs. An early example of a corpus syntactic study of speech act verbs is a collective monograph The Scene of Linguistic Action and Its Perspectivization by Speak, Talk, Say and Tell [4] where the afore mentioned verbs syntax is dealt with.

Due to the fact that extensive spoken material was unavailable for Ukrainian scholars prior to corpus studies, we make an attempt to conduct a pattern grammar research of communication verbs on the material of the spoken subcorpus of the British National Corpus (BNC) that comprises about 10 million words of 100 million words corpus of the BNC.

2. Literature Review.

The studies of patterns started with seminal work by A. S. Hornby’s Guide to Patterns and Usage in Englishfirst published in 1954 to meet the demands of foreign students into the grammatical constructions of Modern English. In his preface he writes that “grammars provide much information about the language but do not help the student to use the language. Analysis and parsing may be good intellectual exercises but are not otherwise of much value” [5, p. v].Therefore, for actual use of modern grammatical usage, A. S. Hornbypresents a description of a verb, noun, adjective, and adverbial patterns. He provides25 patterns for verbs [5, p. 13], specifying and exemplifying the use of each of the types on the following pages. Susan Hunston criticises A. S. Hornby’s patterns: “Perhaps one reason for the comparative neglect of Hornby’s work in languagedescription is that he deliberately blurred the distinction between lexis andgrammar, whereas theories since the fifties have tended to prioritise either one orthe other.” [6, p. 7]. She continues studies of patterns drawing specific attention to patterns and meanings: “we can hypothesise, firstly, that the different senses of words will tend to be distinguished by different patterns, and secondly, that particular patterns will tend to be associated with lexical items that have particular meanings” [6, p. 83]. Pattern grammars have also been the focus of the study in [7; 8].

3. Data collection

The data were collected from the British National Corpus, spoken conversation subcorpus, the following way: first the base word form say was singled out with 3546 hits, then third person singular form of says — with 4368 hits, saying —2283 hits, and finally lemmasaidtotalling18,574 hits.

4. Discussion.

The base form, lemma say,is used in the following patterns:

Table 1.

Grammatical patterns of lemma say

pattern

hits

%

clause (without conjunction that)

1473

41.5

direct object

757

21.3

clause (with conjunction that)

514

14.5

say to

283

8

as I say

225

6.3

say no

141

4

say about

76

2.1

say yes

59

1.7

say of

3

0.08

minor cases

15

0.4

 

The most typical pattern for lemma say is its combination with a clause (with or without the conjunction that). The overall percentage of its uses makes up 60 %. Wu and Lei state that conjunction “that is omitted most in informal spoken registers, which is where the a), b), c) factors tend to cluster” [9, p. 59] with the factors a-c being [9, p. 59]:

a) When think or say is the main verb – Tim says it’s easy.

b) When the subject refers to the same entity in the main clause and in the THAT clause, as in Tim promised he’d do it.

c) When there is a pronoun rather than a noun head in the THAT clause (I think I’ll have a cola).

This may beexemplifiedas follows (the examples are taken from the BNC and are referred to in the way which is accepted in the corpus): Yeah, you say that you were waiting a year!KST

My pension, if I didn't have it if I say I don't want the lump sum, the twenty one grand. KBF

…but as we say we can't go into them all, well, so what we're going to do is …KBX

The next most frequent occurrence of the pattern is the use of say with a direct object that can be expressed by an animate or inanimate noun as in:

and just say car D five one four R G M blah blahblah. KD8,

Yeah just say something. KR2. So I can look at one and say Helen? KE3.

Lemma say is also used in a clause as I say that is a discourse marker for spoken subcorpus as in: It's, really th as I say, the design is all down to the size but…KE4. It is also used with prepositions to, about and of. Preposition to is most frequent in use with say and has 7.98 % of overall usage of say as in: But I did also say to Mrs , that a new head would be appointed KB8; But if somebody, and they say to you, try, try not to tell people in advance …KBK. Agreement and disagreement is expressed by means of say yes, or say nowith 1.7% and 4% frequency of use as in: She won't say yes. KDW; and Then you say no, no and two fifty KD7.Prepositionabout is less frequent with 2.1% of say in spoken conversations as in: Oh say, say about my fault, I shouldn't want to pay KCP; it may sound nasty what I say about him, but he's alrightKDW. Preposition of is used just in three instances which is very rare for the subcorpus: as I say of different people KBX.

The patterns with lemma says are presented in Table 2:

Table 2.

Grammatical patterns of lemma says

pattern

hits

%

clause (without conjunction that)

2353

51.6

direct object

1067

24.4

says to

193

4.4

says oh clause

147

3.4

says well clause

137

3.1

clause (with conjunction that)

126

2.9

says no

106

2.4

says what

73

1.7

says when

24

0.5

says yes

21

0.5

repetition of s/he says

20

0.5

says why

16

0.4

parenthetical phrase

15

0.3

says about

12

0.3

says introduces direct speech

11

0.3

says for

6

0.1

minor cases

41

0.9

 

Patterns of says are more varied than those of say, the main ones remaining the same but the percentage being different. Clause as an object with a typical sentence: …till the minute you get some money to feed them bairns, I says she'll be awake nearly all night!KCX. Direct object examples: I'm not saying we're going to collect the tokens, but just in case our John says mum! KDW. As a say + to representing indirect object: He says to me he says to me he's, I've been two or three time while he been int gardenKB1. As for says oh clause here is the following example: And when he went, as he went, she says oh I don't think he'll have much choice, er, much chance do you? KC6; Mm he was on about it last night, he says well I think all we really need … KC2. Clause with that conjunction may be exemplified with the following sentence: … he turns round and says that they were all taking the piss out of Gemma … KP6. Lemma says and determiner no are used to express negation and the following clause explains the speaker’s decision: She says no you've just got a very infect on your chest, but, I did have a cold that night, yeah sneeze KR0. Lemma says and adverb yes express agreement:I says yes I did, I am not supplying cigs to him.KCX. W-words (why, when, which, etc.) and says are used for both questions as in: He says why were y weren't you in Sunday? KCX, and relative clauses: you lock your car, he says why you're only int garden… KB1. Though it is a rare occasion, but lemma sayscan also introduce direct speech: What is happening right now in the Persian Gulf, she says, shows the best example of the culture of death! KB0. While describing some events or things the preposition about is used: That's what I'm saying, I says about December, January KDN.

The patterns with lemma sayingare presented in Table 3:

Table 3.

Grammatical patterns of lemma saying

pattern

hits

%

clause (without conjunction that)

742

32.5

direct object

697

30.5

clause (with conjunction that)

314

13.8

saying to

167

7.3

saying oh clause

69

3

saying about

62

2.7

saying well clause

47

2

saying what

38

1.7

saying how

32

1.4

saying no

23

1

saying when

18

0.8

saying by

7

0.3

saying yes

5

0.2

minor cases

62

2.7

 

Lemma saying is also predominantly used in a pattern when it is followed by a clause with no conjunction, as in the example: Yeah, we were saying I bet George really regrets KB9. The next most frequently used is a direct object expressed mostly by a noun like cash, sometimes mathematical terms like B square, pronoun, etc.: I mean saying things like a successor has already been identified KBD. Clauses with that complement go next: His dad was saying that er Devon Desserts were looking for a fork lift driver KCU. The preposition to introduces indirect object: And I kept saying to her, I need summat else KCX. The interjection oh, andwell that are often used in speech are used with saying to introduce clauses as well: She's probably saying oh this is so boring this conversation but when she gets to our age that'll be the same KC9; She's always down my ear, saying well what exactly did you do and and what did you do next?KDM. Next go wh-words, introducing relative and time clauses: in Baywatch you don't understand what they're saying when you read it KC3;yeah, but I'm saying what you could have, not what you bloody want, you KD6; Cos, Colin was saying how antiquated his house is KE0; So just put a paragraph in, saying why you've chosen this particular bit, and in fact, all of you can do that KPV. And agreement and disagreement are expressed by saying yes or saying no: Instead of saying yes, but then you put the name and address underneath KBJ; That's what Dave was just saying No that's not KBE.

The patterns with lemma saidare presented in Table 4:

Table 4.

Grammatical patterns of lemma said

pattern

hits

%

clause (without conjunction that)

7968

42.89

said + Direct Speech

1764

9.5

said to

1371

7.38

said well clause

939

5.05

clause (with conjunction that)

892

4.8

said oh clause

755

4.06

direct object

557

3

said no

432

2.32

said what

309

1.66

said yes

183

0.98

said about

115

0.62

said when

84

0.45

said how

73

0.39

as I/he/she/we… said

71

0.38

 

Lemma said is also predominantly used in a pattern when it is followed by a clause with no conjunction, as in the example: She said I have my good days and my bad days…KCT. The use of said with direct speech, though not set off as in literary language, is the next type of a pattern: He said I put all my money in there…KBE. Indirect object with preposition to is used in 7.38% of lemma said uses: And I said to Abby I'm not going through mortgage … KDY, and saidwell + clause makes up 5.05, clause without that conjunction – 4.8%, said oh + clause – 4.06. These patterns are exemplified with She said well they didn't look the type… KCT; And she said oh I think it's only the pressure KCT. Said + direct object/no/what/yes/about/when/how make up 3 and lower percentage. They can be exemplified as: Then she said something about June and the Met KB8; No she didn't, she saidnoKB7; I said what?KE2; …he said yes I've got it all in hand KC9; I even said about the strong colour of the net, I suspect, that when KBK; Everybody said how quick it'd goneKDY. In a number of cases, no element is used after said with 721 hits. The communication verb say is used in many cases in spoken register to introduce a direct speech, sometimes it is used as a discourse marker when it is repeated a number of times as a linking element to the ensuing clause. The use of the verb in spoken register displays a little different patterns than in fiction and written discourse.

5. Conclusions and Future Work

Grammatical patterns of the communication verb to say exhibit a variety of the relationships within the grammatical system of spoken Modern English. As the study proves, there is a strong tendency to use the communication verb to say in conjunction that-lacking sentences in spoken register. The usage of the communication verb to say in combination with different types of clauses may serve as a background for the pragmatic studies illustrating its functioning in other types of register. The study may be helpful for teachers of practical English while teaching such a frequent word in speech as the communication verb to say.

 

References:

  • 1.    Keropyan A.R. Lexico-Semantic Structure of Russian and English Speech Act Verbs : dissertation … kandydat philological sciences : 10.02.17 / Angela RomanivnaKeropyan. Horlivka, 2003. — 197 p.(In Russian).
  • 2.    Wierzbicka A. English Speech Act Verbs: A Semantic Dictionary / A. Wierzbicka. — Canberra : Academic Press, 1987. — 397 p.
  • 3.    Linguistic Action: Some Empirical-Conceptual Studies / [Ed. JefVerschueren]. — Norwood, Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1987. — 151 p.
  • 4.    The Scene of Linguistic Action and Its Perspectivization by Speak, Talk, Say and Tell / [Dirven R., Goossens L., Putseys Y., Vorlat E.]. — Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1982. — 192 p.
  • 5.    Hornby A. S. Guide to Patterns and Usage in English. Second Edition / A. S. Hornby. — Oxford : OUP, 1980. — 238 p.
  • 6.    Hunston S. Pattern Grammar :ACorpus-driven Approach to the Lexical Grammar of English / Susan Hunston, Gill Francis. — Amsterdam : John Benjamins, 2000. — 288 p.
  • 7.    Patterns of Text :In Honour of Michael Hoey : [Eds. M. Scott, G. Thompson]. — Amsterdam : John Benjamins, 2001. — 323 p.
  • 8.    Scott M. Textual Patterns : Key Words and Corpus Analysis in Language Education / M. Scott and C. Tribble. — Amsterdam :John Benjamins, 2006. — 203 p.
  • 9.       Wu G., Lei L. Semantic and Syntactic Analysis of THAT Complement in the English Language / G. Wu, L. Lei //International Forum of Teaching and Studies. — Vol. 6. —  No. 1. — 2010., P. 58-66.
Комментарии: 3

Назаренко Елена Вячеславовна

Уважаемый Михаил, спасибо за глубокий и перспективный доклад! Желаю дальнейших плодотворных исследований! С уважением, Елена Назаренко.

Кобякова Ирина

Ваш доклад характеризуется глубиной проникновения в исследуемую тему, новизной выводов. Читается все на одном дыхании. Творческих Вам успехов! Ирина.

Хамзе Димитрина

Уважаемый коллега! Благодарю Вас сердечно за интересный и познавательный доклад! Сердечно, с уважением и пожеланиями дальнейших успехов! Димитрина
Комментарии: 3

Назаренко Елена Вячеславовна

Уважаемый Михаил, спасибо за глубокий и перспективный доклад! Желаю дальнейших плодотворных исследований! С уважением, Елена Назаренко.

Кобякова Ирина

Ваш доклад характеризуется глубиной проникновения в исследуемую тему, новизной выводов. Читается все на одном дыхании. Творческих Вам успехов! Ирина.

Хамзе Димитрина

Уважаемый коллега! Благодарю Вас сердечно за интересный и познавательный доклад! Сердечно, с уважением и пожеланиями дальнейших успехов! Димитрина
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