Particle: Grammatical meaning – Part 2

July 18th, 20124:03 am


Particle: Grammatical meaning – Part 2

Particle: Grammatical meaning

At the same time, it is in the 80s that the body of particles was blown up beyond measure. For example, some linguists started distinguishing between additive particles (equally, likewise, similarly, etc.), temporal particles (already, at last, any longer, so far, still, yet), limiting-specifying particles (chiefly, especially essentially, in particular, largely, mainly, nota­bly), etc. In this list, a number of the words, qualified as particles, preserve adverbial properties – semantic, syntactic and morphological. The words equally, likewise, similarly may to a certain degree resemble the particles too, either and also but they differ in level of abstraction as well as in their syntactic functions. Temporal particles bring about even more confusion, Since the rest of groups share a meaning of logical relation, Besides, as long as particles are sometimes identified as “semantic-grammatical connectors that join some components of an utterance and transform it into a semantic and grammatical whole”, it is not surprising that a number of so-called “dis­course markers” (after all, similarly, especially, etc.) came to be qualified as particles.

In modern linguistic analysis, it is the concept of presupposition that is relevant to particles more than to any other part of speech. The theory of presuppositions and the theory of implicit nomination have given theoreti­cal foundation and instruments to study peculiarities of particles. Research showed that particles mark implicit meanings incorporated in utterances. This approach helped to reveal and eliminate such a drawback of previ­ous classifications as inconsistency: the classifications given above did not distinguish between semantic, pragmatic, and formal functions of particles, i.e. one can hardly treat as equal such concepts as limitation, emotivity and differentiation of grammatical forms. Lexical meaning of particles may not be studied without using the term “implicit meaning”, since particles are markers of implications embedded in explicit meaning of a sentence. Par­ticles indicate that a word (a so-called nuclear component) is not used in isolation but is correlated with some other component in the text (counter­part). In other words, particles show that their nuclear components have certain counterparts, and this constitutes the main presupposition marked by particles.

Types of counterparts may be reduced to the following three: 1) explicit counterpart (the counterpart is expressed verbally); 2) situational counter­part (the counterpart is tied to the given situation); 3) conceptual counterpart (the counterpart is defined by a logical presupposition, i.e. it is part of back­ground knowledge shared by the language community members). It should be noted that, no matter how a counterpart may be represented, it is always familiar to speakers, it constitutes their (either situational or background) common knowledge.

A counterpart is either negated as a participant of a situation, or is in­cluded in this situation, e.g. Jane saw Sam. I saw him too. The particle too in the sentence correlates the two persons, namely Jane and I, as identical on the ground of their performing one and the same action. The presupposi­tion here is affirmative. If we examine the sentences Everyone saw Sam. Only Jane didn’t see him, we will arrive at the conclusion that the particle only correlates the nuclear component Jane with the counterpart everyone, marking between them the relation “common – exception”. With only, the presupposition is negated.

It should be added that in the examples above the counterparts are ex­pressed verbally. Sometimes speakers do not mention counterparts, e.g. Only you wouldn’t taste our home wine!, where the speaker and the hearer involved in the current communication understand that the nuclear compo­nent you is contrasted with the implied counterpart the rest of the guests. Counterparts are dropped in the sentence Only men are allowed to go out alone in orthodox Muslim countries, since it is our background knowledge that men are as a rule contrasted with women, therefore it is possible not to mention explicitly the counterpart women.

Returning to the problem of presuppositions indicated by particles, one cannot but mention presuppositions of expectation. Particles always mark negation of these presuppositions, i.e. the speaker reports something totally unexpected instead of something ordinary and predictable. Presuppositions of expectation are peculiar to only some particles, such as even, only, never, e.g. My friends were enjoying the party. Even Martin was having fun means actually far more than Martin was having fun, since even marks the presup­position that the speaker did not expect Martin to enjoy himself. Attention should be drawn here to the inclusive meaning of even in contrast to the limiting one of only.

If we compare the sentence they even rented aflat with the sentence Jill likes Italian food too, we may arrive at the conclusion that, potentially, par­ticles may be markers of two types of presupposition: 1) the presupposition of expectation, and 2) the presupposition of a counterpart, as it is the case with too. The presupposition of expectation is restricted to several particles, while the presupposition of a counterpart is obligatory for all the particles. Therefore, the presupposition of a counterpart to the nuclear component may be treated as a grammatical meaning of particles as a part of speech.