Verb: Functional classification

June 15th, 20125:25 pm


Verb: Functional classification

The functional classification presupposes differentiation of verbs ac­cording to their ability to form a certain type of the predicate. This ability stems from the lexical meaningfulness of a verb. Notional verbs are lexi­cally meaningful verbs that denote an action or a state and perform in the sentence an independent function.

In contrast, functional verbs exist only within a compound predicate de­livering only grammatical meanings. Functional verbs are further divided into

1) auxiliary verbs;

2) link verbs (or copula verbs);

3) substitute verbs;

4) verbs-intensifiers.

Auxiliary verbs are used as purely grammatical means to form analyti­cal forms of the verb; their lexical meaning is completely lost, therefore they may combine with the verbs whose meaning would contradict the meaning of an auxiliary if the latter mattered in any way: cf. I have lost my wallet. Here to lose could hardly go together with to have if to have preserved its lexical meaning. It is a complete loss of the lexical meaning of auxiliaries that makes it possible to speak of some verbal forms as analytical, since the absence of syntactic relations between the components is the requirement that a form must meet to be called analytical (compare to the debates over “analytical forms” of degrees of comparison).

The grammatical function of link-verbs is realized within compound nominal predicates where link-verbs indicate a relation between an entity and its quality. It should be noted that link-verbs are also characterized by a somewhat weakened lexical meaning. For example, such link-verbs as to be, to keep, to remain denote preservation of some quality; the verbs to become, to get, to turn, to go denote some changes that an entity undergoes: cf. His hair is grey vs His hair goes grey.

Verbs used in the function of substitutes replace any notional verb that has already appeared in the immediate context, e.g. Nobody knows him bet­ter than I da, Cindy wrote better letters than her sister ever did. The true substitute-verb in Modern English is the verb to do. As a word of a most generalized meaning, do can stand for any verb, except be and have and modal verbs (cf. You should not try to appear better than you are; Don’t bring up the money issue. — But I already have!; John can ignore your indif­ference but I can’t).

The verb to do may function as an intensifier of the verbal idea, e.g. She does know where the treasures are; They did search everywhere; Do take care of yourself! Besides the verb to do, mention should be made of the idi­omatic use of the verb to go in such patterns as He went and did it (cf. “Взяв і зробив”); He went and bought this incredibly expensive car (cf. “Взяв і купив неймовірно дорогу машину”’). It is obvious that in patterns with to go and followed by the infinitive there is no idea of real motion attached to the verb to go.

A special kind of affective grammatical idiom will be found in patterns with the ing-form following the verb to go when the latter does not signify motion either but is used idiomatically to intensify the meaning of the no­tional verb, e.g. Don’t go spreading gossips! He s going running in debts, She will go blaming me for all her failures.

Modal verbs express attitude or relation of the agent to the action. This relation – possibility, obligation, volition, prohibition, permission, etc. – is a grammatical meaning of modal verbs. The question whether this mean­ing may be considered a lexical one remains the topic to debate. It is quite possible that in modal verbs lexical and grammatical meanings are merged. It should also be added that modal verbs are characterized by a deficient paradigm. Their forms lack the categories of person and number (though notional verbs also have only rudimentary traces of these categories); some modal verbs have no past forms (e.g. must, ought to).

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