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ANALYSIS INTO IMMEDIATE CONSTITUENTS

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A synctironic morphological analysis is most effectively accomplished by the procedure known as the analysis into immediate constituents (ICs). Immediate constituents are any of the two meaningful parts forming a larger linguistic unity. First suggested by L. Bloomfield1 it was later developed by many linguists.2 The main opposition dealt with is the opposition of stem and affix. It is a kind of segmentation revealing not the history of the word but its motivation, i.e. the data the listener has to go by in understanding it. It goes without saying that unmotivated words and words with faded motivation have to be remembered and understood as separate signs, not as combinations of other signs.

The method is based on the fact that a word characterised by morphological divisibility (analysable into morphemes) is involved in certain structural correlations. This means that, as Z. Harris puts it, the morpheme boundaries in an utterance are determined not on the basis of considerations interior to the utterance but on the basis of comparison with other utterances. The comparisons are controlled, i.e. we do not merely scan various random utterances but seek utterances which differ from our original one only in stated portions. The final test is in utterances which are only minimally different from ours."3

A sample analysis which has become almost classical, being repeated many times by many authors, is L. Bloomfields analysis of the word ungentlemanly. As the word is convenient we take the same example. Comparing this word with other utterances the listener recognises the morpheme -un- as a negative prefix because he has often come across words built on the pattern un- + adjective stem:uncertain, unconscious, uneasy, unfortunate, unmistakable, unnatural. Some of the cases resembled the word even more closely; these were: unearthly, unsightly, untimely, unwomanly and the like. One can also come across the adjective gentlemanly. Thus, at the first cut we obtain the following immediate constituents: un- + gentlemanly. If we continue our analysis, we see that although gent occurs as a free form in low colloquial usage, no such word as lemanly may be found either as a free or as a bound constituent, so this time we have to separate the final morpheme. We are justified in so doing as there are many adjectives following the pattern noun stem+ -ly, such as womanly, masterly, scholarly, soldierly with the same semantic relationship of having the quality of the person denoted by the stem; we also have come across the noun gentleman in other utterances. The two first stages of analysis resulted in separating a free and a bound form: 1) un~ + gentlemanly, 2) gentleman + -ly. The third cut has its peculiarities. The division into gent-+-lemon is obviously impossible as no such patterns exist in English, so the cut is gentle- + -man. A similar pattern is observed in nobleman, and so we state adjective stem

1 Bloomfield L. Language. London, 1935. P. 210.

2 See: Nida E. Morphology. The Descriptive Analysis of Words. Ann Arbor, 1946. P. 81.

3 Harris Z.S. Methods in Structural Linguistics. Chicago, 1952. P. 163.

6* 83


+ man. Now, the element man may be differently classified as a semi-affix (see 6.2.2) or as a variant of the free form man. The word gentle is open to discussion. It is obviously divisible from the etymological viewpoint: gentle < (O)Fr gentil < Lat gentilis permits to discern the root or rather the radical element gent- and the suffix -il. But since we are only concerned with synchronic analysis this division is not relevant.

If, however, we compare the adjective gentle with such adjectives as brittle, fertile, fickle, juvenile, little, noble, subtle and some more containing the suffix -lei-He added to a bound stem, they form a pattern for our case. The bound stem that remains is present in the following group: gentle, gently, gentleness, genteel, gentile, gentry, etc.

One might observe that our procedure of looking for similar utterances has shown that the English vocabulary contains the vulgar word gent that has been mentioned above, meaning a person pretending to the status of a gentleman' or simply'man, but then there is no such structure as noun stem+ -le, so the word gent should be interpreted as a shortening of gentleman and a homonym of the bound stem in question.

To sum up: as we break the word we obtain at any level only two ICs, one of which is the stem of the given word. All the time the analysis is based on the patterns characteristic of the English vocabulary. As a pattern showing the interdependence of all the constituents segregated at various stages we obtain the following formula:

un- + {[{gent- + -le) + -man] + -ly}

Breaking a word into its immediate constituents we observe in each cut the structural order of the constituents (which may differ from their actual sequence). Furthermore we shall obtain only two constituents at each cut, the ultimate constituents, however, can be arranged according to their sequence in the word: un-+gent-+-le+-man+'ly.

A box-like diagram presenting the four cuts described looks as follows:


We can repeat the analysis on the word-formation level showing not only the morphemic constituents of the word but also the structural pattern on which it is built, this may be carried out in terms of proportional oppositions. The main requirements are essentially the same: the analysis must reveal patterns observed in other words of the same language, the stems obtained after the affix is taken away should correspond to a separate word, the segregation of the derivational affix is based on proportional oppositions of words having the same affix with the same lexical and lexico-grammatical meaning. Ungentlemanly, then, is opposed not to ungentleman (such a word does not exist), but to gentlemanly. Other pairs similarly connected are correlated with this opposition. Examples are:

ungentlemanly ___ unfair __ unkind __ unselfish gentlemanly fair kind selfish

This correlation reveals the pattern un- + adjective stem.

The word-formation type is defined as affixational derivation. The sense of un- as used in this pattern is either simply not, or more commonly the reverse of, with the implication of blame or praise, in the case of ungentlemanly it is blame.

The next step is similar, only this time it is the suffix that is taken away:

gentlemanly __ womanly _ scholarly gentleman woman scholar

The series shows that these adjectives are derived according to the pattern noun stem + -ly. The common meaning of the numerator term is characteristic of (a gentleman, a woman, a scholar).

The analysis into immediate constituents as suggested in American linguistics has been further developed in the above treatment by combining a purely formal procedure with semantic analysis of the pattern. A semantic check means, for instance, that we can distinguish the type gentlemanly from the type monthly, although both follow the same structural pattern noun stem+ -ly. The semantic relationship is different, as -ly is qualitative in the first case and frequentative in the second, i.e. monthly means occurring every month.

This point is confirmed by the following correlations: any adjective built on the pattern personal noun stem+-/# is equivalent to characteristic of or having the quality of the person denoted by the stem.

gentlemanly -*having the qualities of a gentleman

masterly - shaving the qualities of a master

soldierly - shaving the qualities of a soldier

womanly - shaving the qualities of a woman

Monthly does not fit into this series, so we write: monthly 5 having the qualities of a month


On the other hand, adjectives of this group, i.e. words built on the pattern stem of a noun denoting a period of time+ -ly are all equivalent to the formula occurring every period of time denoted by the stem:

monthly → occurring every month hourly → occurring every hour
yearly → occurring every year

Gentlemanly does not show this sort of equivalence, the transform is obviously impossible, so we write:

gentlemanly ↔ occurring every gentleman

The above procedure is an elementary case of the transformational analysis, in which the semantic similarity or difference of words is revealed by the possibility or impossibility of transforming them according to a prescribed model and following certain rules into a different form, called their transform. The conditions of equivalence between the original form and the transform are formulated in advance. In our case the conditions to be fulfilled are the sameness of meaning and of the kernel morpheme.

E.Nida discusses another complicated case: untruly adj might, it seems, be divided both ways, the ICs being either un-+truly or un-true+-ly. Yet observing other utterances we notice that the prefix un- is but rarely combined with adverb stems and very freely with adjective stems; examples have already been given above. So we are justified in thinking that the ICs are untrue+-ly. Other examples of the same pattern are: uncommonly, unlikely.1

There are, of course, cases, especially among borrowed words, that defy analysis altogether; such are, for instance, calendar, nasturtium or chrysanthemum.

The analysis of other words may remain open or unresolved. Some linguists, for example, hold the view that words like pocket cannot be subjected to morphological analysis. Their argument is that though we are justified in singling out the element -et, because the correlation may be considered regular (hog : : hogget, lock : : locket), the meaning of the suffix being in both cases distinctly diminutive, the remaining part pock- cannot be regarded as a stem as it does not occur anywhere else. Others, like Prof. A.I. Smirnitsky, think that the stem is morphologically divisible if at least one of its elements can be shown to belong to a regular correlation. Controversial issues of this nature do not invalidate the principles of analysis into immediate constituents. The second point of view seems more convincing. To illustrate it, let us take the word hamlet a small village. No words with this stem occur in present-day English, but it is clearly divisible diachronically, as it is derived from OFr hamelet of Germanic origin, a diminutive of hamel, and a cognate of the English noun home. We must not forget that hundreds of English place names end in -ham, like Shoreham, Wyndham, etc. Nevertheless, making a mixture of historical and structural approach

1 Nida E. Morphology, p.p. 81-82. 86


will never do. If we keep to the second, and look for recurring identities according to structural procedures, we shall find the words booklet, cloudlet, flatlet, leaflet, ringlet, town let, etc. In all these -let is a clearly diminutive suffix which does not contradict the meaning of hamlet. A.I. Smirnitskys approach is, therefore, supported by the evidence afforded by the language material, and also permits us to keep within strictly synchronic limits.

Now we can make one more conclusion, namely, that in lexicological analysis words may be grouped not only according to their root morphemes but according to affixes as well.

The whole procedure of the analysis into immediate constituents is reduced to the recognition and classification of same and different morphemes and same and different word patterns. This is precisely why it permits the tracing and understanding of the vocabulary system.

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