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- Name: Assessing the Verb as a Fundamental Element in English
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This study assesses the verb as a fundamental element of English. Among the linguistic elements, the verb stands out not only as a ubiquitous, dynamic element, but as the most important of the syntactic elements. This superlative description of the verb is evident on its indispensability in projecting meanings in any expression. Other elements, no doubt, contribute to complete expression, but none can stand alone and make complete utterance structurally and semantically. The verb as the heart and life of expressions expresses action/deed of the nominal, state of the nominal, events about the nominal, behaviours no other elements in their morphological changes can supersede. It is the fundamental nature of this unique element that this paper addresses in order to, recommend further research on the other elements to ascertain possibly, their essential contributions to sentence formation which might result in one or all these elements substituting the verb in its indispensability. In arriving at the unparalled functions of the verb, materials from the libraries and internet were examined. These sources provided the data which furnished the work with the fact needed in ascertaining the verb as an indispensable element for sentence completion, well-formedness, semantic projection and category changing. This changing or functional shifting aids the noun and the adjective in taking care of situations incapable of being represented by these elements.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page – – – – – – – – – – i Approval Page – – – – – – – – – ii Dedication – – – – – – – – – – iii Acknowledgement – – – – – – – – – iv Table of Contents – – – – – – – – – v Abstract – – – – – – – – – – – ix
Chapter One 1 Introduction 1.1 Background of the Study – – – – – – – 1 1.2 Statement of the Problems – – – – – – – 7 1.3 Purpose of the Study – – – – – – – 7 1.4 Research Questions – – – – – – – – 8 1.5 Significance of the Study – – – – – – – 8 1.6 The Scope of the Study – – – – – – – 9 1.7 Research Methodology – – – – – – – 9 1.8 Analysis of the Findings – – – – – – – 9 1.9 Organizational Structure – – – – – – – 10
II Literature Review 11 2.1 The Concept of Verb – – – – – – – 11 2.2 Characteristics of Verbs – – – – – – – 14 2.3 Categories/Classification of Verbs – – – – – – 15 2.3.1Finite Forms of Verbs – – – – – – – 17 2.3.2Auxiliary Verbs – – – – – – – – 20 2.3.3Non-Finite Forms of the Verb – – – – – – 21 2.4 Features of Verbs – – – – – – – – 23 2.4.1First Type – – – – – – – – – 24 2.4.2Second Type – – – – – – – – – 25 2.4.3Third Type – – – – – – – – – 26
vi 2.5 The Role of the Verb in the Formation of Meaningful Expressions – 27 2.6 Summary – – – – – – – – – – 28
III The Roles of Other Syntactic Elements Vis-à-vis the English Verb 29 3.1 Introduction – – – – – – – – – – 29 3.2.1The Noun and the Verb – Structural Relationship – – – – 29 3.2.2The Noun and the Verb – Morphological Relation – – – – 31 3.2.3The Noun and the Verb – Relationship of Complement – – – – 32 3.2.4The Noun and the Verb – The Semantic Relationship – – – – 34 3.3.1The Verb and the Adjective – Structural Relationship – – – – 35 3.3.2The Verb and the Adjective – Complement Relationship – – – 36 3.3.3The Semantic Relationship between the Verb and the Adjective – – 37 3.4.1The Verb and the Adverb – Structural Relationship – – – – 38 3.4.2The Semantic Relationship between the Verb and the Adverb- – – 40 3.5.1The Verb and the Prepositional Phrase – Structural, Complementary and Semantic Relationships – – – – – 41 3.6 The Implications of these Relationships – – – – – – 42 3.7 Verbless Clauses – – – – – – – – – 43 3.8 Conclusion – – – – – – – – – – 45 IV Analysis of the Findings 46 4.1 The Verb and Sentence Completion – – – – – – 46 4.2 The Verb and Well-formedness – – – – – – – 47 4.3 The Verb and Ill-formedness – – – – – – – 49 4.4 The Verb and Alternative Structures – – – – – – 51 4.5 The Verb and the Verbless Expressions – – – – – – 54 4.6 The Verb and Category Change – – – – – – – 55 4.7 Summary – – – – – – – – – – 59 V Summary 60 5.1 Summary – – – – – – – – – – 60 5.2 Recommendations/Suggestions – – – – – – – 63 Works Cited – – – – – – – – – – 65
1.1 Background to the study
Language is a means of communication. As a vehicle of communication,
language is seen as an arbitrary system that allows to transmit representations
to others. According to Encyclopedia Britannica” language is a system of
conventional spoken or written symbols by means of which human beings, as
member of a social group and participants in its culture communicate”. Also,
Henry Sweet sees language as “the expression of ideas by means of speech
sounds combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, this
combination answering to that of ideas into thoughts” (qtd in Encyclopedia
Britannica). Bernard Bloch & George Trager, see language as “a system of
arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group co-operate”
(qtd in Encyclopedia Britannica). Language is the expression of one thought by
means of words. By means of language, man is able to inform, express his
feelings and emotions, to influence the activities of others and to comport
himself with varying degrees of friendliness or hostility towards others. Language
is human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, feelings and
desires.These ideas and feelings are based on one’s environment and therefore
on one’s culture. Language then can be defined as human culture expressed in
words. It can also be viewed as the vehicle of culture.
The ability to speak or use a language does not only distinguish man from
animals, but identifies him as higher than other creatures living on the surface of
the earth. Thus language is species-specific to man. According to the Bible, God
created Adam and endowed him with the ability to speak” and whatever the man
would call each living soul (creature), that was its name”(New World Translation
of The Holy Scriptures, Genesis 2:19). If language is human culture expressed in
words, the English Language expresses English culture in words. Culture is
therefore language imbued and personified.
However, every human language is distinctive. This means that every language
has laid down structures which distinguishes it from other languages. Thus,
language as a system consists of so many components that make meaning
possible. Emphasizing one of its sub-systems, Bolinger says:
Human language is a system of vocal arbitrary communication,
using signs composed of arbitrary patterned sound units and
assembled according to set of rules, interacting with the
experiences of its users. (12)
Language, according to Bolinger is rule-governed – whether spoken or written.
Every element has its distributional properties which makes interaction possible.
The English Language is undoubtedly the most important legacy of the
British colonial masters to Nigeria. This language came to Nigeria in 1842 with
the coming of the British traders and missionaries. Initially, English was not
welcomed because Nigerians did not immediately recognize its value. Gradually,
however, it came to stay as it was adopted as the channel of instruction and “a
vehicle for the training of badly needed man power to run the fledgling
government services. More menial clerical officers – clerks, accounting assistants,
messengers, interpreters, etc were hurriedly trained” Baldeh (2). The English
language became a sine qua non for national political, social and economic
The absolute essentials of English constrained the constituent Assembly to
decide after debates that the English language would continue to be the “only
accepted language in the country’s legislative House”. Consequently, English
became acceptable by the majority of Nigerians. It is now not only a medium of
instruction in schools and colleges, but also a lingua franca, a second and an
official language of Nigerians. The acceptance of English in Nigeria made it
assume three basic functions namely accommodation, participation and social
mobility. Banjo sees the English Language as “the language of social and
economic power…” (65).
It is the language of international commerce … in the sense that orders
are made in English. It is the language of record keeping, even when
transactions are with non-English speaking countries.
Accommodation as a function of language exists at the level of oral
communication. This is noticeable among market women and street vendors who
use it in advertising their goods and hawking their wares. It also bridges the
problems of differences in languages. In a situation in which the participants in
the communication do not share a common indigenous language, it helps to
alleviate the fear of ethnic domination.
In participation, English will remain for a long time the language that
guarantees one’s admission to parliament, educative, administrative and
accommodative sectors of the country. Social mobility indicates that a person
who has the facility on the use of English is regarded as being successful,
brilliant and intelligent. Similarly, Baldeh (3) observes that “to obtain a lucrative
job in the public or private sector, a pass in English was a necessary
prerequisite”. According to him, “to be educated was, in the eyes of many, to be
versed in the English language”. He also observes that “from being a catalyst for
political emancipation, the English Language … has now apparently become the
catalyst for nationalism, political consciousness, and inter-tribal
comprehensibility. It is, the tool for social, political and educational expression in
the vast, multi-ethnic, multi-racial country. In a nut shell, English provides
Nigerians with a window on the world” Baldeh (7). English thus becomes “a
statue symbol and a superior language”. Our time-minutes, hours, days, weeks
and months are recorded and calculated in English and thought about them is in
English” as well. Market haggling is also done in English (or pidgin). Thoughts,
ideas, even one’s native thoughts are expressed in English.
Language is a habit, and habit is a part of one’s nature. The speaker
speaks and words flow in their natural sequence. Igbo-English, English-Igbo. If a
speaker is conscious of the speech situation, he resorts to one code. A language
or a variety of language may emerge as a result of merging two languages. For
example, the mutual accommodation of European and West African languages
has yielded “Pidgin English”.
Undoubtedly, the English language has come to stay in Nigeria as the
lingua franca, official language or a vehicular language, and like other languages
it has its patterns and structures. The patterns and structures are obvious in its
four categories namely syntax, semantics, phonology and morphology. Syntax is
concerned with the study of the ways in which words are put together to form
sentences and the principles underlying them. Words are assembled into phrases
and phrases are put together to form sentences. Semantics according to Alo is
the study of linguistic meaning. Alo says “semantics is concerned with such
phenomena as word meaning, utterance meaning, sentence meaning, ambiguity,
semantic problems …”(21). Phonology according to Alo is “the level of linguistic
description which describes the system and patterns of sound that occur in
language” (15). Oyeleye, L. and Olateju, M. define phonology as “the study of
how speech sounds of a language are organized into a system/pattern” (11).
Morphology is concerned with the formation of words and their structural
Talking on the structures of English recalls such things as phrases, clauses
and sentences. The patterns of English have their foundations on the parts of
speech. The English parts of speech are categorized into: nouns, verbs, adverbs,
pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, determiners, interjections and conjunctions.
It is interesting to point out that each of these parts of speech has its distinctive
roles which when combined, determine the pattern of English. The various parts
of speech are made up of different kinds of words. Thus words fall into one class
or another. The parts of speech are divided into two main categories namely:
i. The major parts of speech and
ii. The minor parts of speech
The major parts of speech include the nouns, main verbs, adjectives and
adverbs. According to Eyisi these major parts of speech “belong to the group
known as the open system and can admit new entrants. That is, they are
capable of accommodating new words brought about by new ideas, concepts
and inventions …” (15). The minor parts of speech on the other hand,
incorporate pronouns, prepositions, determiners and conjunctions and according
to Eyisi “are described as the closed system because they never admit new
Amongst the parts of speech mentioned, the verb stands out not only as
distinct, but as the radical and most important element which determines the
pattern of every sentence, the verb gives meaning to an expression whether a
word, a clause or a sentence. This therefore underscores the fact that no
utterance or expression is meaningful without the presence of a verb. The
absence of a main verb makes an expression meaningless, incomplete or vague.
The style or type of every sentence is determined by the verb in it. A sentence
can be simple, compound, complex, compound complex or multiple depending
on the number of verb or verb phrases it contains. A simple sentence contains
only one verb or verb unit, a compound sentence contains two verbs or verb
units, while a complex sentence contains two finite verbs even though a part is
subordinated. A sentence can also express tense, mood and aspect which are
determined by the verb. A meaningful expression, therefore does not exist
without the verb.
With all intents and purposes, it is obvious that the English verb is a
significant, relevant, important and radical element in sentence construction.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The verb as a major part of speech, is also considered difficult. It poses a
serious challenge or difficulty to many learners of English as a second language.
The inability to use verbs appropriately contributes greatly to wrong or poor
grammar both in oral and written expressions. This bad use of the verb exhibited
in spoken and written English of many second language speakers constrained the
researcher to assess this linguistic element to ascertain how its use creates well
formed and ill-formed sentences, projects required meaning and collocates with
other elements to determine sentence completion and radical behaviours which,
if lacking, will make expressions incomplete.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
This study examines the verb as a fundamental and indispensable element
in any expression in the English Language. The study will explore the factors that
make the verb so outstandingly significant in sentence construction. In doing this
the fundamental distributions of the verb in providing meanings, creating
acceptable structures and functioning in the positions of other elements
as a noun or an adjective will be ascertained to point out its unequalness among
1.4 Research Questions
1. To what extent does the verb add to the meaning of an expression?
2. To what extent does the verb determine the meaning of a sentence?
3. To what degree does the verb aid the construction and the comprehension of an
4. To what extent can any expression or sentence exist without a finite verb?
5. To what extent does the poor or wrong use of verb contribute to un-English
6. To what extent does the verb exercise functional shift or category change?
1.5 Significance of the Study
Exploring the roles of the verb in sentence construction brings to focus the
importance of this element of the English language. Also, ascertaining the
various distributional roles of the verb in speech and writing will make users take
seriously the learning of this important element. This study will also help learners
to understand that alternative structure, called expressions without the verbs
(verbless expressions) exist for a writer to have recourse to in speech or in
writing. Again, as no particular text has examined the role of the verb and
prepared them on single source, this work will perhaps be the sample case
accessible to researchers and scholars.
1.6 The scope of the study
This work focuses on the indispensable nature of the verb. It is about the
verb as a fundamental element of the English Language.
1.7 Research Methodology
Assessing the verb as a radical element of the English language makes the
researcher engage in field work. The researcher would consult libraries and
internet for material on the verb. In undergoing these consultations, the
researcher would be guided by the research questions to help her ascertain how
the verb creates sentence completion, well-formedness or grammaticalness,
meanings, changes categories and overtly gets omitted in certain expressions.
1.8 Analysis of the Findings
Again, the research questions would be the instruments for analysis. Six
research questions were formed. These questions however would not be wholly
lifted to chapter for analysis. They would be reformulated to make each appear a
subtitle or heading. This pattern will enable the researcher supply clear account
of the fundamentalness of the verb in effecting good structures, expected
meanings, category shifts and expressions without verbs.
1.9 Organizational Structure
This thesis is organized into five chapters. Chapter one incorporates the
statement of the problem, the purpose of the study, the research questions the
significance of the study, the scope of the study, the research methodology, the
analysis of the findings and organizational structure. Chapter two focuses on the
review of literature while the third chapter deals with the syntactic essentials of
the other syntactic elements vis-à-vis the English verb. This chapter discusses
the relationships that exist between the verb and the noun, the verb and the
adjective, the verb and the adverb, the verb and the prepositional phrase. These
are considered under structural, morphological, semantical and complementary
relationships. Chapter four discusses the analysis of the findings. In doing this,
the research questions were rephrased into six subtitles namely: the verb and
sentence completion, the verb and well-formedness, the verb and ill-formedness,
the verb and alternative structures, the verb and verbless expressions and the
verb and category change. The fifth chapter presents the summary of the work
and recommendations and suggestions. Thereafter is the list of the works cited
which shows the sources of the information. Also inclusive are the preliminary
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