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§ 5. Transformational Analysis

Transformational analysis in lexicological investigations may be defined as re-patterning of various distributional structures in order to discover difference or sameness of meaning of practically identical distributional patterns.

As distributional patterns are in a number of cases polysemantic, transformational procedures are of help not only in the analysis of semantic sameness / difference of the lexical units under investigation


but also in the analysis of the factors that account for their polysemy.

For example, if we compare two compound words dogfight and dogcart, we shall see that the distributional pattern of stems is identical and may be represented as n+n. The meaning of these words broadly speaking is also similar as the first of the stems modifies, describes, the second and we understand these compounds as ‘a kind of fight’ and ‘a kind of cart’ respectively. The semantic relationship between the stems, however, is different and hence the lexical meaning of the words is also different. This can be shown by means of a transformational procedure which shows that a dogfight is semantically equivalent to ‘a fight between dogs’, whereas a dogcart is not ‘a cart between dogs’ but ‘a cart drawn by dogs’.

Word-groups of identical distributional structure when re-patterned also show that the semantic relationship between words and consequently the meaning of word-groups may be different. For example, in the word-groups consisting of a possessive pronoun followed by a noun, e.g. his car, his failure, his arrest, his goodness, etc., the relationship between his and the following nouns is in each instant different which can be demonstrated by means of transformational procedures.

his car (pen, table, etc.) may be re-patterned into he has a car (a pen, a table, etc.) or in a more generalised form may be represented as A possesses B.

his failure (mistake, attempt, etc.) may be represented as he failed (was mistaken, attempted) or A performs В which is impossible in the case of his car (pen, table, etc.).

his arrest (imprisonment, embarrassment, etc.) may be re-patterned into he was arrested (imprisoned and embarrassed, etc.) or A is the goal of the action B.

his goodness (kindness, modesty, etc.) may be represented as he is good (kind, modest, etc.) or В is the quality of A.

It can also be inferred from the above that two phrases which are transforms of each other (e.g. his car -> he has a car; his kindness -> he is kind, etc.1) are correlated in meaning as well as in form.

Regular correspondence and interdependence of different patterns is viewed as a criterion of different or same meaning. When the direction of. conversion was discussed it was pointed out that transformational procedure may be used as one of the criteria enabling us to decide which of the two words in a conversion pair is the derived member.2

Transformational analysis may also be described as a kind of translation. If we understand by translation transference of a message by different means, we may assume that there exist at least three types of translation:3 1. interlingual translation or translation from

1 -> stands for ‘may be replaced by’

2 See ‘Word-Formation’, § 19, p. 133.

3 See E. Nida. Towards a scientific theory of translation. Netherlands, 1964; Л. С. Бархударов. Язык и перевод. М., 1975.


one language into another which is what we traditionally call translation; 2. intersemiotic translation or transference of a message from one kind of semiotic system to another. For example, we know that a verbal message may be transmitted into a flag message by hoisting up the proper flags in the right sequence, and at last 3. intralingual translation which consists essentially in rewording a message within the same language — a kind of paraphrasing. Thus, e.g., the same message may be transmitted by the following his work is excellent -> his excellent work -> the excellence of his work.

The rules of transformational analysis, however, are rather strict and should not be identified with paraphrasing in the usual sense of the term. There are many restrictions both on the syntactic and the lexical level. An exhaustive discussion of these restrictions is unnecessary and impossible within the framework of the present textbook. We shall confine our brief survey to the transformational procedures commonly used in lexicological investigation. These are as follows:

1. permutation — the re-patterning of the kernel transform on condition that the basic subordinative relationships between words and the word-stems of the lexical units are not changed. In the example discussed above the basic relationships between lexical units and the stems of the notional words are essentially the same: cf. his work is excellent -> his excellent work -> the excellence of his work -> he works excellently.

  1. replacement — the substitution of a component of the distributional structure by a member of a certain strictly defined set of lexical units, e.g. replacement of a notional verb by an auxiliary or a link verb, etc. Thus, in the two sentences having identical distributional structure He will make a bad mistake, He will make a good teacher, the verb to make can be substituted for by become or be only in the second sentence (he will become, be a good teacher) but not in the first (*he will become a bad mistake) which is a formal proof of the intuitively felt difference in the meaning of the verb to make in each of the sentences. In other words the fact of the impossibility of identical transformations of distributionally identical structures is a formal proof of the difference in their meaning.

  2. additiоn (or expansion) — may be illustrated by the application of the procedure of addition to the classification of adjectives into two groups — adjectives denoting inherent and non-inherent properties. For example, if to the two sentences John is happy (popular, etc.) and John is tall (clever, etc.) we add, say, in Moscow, we shall see that *John is tall (clever, etc.) in Moscow is utterly nonsensical, whereas John is happy (popular, etc.) in Moscow is a well-formed sentence. Evidently this may be accounted for by the difference in the meaning of adjectives denoting inherent (tall, clever, etc.) and non-inherent (happy, popular, etc.) properties.

  3. deletion — a procedure which shows whether one of the words is semantically subordinated to the other or others, i.e. whether the semantic relations between words are identical. For example, the word- group red flowers may be deleted and transformed into flowers without


making the sentence nonsensical. Cf.: I love red flowers, I love flowers, whereas I hate red tape cannot be transformed into I hate tape or I hate red.1

Transformational procedures may be of use in practical classroom teaching as they bring to light the so-called sentence paradigm or to be more exact different ways in which the same message may be worded in modern English.

It is argued, e.g., that certain paired sentences, one containing a verb and one containing an adjective, are understood in the same way, e.g. sentence pairs where there is form similarity between the verb and the adjective.

Cf.: I desire that. . . — I am desirous that . . .; John hopes that . . . — John is hopeful that . . .; His stories amuse me . . . — are amusing to me; Cigarettes harm people — are harmful to people.

Such sentence pairs occur regularly in modern English, are used interchangeably in many cases and should be taught as two equally possible variants.

It is also argued that certain paired sentences, one containing a verb and one a deverbal noun, are also a common occurrence in Modern English. Cf., e.g., I like jazz — > my liking for jazz; John considers Mary’s feelings -> John’s consideration of Mary’s feelings.2

Learning a foreign language one must memorise as a rule several commonly used structures with similar meaning. These structures make up what can be described as a paradigm of the sentence just as a set of forms (e.g. gowentgone, etc.) makes up a word paradigm. Thus, the sentence of the type John likes his wife to eat well makes up part of the sentence paradigm which may be represented as follows John likes his wife to eat well — > John likes his wife eating well — > what John likes is his wife eating well, etc. as any sentence of this type may be re-patterned in the same way.

Transformational procedures are also used as will be shown below in componental analysis of lexical units.

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