ASSESSING THE VERB AS A FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT IN ENGLISH

ABSTRACT
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.


Chapter One
Introduction
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 change.

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 properties.

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 words” (16).

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.

1.4       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
            utterance?
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
            expressions?
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 pages.

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Item Type: Project Material  |  Attribute: 72 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: N3,000  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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