Research article
Issue: № 3 (3), 2015


This article describes syntagmatics and distribution of some verbalizers of mental structure of mental processes. The choice of these verbs is predetermined by their ability to act as prototypes of the mental structure of mental processes, that is to serve as the most complete verbalizers of a particular mental process, conceptually correlated with the mental structure. The analysis revealed the stability of meaning which is reflected in the syntagmatics and their distribution potential.

Печатается при поддержке гранта Президента РФ для молодых российских ученых (проект № МК-5513.2014.6) / The publication is supported by the grant of the Russian President (project № МК-5513.2014.6)

The problem of syntagmatics or the idea of compatibility, despite its tendency to variations and long history of existence, is very closely connected with the transmission of meaning (Рахилина, 2008).

The analysis of mental structures verbalization performed from the viewpoint of the synergetic approach shows that the meaning of lexemes is able to change and update on a functional level as a result of the use of these lexemes in their occasional or systemic meaning (The syntagmatic approach in our study reveals the evolutionary nature of any mental structure being represented by verbalizers constantly changing their meaning in diachrony). This fact corresponds to the problem of polysemy and synonymous relationship of such language units, and also points to the complex nature of the semantic density of the verbalized mental structure.

This fact emphasizes the transparency and flexibility of lexico-semantic synergetic system due to the changes of lexemic meaning of its elements. And polysemy (this can be seen from the observation of actual data) as a system or contextually conditioned, occasional phenomenon keeps etymological memory and updates the accumulated information on the level of syntagmatic surrounding of words.

This is particularly evident with prototypical mental structure’s verbalizers. And the proof is possible due to the relevant linguistic procedures, based on etymological analysis, as well as on the interpretation of syntagmatic surrounding of words. Now we shall illustrate this fact using linguistic data.

The prototypical verb sense in modern lexicographical interpretation ("1. To become aware of; perceive; 2. To grasp; understand" (The Free Dictionary)) is understood like "to perceive through senses", "understand". The etymological source dates the origin of the verb approximately as associated with the year 1590 and points to the identity of its original meaning and its modern interpretation: "to perceive by the senses" (Online Etymology Dictionary). Also, according to the information given by the etymological dictionary, since 1960 the meaning of the verb has become somewhat different, and points to a conscious inner sense (state) - "be conscious inwardly of (one's state or condition)" (Online Etymology Dictionary). The shift of the abstract meaning to the naming of the corresponding inner psychological reaction of the subject takes place in 1872 ("perceive (a fact or situation) not by direct perception" (Online Etymology Dictionary)).

At present the verb sense functions as a verbalizer of feeling or thinking. The predicate sense is combined with a subject, the latter is represented by any animate noun or a personal pronoun, for example:

A researcher suggests that humans, like butterflies and other animals, can sense the earth's magnetic field and use it to navigate (Wade, 2011).

But she also sensed it wasn't enough. She wanted something else, something different, something more. Passion and romance, perhaps, or maybe quiet conversation in candlelit rooms, or perhaps something as simple as not being second (Sparks).

In the following sentences the subject is expressed by an animate noun and a relevant pronoun designating a man. And in fact, in both cases the semantics of the verb sense in combination with its corresponding subject does not change. Moreover, in this case the direct systemic meaning of the nuclear verb is displayed as "to percept, to feel."

It should be also noted that the reference to a body receptor in the first and in the second case is absent, nevertheless, this fact does not contradict to semantics, and confirms the systemic meaning of the verb under consideration.

The following example also represents mental activity but does not indicate to any organs of perception. But the question here is, not so much about feelings, but the mental operation. In other words, the semantics of the verb sense in the following sentence verbalizes the process of thinking, for example:

He sensed cricket, understood it personally (Ugra).

The accent to the nomination of the process of thinking, not perception is emphasized by the use of the synonymous lexeme understand, showing the process explicitly.

So we the most typical cases of the use of the verb sense in its systemic meaning represented above allow it to be combined with a noun or pronoun to describe the relevant situation.

In the following sentences we speak about the same distribution on the syntagmatic level, however, the objects are represented by complement abstract entities, incomprehensible to organs of sense perception:

He sensed my aura and he felt he should protect him (Fer).

Mourinho says he sensed Chelsea would suffer against Stoke (British National Corpus).

In the first sentence the noun aura acts as an object on the syntactic level. It refers only to the psychic level, intuition and foreboding, that generally cannot be perceived by analyzers.

In the second sentence the object is represented by the negative emotion, worry about the favourite football team.

In spite the fact that the verb sense can name the perception and thought (the meaning depends on the context), the verb as it is seen from the context analysis, can also act as a verb nominating premonition at a functional level. This state correlates with other emotional states, but traditionally is considered to be the state derived from some mental process.

Uses of the verb sense in the meaning of premonition are quite frequent, if the content of the conceptual component of the object is an abstract immaterial essence. It shows the diversity of its cognitive semantic features and increase in the semantic structure of this verb. And in this case the ability of the verb to be combined with an animate noun or a corresponding personal pronoun stays unchanged. But in the case of the use of the verb the systemic meaning changes in the lexical content of the object stay evident.

The following example seems to be very interesting in the ongoing research:

It sensed that Thanksgiving was coming (British National Corpus).

In this case, the actor of the situation is represented by the pronoun it functioning as a formal subject. This proposal should be translated as «Казалось, приближается День благодарения».

The atypical use of formal subject with the predicate, which is a priori possible with an animate noun, is extremely rare. In our analyzed actual material this is a single case taken from an Internet blog.

It is obvious that the author tried to achieve a certain stylistic effect and indicate the general interest to the upcoming holiday.

Despite the fact that the personification of any kind in the present study is eliminated in some cases we admit metonymy. For example, the conceptual content of the noun can be not the person himself or herself, but the body part, where mental activity is localized - hand, head, heart, eyes, ears etc.

Thus, the speaker manages to shift the focus onto the involuntary process of dynamic characteristics of the psyche. This situation is not typical of the verb sense. Nevertheless, in some cases, we sometimes face some facts of metonymic substitution of a subject, for example:

Instead, your skin can sense the difference in temperature of a new object (British National Corpus).

He experienced the joy of scoring Omagh's first two goals in the opening period but had the opposite feelings of emotion when he was sent off in the last minute (British National Corpus).

Like all other prototypical lexemes the verb experience, describing the situation of mental processes and activates in the mind of the listener the prototypical scheme that is represented by its core components. The proposition as a scheme of these components serves as an intermediary between the conceptual and verbal level, and is the natural expression of the relevant parts of the sentence, expressed by certain parts of speech.

This fact describes the potential distribution of the lexeme on the verbal level in the corresponding range of semantic structure. The latter is also profiled through appropriate syntactic constructions, verbal content of which depends not only on the intentions of the speaker (and this is relevant with respect to the language of the analytical type, which clearly limits the number of syntactic variations), but also on the so-called etymological memory.

On this occasion E.V. Ponomarenko rightly observes that the traditional view that the linearity of the elements in the functioning of the language is actually named syntagmatics of language, and that the linearity is a form of existence of all elements of the language and form of functioning of the language (VM Solntsev, Ferdinand de Saussure, Makarov ML et al.) is correct. However, the content of the speech production is created as a result of not only the addition of semantics series - linear fragments of discourse, but also the emergence of new semantic components, namely the inherent integrity of the work (Пономаренко, 2013). This statement is especially true when considering other verbalizers of mental structures.

The fact is that prototypical lexemes, as it is obvious from the analysis of actual data, are the so-called attractors of the synergetic system of mental structure’s verbalizers. Therefore, the transformation of meaning under the influence of anthropocentric and/or temporal factors is a rare phenomenon and that exactly follows from a comparison of data in etymological dictionaries and advanced lexicographical sources. The information about the stability of the stable character of meaning of the prototypical verbs confirm the validity of their selection as the best examples of the category.

Furthermore, in this case it is appropriate to speak of their ability to "remember" syntagmatic relations at the level of their distribution, that is they can combined with a subject and object regardless of a temporal factor. On the conceptual level, the data of the propositional framework predetermined by the meaning of verbs also clearly indicates the ability of each verb to be the verbalizer of the relevant mental structure. But sometimes it changes its semantics for the sake of the context under the influence of procedural factor in the discourse.

Summing up the review of syntagmatic and distribution capacity of mental structures’ verbalizers the in modern English discourse, we note that their functioning as predicates in the sentences, confirms their prototypical status as attractors of the synergetic system of verbalizers, because they have more or less stable semantics, as it is obvious on a diachronic level, and also have etymological memory in their distribution as they act in a fixed amount of syntactic structures, enabling them to profile these or those specific features of mental structures.


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