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That puppy’s knocking over those potplants!

In spite of its seeming simplicity of structure, this named because it was once, as its retention in the
thoroughly innocuous sentence requires for its modern spelling of a word like ‘over’ suggests, common
production and delivery the assembly of a complex array to all accents of English. Whereas this /r/ is still present
of linguistic components. First, there is the palpable in Irish and in most American pronunciations, it has
physical substance of the utterance which,when written, largely disappeared in Australian and in most English
comprises graphetic substance or, when spoken, accents. Finally, the articulation of the ‘ing’ sequence at
phonetic substance. This ‘raw’ matter then becomes the end of the word ‘knocking’ may also vary, with an ‘in’
organised into linguistic structure proper, opening up sound indicating a perhaps lower status accent or an
thelevel of graphology, which accommodates the informal style of delivery.
systematic meanings encoded in thewritten medium of The sentence also contains words that are made
language, and phonology, which encompasses the up from smaller grammatical constituents known as
meaning potential of the sounds of spoken language. morphemes. Certain of these morphemes, the ‘root’
In terms of graphology, this particular sentence morphemes, can stand as individual words in their own
is written in the Roman alphabet, and in a 10 point right, whereas others, such as prefixes and suffixes,
emboldened ‘palatino’ font. However, as if to echo its depend for their meaning on being conjoined or bound
counterpart in speech, the sentence-final exclamation to other items. Thus, ‘potplants’ has three constituents:
mark suggests an emphatic style of vocal delivery. In two root morphemes (‘pot’ and ‘plant’) and a suffix (the
that spoken counterpart, systematic differences in sound plural morpheme ‘s’), making the word a three
sort out the meanings of the words used: thus, the word- morpheme cluster.
initial /n/ sound at the start of ‘knocking’ will serve to Moving up from morphology takes us into the
distinguish it from, say, words like ‘rocking’ or ‘mocking’. domain of language organisation known as the
To that extent, the phoneme /n/ expresses a meaningful grammar, or more appropriately perhaps, given that both
difference in sound. The word ‘knocking’ also raises an lexis and word-structure are normally included in such a
issue in lexicology : notice for instance how description, the lexico-grammar. Grammar is organized
contemporary English pronunciation no longer hierarchically according to the size of the units it
accommodates the two word-initial graphemes <k> and contains, and most accounts of grammar would
<n> that appear in the spelling of this word. The <kn> recognise the sentence as the largest unit, with the
sequence – originally spelt <cn> – has become a single clause, phrase, word and morpheme following as
/n/ pronunciation, along with equivalent occurrences in progressively smaller units (see further A3). Much could
other Anglo-Saxon derived lexis in modern English like be said of the grammar of this sentence: it is a single
‘know’ and ‘knee’. The double consonant pronunciation ‘clause’ in the indicative declarative mood. It has a
is however still retained in the vocabulary of cognate Subject (‘That puppy’), a Predicator (‘ ’s knocking over’)
languages like modern Dutch; as in ‘knie’ (meaning and a Complement (‘those potplants’). Each of these
‘knee’) or ‘knoop’ (meaning ‘knot’). Apart from these clause constituents is realised by a phrase which itself
fixed features of pronunciation, there is potential for has structure. For instance, the verb phrase which
significant variation in much of the phonetic detail of the expresses the Predicator has a three part structure,
spoken version of example (1). For instance, many containing a contracted auxiliary ‘[i]s’, a main verb
speakers of English will not sound in connected speech ‘knocking’ and a preposition ‘over’ which operates as a
the‘t’s of both ‘That’ and ‘potplants’, but will instead use special kind of extension to the main verb. This
‘glottal stops’ in these positions. This is largely a extension makes the verb a phrasal verb, one test for
consequence of the phonetic environment in which the which is being able to move the extension particle along
‘t’ occurs: in both cases it is followed by a /p/ consonant the sentence to a position beyond the Complement
and this has the effect of inducing a change, known as a (‘That puppy’s knocking those potplants over!’).
‘secondary articulation’, in the way the ‘t’ is sounded A semantic analysis is concerned with meaning
(Ball and Rahilly 1999: 130). Whereas this secondary and will be interested, amongst other things, in those
articulation is not necessarily so conditioned, the social elements of language which give the sentence a ‘truth
or regional origins of a speaker may affect other aspects value’.A truth value specifies the conditions under which
of the spoken utterance. a particular sentence may be regarded as true or false.
A major regional difference in accent will be For instance, in this (admittedly hypothetical) sentence,
heard in the realisation of the historic <r> – a feature so the lexical item ‘puppy’ commits the speaker to the fact
that a certain type of entity (namely, a young canine strictly semantic terms is not necessarily a guarantor of
animal) is responsible for the action carried out. Other the kind of job it will do as an utterance in discourse. The
terms, such as the superordinate items ‘dog’ or even raw semantic information transmitted by sentence (1),
‘animal’, would still be compatible in part with the truth for instance, may only partially explain its discourse
conditions of the sentence. That is not to say that the use function in a specific context of use. To this effect,
of a more generalised word like, say, ‘animal’ will have imagine that (1) is uttered by a speaker in the course of
exactly the same repercussions for the utterance as a two-party interaction in the living room of a dog-
discourse (see further below). In spite of its semantic owning, potplantowning addressee. Without seeking to
compatibility, this less specific term would implicate in detail the rather complex inferencing strategies involved,
many contexts a rather negative evaluation by the the utterance in this context is unlikely to be interpreted
speaker of the entity referred to. This type of implication as a disconnected remark about the unruly puppy’s
is pragmatic rather than semantic because it is more behaviour or as a remark which requires simply a verbal
about the meaning of language in context than about the acknowledgment. Rather, it will be understood as a call
meaning of language per se. Returning to the semantic to action on the part of the addressee. Indeed, it is
component of example (1), the demonstrative words perhaps the very obviousness in the context of what the
‘That’ and ‘those’ express physical orientation in puppy is doing vis-à-vis the content of the utterance that
language by pointing to where the speaker is situated would prompt the addressee to look beyond what the
relative to other entities specified in the sentence. This speaker ‘literally’ says. The speaker, who, remember, is
orientational function of language is known as deixis positioned deictically further away from the referents,
(see further A7). In this instance, the demonstratives may also feel that this discourse strategy is appropriate
suggest that the speaker is positioned some distance for a better-placed interlocutor to make the required
away from the referents ‘puppy’ and ‘potplants’. The timely intervention. Yet the same discourse context can
deictic relationship is therefore ‘distal’, whereas the produce any of a number of other strategies. A less
parallel demonstratives ‘This’ and ‘these’ would imply a forthright speaker might employ a more tentative gambit,
‘proximal’ relationship to the referents. through something like ‘Sorry, but I think you might want
Above the core levels of language is situated to keep an eye on that puppy . . .’. Here, indirection
discourse. This is a much more open-ended term used serves a politeness function, although indirection of itself
to encompass aspects of communication that lie beyond is not always the best policy in urgent situations where
the organisation of sentences. Discourse is context- politeness considerations can be over-ridden (and see
sensitive and its domain of reference includes further thread 9). And no doubt even further
pragmatic, ideological, social and cognitive elements in configurations of participant roles might be drawn up to
text processing. That means that an analysis of explore what other discourse strategies can be pressed
discourse explores meanings which are not retrievable into service in this interactive context.
solely through the linguistic analysis of the levels
surveyed thus far. In fact, what a sentence ‘means’ in