Supra Phrasal Unity

Topics: Linguistics, Grammar, Semiotics Pages: 5 (1497 words) Published: January 15, 2013
So a supra-phrasal unit may be defined as a combination of sentences presenting a structural and semantic unity backed up byrhythmic and melodic unity.

Any SPU will lose its unity if it suffers breaking.But what are the principles on which the singling out of an SPU can be maintained? In order to give an answer to this question, it is first of all necessary to deepen our understanding of the term utterance.

As a stylistic term the word 'utterance' must be expanded. Any utterance from a stylistic point of view will serve to denote a certainspan of speech (language-in-action) in which we may observe coherence,interdependence of the elements, one definite idea, and last but not least, the purport of the writer.The purport is the aim that the writer sets before himself, which is to make the desiredimpact on the reader. So the aim of any utterance is a carefully thought-out impact. Syntactical units are connected to achieve the desired effect and it is often by themanner they are connected that the desired effect is secured.Let us take the following paragraph for analysis:"1. But a day or two later the doctor was not feeling well. 2. He had an internal maladythat troubled him now and then, but he was used to it and disinclined' to talk about it. 3.When he had one of his attacks, he only wanted to be left alone. 4. His cabin was smalland stuffy, so he settled himself on a long chair on deck and lay with his eyes closed. 5.Miss Reid was walking up and down to get the half hour's exercise she took morningand evening. 6. He thought that if he pretended to be asleep she would not disturb him.7. But when she had passed him half a dozen times she stopped in front of him andstood quite still. 8. Though he kept his eyes closed he knew that she was looking athim." (Somerset Maugham)This paragraph consists of eight sentences, all more or less independent. The first threesentences, however, show a considerable degree of semantic interdependence. This can be inferred from the use of the following cluster of concepts associated with each other:'not feeling well', 'internal malady', 'one of his attacks'. Each phrase is the key to thesentence in which it occurs. There are no formal connectives, the connection is madeapparent by purely semantic means. These three sentences constitute an SPU builtwithin the larger framework of the paragraph. The fourth sentence is semanticallyindependent of the preceding three. It seems at first glance not to belong to the paragraph at all. The fact that the doctor's 'cabin was small and stuffy' and that 'hesettled himself... on deck' does not seem to be necessarily connected with the thoughtexpressed in the preceding SPU. But on a more careful analysis one can clearly see how all four sentences are actually interconnected. The linking sentence is'he only wanted to be left alone'. So the words 'lay with his eyes closed' with which thefourth sentence ends, are semantically connected both with the idea of being left aloneand with the idea expressed in the sentence: 'He thought that if he pretended to beasleep she would not disturb him.' But between this sentence and its semantic links 'laywith his eyes closed' and 'wanted to be left alone', the sentence about Miss Reid thrustsitself in. This is not irrelevant to the whole situation and to the purport of the writer,who leads us to understand that the doctor was disinclined to talk to anybody and probably to Miss Reid in particular.So the whole of the paragraph has therefore semantic and structural wholeness. It can,however, be split into two SPUs with a linking sentence between them. Sentence 5 can be regarded as an SPU, inasmuch as it enjoys considerable independence bothsemantically and structurally. Sentences 6, 7 and 8 are structurally and thereforesemantically interwoven.

But when



in the seventh and eighth sentences arethe structural elements which link all three sentences into one SPU.It follows then that an SPU can be embodied in...
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