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Supra-Phrasal Units

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IV. Translate the following sentences with particular attention to the translation of pseudointernational words.

1. When he was fifteen Chopin entered his father's school for academic studies. 2. It was largely due to Eisner's sympathy and understanding that Chopin was able to evolve a personal style of writing almost from the very beginning of his creative career. 3. His desire to leave Warsaw was intensified by a schoolboy love for Constantia Gladkowska, a singing student. A change of scene seemed the logical prescription. 4. He was bored with the city and agonized by his unrequited love. 5. His father provided him with funds and in the summer of 1829 he came to Vienna. 6. World War I was a dramatic demonstration of the fact that capitalism had plunged into an incurable general crisis. 7. The President's tour of the flood-stricken areas dramatized the fact that the terrible tragedy presented, in the first place, a federal problem. 8. Reason told him he was in the presence of an archenemy, and yet he had no appetite whatever for vengeance. 9. More than 500 senior British scientists from 20 universities signed a pledge boycotting research for the American Strategic Defence Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars.


Within the language-as-a-system there establish themselves certain definite types of relations between words, word-combinations, sentences and also between larger spans of utterances. The branch of language science which studies the types of relations between the units enumerated is called syntax.

Stylistics takes as the object of its analysis the expressive means and stylistic devices of the language which are based on some significant struc­tural point in an utterance, whether it consists of one sentence or a string of sentences.

It is necessary to find the elements into which any text may fall. In other words, there must be certain constituent units of which any text is composed.

Phonemes, the smallest language units, function within morphemes and are dependent on them, morphemes function within words, words — within sentences, and sentences function in larger structural frames which we shall call "supra-phrasal units". Consequently, neither words nor separate sentences can be regarded as the basic constituents of a text. They are the basic units of lower levels of language-as-a-system.

The term supra-phrasal unit (SPU) (1) is used to denote a larger unit than a sentence. It generally comprises a number of sentences interdependent structurally (usually by means of pronouns, connectives, tense-forms) and semantically (one definite thought is dealt with). Thus the sentence: "Guy glanced at his wife's untouched plate", if taken out of the context, will be perceived as a part of a larger span of utterance where the situation will be made clear and the purport of verbal expression more complete.

Here is the complete SPU.

Guy glanced at his wife's untouched plate.

"If you've finished, we might stroll down. I think you ought to be starting."

She did not answer. She rose from the table. She went into her room to see that nothing had been forgotten and then side by side with him walked down the steps.

So a supra-phrasal unitmay be defined as a combination of sentences presenting a structural and semantic unity backed up by rhythmic and melodic unity.Any SPU

will lose its unity if it suffers breaking.

One of the principle on which the singling out of an SPU can be maintained is utterance. Utterance denotes a certain span of speech (language-in-action) in which we may observe coherence, interdepend­ence of the elements, one definite idea, the pur­port of the writer.

The purport is the aim that the writer sets before himself, which is to make the desired impact 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 the manner they are connected that the desired effect is secured.

Letus take the following paragraph for analysis:

"1. But a day or two later the doctor was not feeling well. 2. He had an internal malady that troubled him now and then, but h£ 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 small and 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 morning and 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 and stood quite still. 8. Though he kept his eyes closed he knew that she was looking at him."

This paragraph consists of eight sentences, all more or less independ­ent. The first three sentences 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 the sentence in which it occurs. There are no formal connectives, the con­nection is made by purely semantic means. These three senten­ces constitute an SPU built within the larger framework of the paragraph. The fourth sentence is semantically independent of the preceding three. It seems not to belong to the paragraph at all. The fact that the doctor's 'cabin was small and stuffy' and that 'he settled himself... on deck' does not seem to be necessarily connected with the thought ex­pressed in the preceding SPU. But on a more careful analysis one can see how all four sentences are interconnected.

SPU can be embodied in a sentence if the sentence meets the requirements of this compositional unit. SPU may occupy the whole of the paragraph. Here SPU coincide with the paragraph.


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