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Each lexical category (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc.) does not function by itself, but only in relation to others in a sentence. Therefore it is useful to look at them in relation to each other in a sentence.
In English, a sentence or a clause may have only two lexical items – a noun or nominal group and a verb or verbal group, e.g. “The boy laughed” – or only one lexical item, a verb or verbal group (in imperative) e.g. “Stop!”.
Clauses can be categorized into basic types, e.g.
Linguistic features are analysed at the sentence level often to explore:
Construction of social relationships between the writer and reader
Interpersonal relationships between language users can be analysed along three dimensions:
The following are some of the language features which may be used in a text for the construction of social relationships between the writer and reader.
Mood choice (i.e. selection of clause types) can position the writer / speaker and reader / listener in different role relations to each other.
The imperative mood may be used to convey a command. Thus the use of imperatives can indicate that the writer / speaker is in a position of greater power than the reader / listener.
The power may be a question of authority, status (e.g. in texts from a teachers’ handbook – “Check students’ understanding of topic”) or expertise (e.g. in texts like manuals – “Insert the batteries”).
The interrogative mood may reflect the right of the writer to demand information from the reader (i.e. assuming authority).
On the other hand, questioning may assume that the reader possess knowledge which the writer does not have but wishes to have. In this case, the reader is positioned as something of an expert.
In a written text (where there is no opportunity for the reader to reply to them), questions can often be used to keep the channels of communication open. Two kinds of questions may be used in such texts:
Expository question (a question which the writer goes on to answer): a way of introducing or stimulating interest in an issue or discourse topic;
Rhetorical question (a question that does not demand an answer): the answer is supposed to be common knowledge, or to make an indirect statement.
The declarative mood may indicate that the author is claiming higher status or expertise than the reader, i.e. setting themselves up as an ‘authority’ or ‘expert’.
The authority / status or expertise can be reflected in the degree of assertiveness which is often indicated by modality.
Modality is the expression of the writer’s attitudes or comments towards a proposition (e.g. different degrees of possibility, obligation, frequency etc.) through the use of:
The use of modal constructions can vary the forcefulness of a demand or the assertiveness of a statement to different degrees.
Different degrees of assertiveness suggested by a text can convey different kinds of interpersonal relationship between the writer and reader.
For example, the use of expressions related to a high degree of modality will increase the strength of a claim, and thus can indicate the higher degree of authoritativeness or expertise assumed by the writer.
The interpersonal meaning can also be expressed through the use of pronouns. Choices of pronoun in a text will affect the degree of ‘distance’ or ‘closeness’ between the writer and reader.
Selection of personal pronouns (e.g. “I”, “we”, “you”) can project the closeness between the writer and reader. It may indicate the writer’s attempts to explicitly engage their readers or to invoke reader participation.
The reduced use of personal pronouns can project the formality or ‘distance’ between the writer and reader. It can also be an indication of the writer’s explicit stance towards the topic.
The use of the pronoun “we” can create a context in which the writer assumes that her readers agree with her, or it can indicate the writer’s attempt to include the reader in the group referred to (inclusive we).
On the other hand “we” can refer to a group to which the reader does not belong. The exclusive we is especially common when the writer represents an institution of which the reader is not a member.
“You” can be used to make a direct address to the reader, creating a context into which the reader may enter the position of the ideal reader constructed in the mind of the writer. The use of “you” to address a mass audience as though they were individuals is common in advertising.
Incomplete sentences (minor sentences) may be used in a written text as a way to imitate spoken language. when a sentence is incomplete, the reader has to supply the missing information.
In other words, incomplete sentences assume that writer and reader share information which does not need to be explicitly spelled out. This can make a text appear more personal, and help create closer social relationships between the writer and reader.
The choice of a particular word among those with the same conceptual meaning but different emotive meanings can reflect the different degree of emotion, i.e. the intensity of like or dislike of what is being talked about. Hence it can denote the writer’s positive or negative attitudes and judgements.
The writer’s commitment to or view of a proposition can be conveyed by the choice of the reporting verb.
For example, the use of reporting verbs such as “shown”, “found”, “obtained”, “revealed” can reflect a positive attitudes towards findings in a research article.
Similarly, the journalist’s impression of how words were said or what value to ascribe to them can be conveyed through the choice of reporting verb, e.g. “spat, out”, “demanded” instead of the commonly used “said”.