Sunday, July 31, 2011

Predication Primer

This is meant as a supplement to my comments of three posts ago (“Esoteric”). It provides some general background.

A sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. A subject specifies what the sentence is about. A predicate says something about it.
A subject uses a noun to refer to something. A predicate uses a verb to express something that is done – by the thing specified in the subject.
There two kinds of verbs, transitive and intransitive. A transitive verb takes a direct object. This is because a transitive verb expresses action done to something. The thing on which action (as expressed by the verb) is taken (or performed) is referred to by the direct object of the (transitive) verb. This is, of course, a noun. Consequently, a sentence featuring a transitive verb has two nouns: one used by the subject and one used by the predicate. The structure of the sentence may be represented as: noun—>verb—>noun. (Example: Yosi hits a ball.)
An intransitive verb differs from a transitive one in that it does not take an object. The action expressed is, so to say, self-contained. With an intransitive verb, the sentence structure looks like: noun—>verb. (Example: Yosi sits.)
We have thus far considered the basic sentential components of subject and predicate and the words from which they are built – noun and verb. For added accuracy, we would do better to speak not of nouns and verbs but of noun phrases and verb phrases. Here we want to introduce a third type of phrase: a prepositional phrase.
A prepositional phrase may be appended to a noun or to a verb. In what follows, I will be interested solely in its attachment to a verb. It has two parts: preposition and object of the preposition. You all know what a preposition is; so there’s no need for me to elaborate on it. Suffice it to say, a preposition shares something important with a transitive verb, namely, that it takes an object (which in the case of a verb we refer to as a direct object). Needless to say, this object is represented by a noun.
A prepositional phrase may be appended to an intransitive verb (here we are not interested in its application to a transitive verb). When it is so appended, it yields the sentence structure: noun—>verb—>preposition—>noun. (Example: Yosi sits on a chair.) With this result, the (intransitive) verb is found to relate, indirectly, to the object of the preposition.

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