A side view of syntactic constancy of adverbials between English and Czech


Místo vydání:

Rok vydání:




This paper is part of a long-term inquiry into interlingual constancy of clause elements, investigated on the basis of parallel English and Czech texts. The study was undertaken on the assumption that syntactic structure is subordinate to the FSP structure, whose major principle is final placement of the focal element, i.e. the principle of end focus (cf. Quirk et el. 1985:18.3), or the basic distribution of communicative dynamism, in domestic terms. However, in different languages this principle applies in a different degree, depending on the character of the respective language system, in particular on the type of word order connected with it. For English as a language with fixed word order it was accordingly assumed that if the principle of end focus is to be complied with, the syntactic function of a clause element must be consistent with its regular sentence position. This constraint does not apply to Czech, which has free word order, and is hence largely free to order sentence elements according to their FSP function, irrespective of their function in the syntactic structure of the sentence. Sentences with basic distribution of communicative dynamism in both languages could thus be expected to display the same ordering of semantic elements, but syntactically divergent where the sentence position of an element is inconsistent with a particular syntactic function in English. However, this assumption is not to be overestimated insofar as the final or postverbal position in English sentences appears to be occupied, not infrequently, by thematic elements as well (cf. Dušková 1999b:253-55). The fact that English, in consequence of its fixed word order, is less disposed to comply with the principle of end focus than languages with free word order passes unnoticed in works by English writers, and it is due to Jan Firbas that instances of noncompliance with the principle of end focus, or basic distribution of communicative dynamism, have been identified and explained from the viewpoint of functional sentence perspective. Nevertheless, the aim of this paper is to provide evidence in support of the first tendency, i.e. the observation of the principle of end focus in English, even though it holds at the same time that in a noticeable number of instances thematic elements are found at the end.


Dušková, L. (1986) 'A Note on the Thematic Character of the Subject in English in Comparison with Czech', Prague Studies in Mathematical Linguistics 9, Prague: Academia: 92-105. Reprinted in Dušková 1999a, Chapter 33.
Dušková, L. (1999a) Studies in the English Language 2, Prague: Karolinum – Charles University Press.
Dušková, L. (1999b) 'Basic Distribution of Communicative Dynamism vs. Nonlinear Indication of Functional Sentence Perspective' in Hajičová E. et al. (eds) Travaux du Cercle linguistique de Prague n. s., Prague Linguistic Circle Papers 3, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins: 249-61.
Dušková, L. (2002) 'Constancy of Syntactic Function Across Languages' in Hladký, J. (ed.) Language and Function. To the Memory of Jan Firbas. Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics 49. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins: 135-53.
Dušková, L. (in press) 'Syntactic Constancy of Adverbials between English and Czech', Prague Studies in English 23.
Firbas, Jan (1992) Functional Sentence Perspective in Written and Spoken Communication, Cambridge: University Press.
Hladký, J. (1961) 'Remarks on Complex Condensation Phenomena in Some English and Czech Contexts', Brno Studies in English 1:105-18.
Klégr, Aleš (1996) The Noun in Translation, Prague: Karolinum - Charles University Press.
Komárkova, J. (2000) 'Constancy of Syntactic Function'. Unpublished seminar paper. Prague: Department of English and American Studies, Charles University.
Koubová, V. (2002) 'Větněčlenská konstantnost příslovečného určení mezi češtinou a angličtinou' (Syntactic constancy of adverbials between English and Czech). Unpublished seminar paper. Prague: Department of English and American Studies, Charles University.
Mathesius, V. (1947) 'O funkci podmětu' (On the function of the subject) in Čeština a obecný jazykozpyt, Praha: Melantrich: 277-85.
Mathesius, Vilém (1975) A Functional Analysis of Present Day English on a General Linguistic Basis. Prague: Academia.
Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G. and Svartvik, J. (1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.
Vachek, J. (1961) 'Some Less Familiar Aspects of the Analytical Trend of English', Brno Studies in English 1:9-78.