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TRANSPOSITIONS AND FUNCTIONAL RE-EVALUATION OF SYNTACTIC STRUCTURES


Observations on the contextual use of various sentence-patterns furnish numerous examples of re-interpretation of syntactic structures by which we mean stylistic transpositions resulting in neutralisation of primary grammatical meaning.
The asymmetric dualism of the linguistic sign1 appears to be natural and is fairly common at different levels of language.
The linguistic mechanism, prosodic features in particular, work naturally in many ways to prevent ambiguity in such patterns of grammatical structure.
Expressive re-evaluation of sentences can be connected with shifts of their syntactic content.
Such is the use of the so-called pseudo-subclauses of comparison, time and condition which in transposition function as independent units of communication. A few typical examples are:
As if I ever told him about it!
Syn. I never told him about it.
Higgins: As if I ever stop thinking about the girl and her confounded vowels and consonants. (Shaw)
Cf. syn. I never stop thinking...
Cf. "Я не писал Вам писем..." "Ну-да", хохотала девица. "Как-буд-то я не знаю Вашего почерка". (Чехов)
"As if it wasn't trouble enough hatching the eggs", said the Pigeon, "but I must be on the lookout for serpents night and day." (Garroll)
"Me, indeed!"—cried the Mouse who was trembling down to the end of his tail.
"As if I would talk on such a subject!" (Carroll)
Examples of pseudo-subclauses of condition functioning as independent units are:
"Well, if you aren't a wonder," Drouet was saying, complacently, squeezing Carrie's arm. "You are the dandiest little girl on earth." (Dreiser)
If there isn't Captain Donnithorne a-coming into the yard! (Eliot) — here the direct and the indirect negations cancel each other, the result being positive (he is coming).
A special case of functional re-evaluation of sub-clauses of condition will be found in "wish-sentences":
That wasn't what he had meant to say. If only he knew more, if only he could make others feel that vision, make them understand how they were duped into hatred under the guise of loyalty and duty. (Aldington)
If only Fleur and he had met on some desert island without a past — and Nature for their house! (Galsworthy)
1 See: S. Karcevsky. Dualisme asymetrique du signe linguistique. TCLP. Prague, 1929.
280In sentence-patterns of this type the idea of the principal clause seems to be suppressed, but they occur so often that at last we hardly think of what is left out, the remaining part becomes a regular idiomatic expression which we must recognise as a complete sentence, an independent unit of communication.
Even without any continuation the if-clause is taken at more than its face-value and becomes to speaker or hearer alike, a complete expression of wish.
Like in some other types of sentence-patterning such contextual variations are not specifically English and may be traced in many languages.
Compare analogous developments in Russian and Ukrainian:
Ax, кабы зимою цветы расцветали!
Как бы мы любили, да не разлюбляли. (А. Толстой)
Ой, якби зимою квіти розквітали!
Sub-clauses of time are syntactically re-evaluated in patterns like the following:
Oh, when she plays!
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Источник: N. M. RAYEVSKA. MODERN ENGLISH GRAMMAR. 1976 {original}

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