Compound syntactic unit in the interpretation of O.M. Peshkovsky

Compound syntactic unit in the interpretation of O.M. Peshkovsky

Olexandr Matviyovych Peshkovsky (1878-1933) was another Russian scholar, who focused his attention on the analysis of the language phenomena, going beyond the limits of a separate sentence. His main work “Russian Syntax in Scientific Light,” was first published in 1914 and then several times afterwards.

O. Peshkovsky’s research expanded the circle of facts, related to the sphere of grammar. He was the first to emphasize that intonation could be a grammatical means. His name is closely connected’ with the widely-known “principle of transposition”, which was formulated by the author in the article “Intonation and Grammar”. “The clearer is the way of expression of any syntactical meaning with the help of grammatical means, the weaker is its intonational expression (up to the possibility of its total reduction), and vice versa, the stronger is the intonational expression, the weaker is the grammatical one (up to its absolute reduction)”. Although this principle does not have total experimental confirmation, it influenced greatly the development of intonation studies.

O. Peshkovsky introduced into the linguistic use the notion of the compound unity. According to him, the more complicated is the syntactic unit, which is reinforced by the intonation and rhythm, the more significant is the role of intonation and rhythm in language. The scholar defined compound unity as “the combination of sentences, joined by conjunctions, conjunction words or conjunction syntactical pauses and not detached by the disjunctive syntactical pauses”. Besides the pauses, which exist within the compound unity, there are also pauses between the separate complex unities.

O. Peshkovsky considered that speech consists of the entirely irregular alteration of separate sentences and complex entities. The basic intonational unit is neither a sentence nor a complex entity, but a certain unit, alternatively complex and simple in grammatical sense. It happens because, those sentences, that constitute the complex entities, are intonationally, dependent ones and can sometimes intonationally merge with the neighbouring parts of their complex entities. Moreover, a separate (single) sentence may appear to be intonationally complete. O. Peshkovsky suggested that this unit should be named “intonational unity” or “phrase”. He defined “phrase” as “every segment of speech from one separating pause to another, irrespective of the number of sentences constituting it”.

Traditional understanding of sentence and phrase undergoes changes in the scholar’s unusual interpretation:

l) a phrase is always, either a sentence or a complex of sentences;
2) a sentence is in most instances a phrase (simple or compound or partial) and only in some cases does not form an intonational unity;
3) a complex of sentences (“complex unity”) is always a phrase (complex, or simple);
4) a partial phrase is always either a sentence within the complex unity or syntactically united group of members within a single sentence.

Thus, O. Peshkovsky closely approached the problem of systematic study of constituting features of a text. His contemplations about the compound unity are based on the intuitive understanding of the fact that speech, as the linearly organized sequence of language units, is arranged according to certain rules. These rules work not only within a separate sentence, but within large segments of speech as well.

Further on, scholar’s ideas about the necessity of singling out and describing language unities, larger than the sentence, were developed by A. I. Belich, N.S. Pospelov, I.A. Figurovsky and others. N.S. Pospelov’s words give the most vivid illustration of O. Peshkovsky’s ideas: “In the process of analysis of syntactical arrangement of connected speech it’s necessary to start not with the sentence, but with the compound syntactical unity because the syntactical unity is more independent of the context of connected speech”.