Meaning and Functions of Adverbs in Modern English


Having been neglected for a long time. adverbs and adverbials have recently moved into the center of attention of quite a number of syntacticians and semanticists. Adverbs provide an interesting field for study. Having once been identified as ‘perhaps the least studied and most maligned part of speech’, the adverb has been widely investigated since, with little agreement arising. In English, adverbs seem to be both freely occurring and highly restricted in terms of distribution. Theories have been put forth in both the syntactic and semantic realms proposing dependency of adverb placement on specialized rules that access certain semantic factors of the adverbs themselves, on feature checking with predetermined nodes of attachment, and on scoping relations amongst adverbs themselves and amongst adverbs and verbs.

Among the disputable question of the structure of Modern English the problem of classification of adverbs is one of the most important, the one which is very complex and seem to be relevant to a number of aspects. The problems of defining adverbs as a class constitutes one of the stumbling-blocks in studying the language, because they comprise a most heterogeneous group of words, and there is considerable overlap between the class and other word classes. They have many kinds of form, meaning and function.

There exist a large amount of literature on this topic. Resent years were marked with a special interest to problem of distinguishing different classifications and functions of adverbs. Works of modern linguists helps us to understand the problem. Still most of the aspects appear to be disputable.

The variety approaches to the problem of classification of adverbs, the peculiarities of using them, and distinguishing different functions of adverbs have determined the subject matter of this research.

The aim of research consists in the frequency of using different types of adverbs and searching their functions in the language.

The objective is to investigate the variety of forms of adverbs, to discover the frequency of using adverbs in different functions .

Practical study was based on the selections of the examples from “White Fang ” by Jack London.

The result of the investigation could be particularly applied to teaching English as a foreign language, teaching English Grammar, Lexicology and Stylistics.

The research paper consists of introduction, two chapters, conclusions, and references.



The notion of adverb in English grammar

The etymology of the word ‘adverb’ is the Latin ‘ad-‘ meaning ‘to’ and ‘uerbum’, a verb or word. An adverb is usually attached to a verb, modifying or qualifying it. It tells us the way in which the action of the verb is carried out. It may also modify an adjective.

So the adverb is usually defined as a word expressing either property of an action, or property of another property, or circumstances in which an action occurs. This definition, though certainly informative and instructive, fails to directly point out the relation between the adverb and the adjec­tive as the primary qualifying part of speech.

In an attempt to overcome this drawback, let us define the adverb as a notional word expressing a non-substantive property, that is, a property of a non-substantive referent. This formula immediately shows the actual correlation be­tween the adverb and the adjective, since the adjective is a word expressing a substantive property.

Properties may be of a more particular, “organic” order, and a more general and detached, “inorganic” order. Of the organic properties, the adverb denotes those characterizing processes and other properties. Of the inorganic properties, the adverb denotes various circumstantial characteristics of processes or whole situations built around processes.

The above definition, approaching the adverb as a word of the secondary qualifying order, presents the entire class of adverbial words as the least self-dependent of all the four notional parts of speech. Indeed, as has been repeatedly point­ed out, the truly complete nominative value is inherent only in the noun, which is the name of substances. The verb comes next in its self-dependent nominative force, expressing processes as dynamic relations of substances, i.e. their dy­namic relational properties in the broad sense. After that follow qualifying parts of speech — first the adjective de­noting qualifications of substances, and then the adverb denoting qualifications of non-substantive phenomena which find themselves within the range of notional signification.

As we see, the adverb is characterized by its own, specif­ic nominative value, providing for its inalienable status in the system of the parts of speech. Hence, the complaints of some linguists that the adverb is not rigorously defined and in fact presents something like a “dump” for those words which have been rejected by other parts of speech can hardly be taken as fully justified. On the other hand, since the ad­verb does denote qualifications of the second order, not of the first one like the adjective, it includes a great number of semantically weakened words which are in fact interme­diate between notional and functional lexemes by their sta­tus and often display features of pronominal nature.

So we may say that the adverb is a word denoting circumstances or characteristics which attend or modify an action, state, or quality. It may also intensify a quality or characteristics.

From this definition it is difficult to define adverbs as a class, because they comprise a most heterogeneous group of words, and there is considerable overlap between the class and other word classes. They have many kinds of form, meaning and function. Alongside such undoubtful adverbs as here, now, often, seldom, always, there are many others which all function as words of other classes. Thus, adverbs like dead (dead tired), clear (to get clear away), clean (I’ve clean forgotten), slow, easy (he would say that slow and easy) coincide with corresponding adjectives (a dead body, clear waters, clean hands). Adverbs like past, above are homonymous with prepositions. There is also a special group of pronominal adverbs when, when how, why used either as interrogative words or as connectives to introduce subordinate clauses.