Semantics of Parcelled Specifying Constructions in Different Functional Styles of Modern English

 © The Editorial Council and Editorial Board of Linguistic Studies

Linguistic Studies
Volume 33, 2017, pp.  61-65

Semantics of Parcelled Specifying Constructions in Different Functional Styles of Modern English

Solodovnyk Oksana

Article first published online: September 1, 2017 

Additional information

 Author Information: 

Solodovnyk Oksana, postgraduate student in comparative-historical and typological linguistics and a teacher of the English language at the Faculty of Foreign Languages at Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University in Vinnytsia. Correspondence:

Solodovnyk, O. Semantics of Parcelled Specifying Constructions in Different Functional Styles of Modern English [Text] // Linhvistychni Studiyi / Linguistic Studies : collection of scientific papers / Donetsk National University; Ed. by Anatoliy Zahnitko. Vinnytsia : Vasyl' Stus DonNU, 2017. Vol. 33. Pp. 61-65. ISBN 966-7277-88-7

Publication History:

Volume first published online: September 1, 2017
Article received: March 24, 2017, accepted: April 10, 2017 and first published online: September 1, 2017


У даній статі проаналізована семантика уточнень на рівні парцельованих конструкцій у публіцистичному, художньому та розмовному стилях сучасної англійської мови. Виокремлено та охарактеризовано дев’ять семантичних груп уточнень залежно від змістового наповнення компонентів конструкцій.

Keywords: parcelled specifying construction, specifying construction, semantical analysis, functional style.



Oksana Solodovnyk

Department of Theory and Practice of Translation, Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University, Vinnytsia, Ukraine


Background: The research of the detached specifying construction as a recently analysed language category provides more data on the process of formation and manifestation of human thoughts in the course of speech. Parcelled specifying constructions that contribute to the broadening of the understanding of this phenomenon.

Purpose: The article is aimed at the analysis of parcelled specifying constructions semantics in different functional styles of modern English.

Results: Specifying parcelled constructions are one of the means of expression of specifying constructions. Specifying constructions being a logical-syntactical category, there are two parts of the construction, i.e. specified and specifying, which are not equivalent. Thus, specifying relations between the components of the parcelled specifying construction can be expressed through detalization and comparison.

Detalization is a specialized means of expressing specifying relations and, thus, demonstrated the highest productivity in all the analysed texts of each functional style, whereas examples of comparative parcelled specifying constructions are rare and appeared in colloquial style only.

 Hence there were singled out and analysed nine semantical groups of the investigated linguistic phenomenon basing on the meaning of the constructions’ components. However, the productivity of these groups varies depending on the functional style and individuality of the author.

Discussion: The study of specifying constructions and parcelled specifying constructions as its subgroup is important due to the proximity of this phenomenon to the speech formation. Thus, the study of this category should be continued basing on other functional styles with subsequent coverage of different aspects and peculiarities of the former.

Keywords: parcelled specifying construction, specifying construction, semantical analysis, functional style.


Oksana Solodovnyk is a postgraduate student in comparative-historical and typological linguistics and a teacher of the English language at the Faculty of Foreign Languages at Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University in Vinnytsia. Her areas of research interest include comparative linguistics, stylistic problems of translation, and functional grammar.



Оксана Солодовник

УДК 81’367.7 – 81’37



У даній статі проаналізована семантика уточнень на рівні парцельованих конструкцій у публіцистичному, художньому та розмовному стилях сучасної англійської мови. Виокремлено та охарактеризовано дев’ять семантичних груп уточнень залежно від змістового наповнення компонентів конструкцій.

Ключові слова: уточнювальна конструкція, парцельована конструкція, конкретизація, порівняння, семантичний аналіз, функціональний стиль.


With the development of the linguistics studies, a lot of formerly unexamined issues are in the spotlight nowadays. One of these issues is the study of the specifying construction which dates back to the middle of the XX century in Soviet and eventually Post-soviet research area. The study of this relatively new language category starts from the diligent examining of specifying apposition by a few Soviet linguists, such as Oleksandr Peshkovskyi and Oleksiy Rudnev. Their theories resonated with quite a few pieces of research in this area which resulted in singling out specifying construction as a standalone category within linguistics. Here belongs Mariya Shatukh who suggested using the term ‘specifying construction’ for the first time and some others. However, the given category acquired some distinct characteristics that defined clear ambits among other related categories only in the beginning of the XXI century. The modern researches made by Tetyana Funtova, Mar`yana Olenyak and Lyudmyla Zakharova provide a rather exhaustive set of formal and semantic characteristics that enable us to single out and define a specifying construction.

Though quite fundamental studies on the specifying construction have been carried out, another facet of this language phenomenon has not been examined so far. In all the previous studies of the given category the authors considered only the instances of specifying construction within a sentence. This subjected the study of the category to intense scrutiny. However, the borders of studying this category can be broadened if to consider it not within a sentence, but within an utterance. This approach determines the novelty and relevance of the suggested topic.

According to Mikhail Bakhtin, an utterance is a unit in speech communication that is not constrained by the formal limits of a sentence and that is still considered to be semantically complete, driven by the speaker’s intentions and characterized by the typical forms of completeness of a corresponding genre (Bakhtin). This approach in studying the specifying construction has been chosen in the current research since specifying relations are referred not only to the parts of a sentence. As a matter of fact, they can relate the parts of the utterance since specifying construction is very close to unintentional speech situations in its nature. Hence specifying relations can characterize parcelled constructions that enable us to speak of specifying construction within parcelled constructions.

A parcelled construction is defined in the given research as a way of shaping a syntactic structure, i.e. a sentence, by means of few communicative units (Shulzhuk 108). Another Ukrainian linguist Anatoliy Zahnitko points out that the phenomenon of parcellation is a speech standard of social character that is considered as a certain speech norm (Zahnitko 466). It is, though, a transitive phenomenon that founds itself on the borderline between the language and the speech, being a secondary speech standard and hence coexisting with the primary standards. However, specifying relations are not the only possible relations between the components of the parcelled constructions. Though in the given research the attention is drawn exactly to this kind of relations.

Since specifying construction is a speech formation, which is closely related to logics because of its connection to human’s thought processes and unintentional speech acts it can be treated as a logical-syntactical category. This means that the analyzed category always consists of two components at a minimum, one being specified and the other – specifying. In parcelled constructions the first component is localized in the first, i.e. basic part of the construction, and the latter corresponds with the second, i.e. parcelled component. For example: Perhaps, I told myself, I could present him with this actual blotter sheet. Framed? Folded? Scrumpled up? (McCarthy 23). So, the specified component this actual blotter sheet is placed in the basic part of the parcelled construction while the specifying components framed, folded and scrumpled up are localized in the parcelled components.

The results of the analysis of such parcelled constructions with palpable specifying relations between their components testify for the semantic diversity of these constructions. Thus, the aim of the article is to characterize semantic peculiarities of specifying construction within parcelled ones in different functional styles of the modern English language.

The empiric material examined for carrying out the current research is 235.000 symbols of the text of newspaper, belles-lettres and colloquial functional styles of the English language.

Before focusing on the semantic analysis of the specifying constructions represented within the parcelled constructions it should be pointed out that there exist different kinds of expression of specifying relation. This accounts for the fact that the creation of the specifying relations between two notions requires an obligatory condition: these notions must be inequivalent. The realization of this condition excludes all the possible contextual alternatives, which can be carried out by different means. The logical-semantic peculiarities of the components thus define the means of excluding the contextual alternatives. It can be detalization, generalization, comparison and contraposition.

Specifying parcelled constructions being the peripheral structural means demonstrate only two ways of expressing the specifying relations on this level. Thus, detalization as a specialized means of expressing specifying relations has manifested the highest productivity, while the occurrence of comparison as an unspecialized and marked means of expressing specifying relations is rare.

All the instances of parcelled constructions with implied specifying relations within the material of the research reflect some realia expressed in their components, e.g. actions, objects and their characteristics, the place of an action etc. Hence, this makes it possible to single out some semantic groups of the linguistic phenomenon under study.

Parcelled constructions which specifying relations are expressed by means of detalization are common for each of the investigated functional styles within the empirical material. However, the productivity of the occurrence of this kind of constructions varies.

Despite high productivity of specifying constructions in newspaper style parcelled constructions with implied specifying relations turn out to be least productive in this style. The only example of this construction happens to belong to the group of self-correcting specifying constructions referring to some action. In other words, the action expressed by the specified component is detalized in the specifying one by means of the author’s correction of tense which gives additional and more significant information about the action. For example: Britain, America’s putative best friend in Europe, was already reading the president’s telegrams and much more. So were the other major European powers, to whatever extent they could manage (Economist 52).

The belles-lettres functional style is on the contrary illustrative of the parcelled constructions with implied specifying relations expressed with detalization. In this functional style it is possible to distinguish between a number of semantic groups depending on the sense bearing capacity of the components, like:

1)    Explanatory parcelled specifying constructions that explain the details of the action highlighting its peculiar characteristics. For example: About three days after the funeral, I cornered Madison. Confronted her. Pinned her down (McCarthy 39).

2)    Personal parcelled specifying constructions that provide more details about a personality. For example: The famous philosopher, she answered. Kierkegaard or Schopenhauer or someone; the one who said that God was dead (McCarthy 102).

3)    Parcelled specifying constructions concerned on status or profession differentiation of a person that provide more information on his/her social status or profession to avoid multiplicity of possible alternatives. For example: Robbed of flight, immobilized, humiliated in an almost ritual manner (and doesn’t the inversion make the custom even crueler? Feathers first, then pitch!), they become instant martyrs – and, in so becoming, are infused with all the pathos and nobility of tragic heroes. Living Pompeiians! Victims of the oil Gorgon (McCarthy 176).

4)    Qualitative parcelled specifying constructions that bring out the object’s additional quality to supplement to the quality in the specified component of the construction. For example: I started seeing the Project as nefarious. Sinister. Dangerous. In fact, downright evil (McCarthy 47).

5)    Parcelled specifying constructions of place used to provide additional, more detailed information about the locality mentioned in the utterance and to complement spatial coordinates. For example: One evening, a few years ago, I found myself stuck in Turin. Not in the city, but the airport: Torino-Caselle (McCarthy 14).

6)    Parcelled specifying constructions of object detalization are aimed at pointing out the additional characteristics or description of an inanimate object. What makes this semantic group distinct from the other groups is the fact that the specified component is expressed by a noun to denote an object and the specifying component is expressed by an attribute, attributive phrase or attributive clause, meaning that the components of the construction do not perform the same function in the sentence. For example: Perhaps, I told myself, I could present him with this actual blotter sheet. Framed? Folded? Scrumpled up? (McCarthy 167).

The colloquial style demonstrates fewer examples of the linguistic phenomenon in question, however, it also appears to be rather illustrative of different semantic groups, like:

1)         Explanatory constructions that provide an explanation of the action of the utterance. For example: I thought about trimming the top off but it felt like I was castrating Christmas, you know? Chopping Santa’s bollocks off (Peep Show).

2)         Personal constructions used for specifying personality peculiarities of the human. For example: I am such a good friend. And person (Peep Show).

3)         Status or profession differentiation parcelled specifying constructions that are aimed at detalization of a social or professional status of the person. For example: Well, I-I was thinking about an introduction agency for the discerning single professional. Business people, like us (Peep Show).

4)         Parcelled specifying constructions of degree that bring out the degree of the action implementation or manifestation. For example: Ill take good care of her. Very, very good care indeed (Peep Show).

5)         Object detalization parcelled specifying constructions highlighting characteristics of the object in the specified component of the construction. For example: Yes, thats my niche. Shitting and washing (Peep Show).

However, it is peculiar of colloquial style that appears to be the only style illustrative of parcelled constructions which specifying relations are expressed by means of comparison. This kind of specifying construction first and foremost has special language characteristics, i.e. the comparison markers like, as if, as though and corresponding intonation peculiar of specification. The results of the analysis testify for the only one semantic group of this kind of specifying constructions in colloquial style, they are the parcelled specifying constructions of manner, i.e. those providing information regarding the manner of an action expressed in the specified component by means of comparison. For example: Are we doing a deal? A grubby deal? Like oilmen or corrupt councillors? (Peep Show)

By way of illustration the results of the analysis are provided in the following table:

Table 1.

Specifying Parcelled Constructions Semantic Groups Quantitative Correlation

in Newspaper, Belles-lettres, and Colloquial Styles of the English Language

item No.

Semantic Group

Newspaper Style

Belles-lettres Style

Colloquial Style

















1 (100%)









2 (15%)

1 (12,5%)



1 (8%)

1 (12,5%)


Status or profession differentiation



2 (15%)


1 (12,5%)



3 (23%)



1 (8%)


Object detalization

4 (31%)


4 (50%)



1 (12,5%)



2 (100%)



1 (100%)


13 (100%)


8 (100%)

2 (100%)


Thus, parcelled specifying constructions are not a prevailing type of specifying construction compared to the specifying constructions within one sentence. However, the results of the analysis of the factual material attest to the fact that the numerous examples of the former are sufficient enough not only to differentiate them as one of the ways of specifying constructions formation, but also to arrange them into semantic groups in regard with the meaning of their components. The least illustrative of semantic groups style appears to be the newspaper style and the most illustrative is the belles-lettres functional style, whereas the colloquial style is marked by the examples of comparative specifying constructions. The belles-letters style, thus, proves to be more conducive for using specifying constructions as the author has time to prepare the statement and enjoys the most freedom in expressing his thoughts whilst the newspaper style is more restricting. Another reason for the newspaper style demonstrating low productivity of specifying parcelled constructions relates to the fact that the newspaper style is aimed at delivering clear-cut and blunt information. The style is formulaic and rather conventional with least possible instances of figurality or ambiguity that simplifies perception of the information on the first try. The belles-lettres style, however, is aimed at stirring up reader’s sensitive perception presupposing that fiction literature can be consumed as a relaxing leisure time activity.

Consequently, such peripheral and unconventional means as a specifying parcelled construction is characteristic rather of the belles-lettres style than of the newspaper one. The colloquial style in its turn is aimed at promptness of the phrasing thus it turns out to be not particularly illustrative of the category in question. Still it would not be amiss to mention that all peculiarities are surely dependent on the personal style of the author and his / her skills of using the language.



Bakhtin, Mikhail. "Problema rechevyh zhanrov."Sbornik sochinenij. Vol. 5: Raboty 1940-1960 gg. Moskva: Russkie slovari, 1996. 159-206. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Funtova, Tetyana. Lohiko-syntaksychna katehoriya utochnennya v suchasniy rosiyskiy movi. Diss. Tavriyskyy natsionalnyy universytet im. V.I.Vernadskoho, 2002. Simferopol: n.p., 2002. Print.

Olenyak, Mar’yana. Semantyko-syntaksychni funktsiyi utochnennya v anhliyskiy, ukrayinskiy ta polskiy movakh. Diss. DonNU, 2011. Donetsk: n.p., 2011. Print.

Peshkovskij, Aleksandr. Russkij sintaksis v nauchnom osveshhenii. Moskva: Uchpedgiz, 1956. Print.

Rudnev, Aleksej. Sintaksis sovremennogo russkogo jazyka. Moskva: Vyssh. shk., 1968. Print.

Shatukh, Marija. "Utochnjajushhie chleny predlozhenija kak osobaja sintaksicheskaja kategorija."Russkij jazyk v shkole 1959: 31-35. Print.

Shulzhuk, Kalenyk. Syntaksys ukrainskoi movy. Akademiia: Kyiv, 2004. Print.

Zahnitko, Anatoliy. Teoretychna hramatyka ukrayins'koyi movy: Syntaksys. Donets'k: DonNU, 2001. Print.

Zakharova, Ljudmila. Obosoblennye vtorostepennye chleny predlozhenija so znacheniem utochnenija v sovremennom russkom literaturnom jazyke. Diss. Armavirskij gosudarstvennyj pedagogicheskij universitet, 2008. Armavir: n.p., 2008. Print.


List of Sources:

McCarthy, Tom. Satin Island: a novel. London: Vintage, 2016. Print.

Peep Show: series 7. Channel 4 DVD, 2010. Transcript.

The Economist, 2015: Volume 417, Number 8969. Print.

Надійшла до редакції 24 березня 2017 року.