The last few years have seen a rapid development of various new methods of linguistic investigation, and there is a great variety of views as to their merits.
Briefly, the three main positions in this field may be summarised as follows:
(1) Some scholars think that the new methods now appearing mark the beginnings of linguistics as a science and that everything
that was done earlier in linguistics belongs to a "prescientific age".
(2) Other scholars are sceptical about the new methods and think that they tend to lead linguistic science away from its proper tasks and to replace it by something incompatible NEW METHODS with its essential character.
(3) There is the view that the new methods mark a new period in the development of linguistics, and should be tried out, without implying that everything done in earlier periods should therefore be considered as valueless and "prescientific".
Without going into details about this discussion we will merely . state that the view mentioned last appears to be the most reasonable one and the one likely to prevail in the long run, as has more than once been seen in the history of different branches of learning.
We will therefore keep in our treatment of English NEW METHODS grammatical structure many ideas and terms inherited from traditional grammar, such as, for instance, the theory of the parts of speech and parts of the sentence, and at the same time point out what new light is shed on these problems by recently developed methods, and what change the formulation of the very issues should undergo in the light of the new ideas. It will not be too much to say that a considerable number of familiar statements about grammatical facts cannot now be upheld without essential modification, and it would be pointless to ignore this fact. On the other NEW METHODS hand, much of what is convincing and useful in the new views has not yet attained a shape which would make it convenient for presentation in a textbook like the present. It will therefore be our task to introduce the reader at least to some of these problems, and to help him prepare for reading the numerous special treatises on these subjects.
What appears to be most essential in the light of new ideas which tend to make linguistics something like an exact science, is a distinction between problems admitting of a definite solution which can be convincingly demonstrated NEW METHODS and cannot be denied, and problems admitting of various opinions, rather than of a definite solution. This must not be taken to mean that problems of the second kind should be abandoned: they should be further discussed and their discussion is likely to be fruitful. The point is that an opinion, which can exist side by side with another opinion, should not be presented as a final solution admitting of no alternative. It is especially in the sphere of syntax that problems admitting of various opinions rather than of definite solutions are to be found.
Although in some NEW METHODS cases the line between the two sets of problems may be rather hard to draw, the basic difference between them should be always kept in mind. This will help the student to put both the problems themselves and the views of different authors in the proper perspective.
Ore Grammatical Statements 9
In discussing grammatical categories, we shall often have to mention oppositions, that is, pairs of grammatical forms opposed to each other in some way. A simple case in point is the opposition between the singular and the plural number in nouns, with their definite meanings: one as against more than one NEW METHODS.
It is often found that of two members of an opposition one has quite a definite meaning, whereas the meaning of the other is less definite, or vague. This is found, for instance, in the opposition between the forms was writing and wrote: the meaning of the form was writing is quite definite, while that of the form wrote is hard even to define. The terms usual for such cases are, "marked" and "unmarked". Thus, the form was writing is the marked, and the form wrote, the unmarked member of the opposition. We shall have more than one occasion NEW METHODS to apply these terms.