grammatical language

What’s a Teacher to Do?

Tweet A common mistake made by my students is using “everyday” instead of “every day.” One (everyday) is an adjective, as in “That is an everyday concern of mine.”  The other is a noun modified by an adjective, as in “Every day I brush my teeth.” I thought my analysis was undeniably correct until I […]

Paying the Piper – the failure of American high schools

Tweet A second semester college student included this language in the third, and final, draft of her essay on “love and marriage.”  I like many other people are surprised by the amount of time couples stay together.  Not to mention adopting a child. After the final drafts had been turned in, I culled 22 similarly […]

Ambiguous modifiers

Tweet Here are some examples of sentences where a better placed prepositional phrase would lead to clarity, but a misplaced one leads to humor. They come from The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, by Steven Pinker. “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.  How he got in my pajamas I’ll never know,” […]

SVO-VSO-SOV sentences

Tweet Here is a sampler of sentences in different syntactical configurations, using English as the neutral language to follow the patterns.  English is an S(ubject)-V(erb)-O(bject) language. I am striving to get at the general principle here.  A true linguistic analysis would be more detailed. 1.  English (SVO):   I saw Megan. Welsh (VSO):     […]

Grammar and Syntax: Part Two

Tweet This is another of a perhaps infinite number of posts differentiating grammar from syntax, this time focusing on the definition of Syntax. Syntax is more interactive than grammar — grammar being a set of static rules in its traditional definition. Syntax studies the interrelationships between elements in a sentence, how a sentence is constructed, […]

Pronouns – the singular “they”

Tweet I have given my students the job of finding, within their lifetimes, a gender neutral pronoun other than the Queen’s one. Some suggestions have been thon, heer, ha, hs, hiser, shhe, and s/he. Though these might be logical, they don’t quite fit phonetically. We’ll have to try harder. How would you rewrite the C. S. […]

Grammar and Syntax (part one)

Tweet This is one of a perhaps infinite number of posts differentiating grammar from syntax.  Our understanding of the two words is evolving.  Grammar is a floppy term endowed with many meanings, depending on who is speaking, and in what context.  It is the broader of the two terms, grammar and syntax. Grammar has traditionally […]

Concrete and Grammatical Language

Tweet Looked at one way, there are two kinds of language, concrete and grammatical.  Concrete language consists of words that represent real objects or concepts — nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.  Grammatical language is definable by its function, not by its meaning; it links words, marks tense, and performs other supporting functions. In the sentence […]