Introduction To English Grammatical Categories

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Words – the constituents of sentences – do not just follow each other like the beads on a string or the carriages on a train; rather, they must be connected structurally and grammatically falling
into their right slots as the syntax of the language specifies.... For instance, a sentence like: the pig killed a rabbit and chewed it shows that the goes with pig rather than with killed and it
is more closely associated with chewed than with and, killed or rabbit. The combinatorial rule for achieving this is the major thrust of this introductory book. Written by one of the finest voices
in Creative Writing and Morpho-syntax – Terfa Meshach aptly captures the critical grammatical categories necessary for attaining competence and performance in communication and use of English.
About The Author Terfa Meshach is a graduate of English from the Benue State University, Makurdi, Nigeria; he has a Masters Degree in English Language. During his service year, he was the
President/Editor-In-Chief, Editorial Board, NYSC Katsina State; and the Editor-In-Chief, National Association of Catholic Corpers, Katsina State. He is the Author of Teaching and Understanding Made
Easy, The Super Hero, The Local Champion…Segmental and Suprasegmental Phonemes, The Intellectual Saviour, co-author of A Course Text in General English, and the co-translator of the novel – The
Legacy of our Forefathers. He is widely anthologised. Terfa is an Awards Winning Novelist and Best Critic, External Editor, Writers’ League, and the Editorial Consultant, The Quarry, Gwarinpa,
Abuja. He Lectures at Fidei Polytechnic Gboko, Abuja Campus. He is a Member, Association of Nigerian Authors. Terfa is a Compere – Master of Ceremony. For M.C and editorial consultation, he could
be reached on 07034806899 meshachterfa55@gmail.com

Table of Contents

Grammar

Submitted: June 15, 2018


CHAPTER ONE Grammar Introduction The word grammar can be used in several distinct but interrelated senses, especially when we consider that the term has a variety of applications. Fundamentally and
most commonly, it is used to mean a description of a language, that is, an explicit characterization of the structure of the sentences in a particular language. A grammatical characterization of
English, for instance, isolates and categorizes the basic linguistic elements found in English sentences; indicates how these elements are related to each other; and specifies the manner in which
they are arranged in larger units. In fact, Peter J. Binkert aptly captures this better when he opines that: [t]erms like noun and verb are examples of labels which grammarians have given to some
of these elements, and a statement like the subject of an English sentence precedes the predicate is an example of the kind of rule usually found in a grammar of English. In a second, more
technical, sense, the word grammar is used to mean a theory of language, that is, a system of hypotheses formulated to account for the various features of human language in general. For example,
one of the outstanding features of all human languages is the fact that each one consists of a potentially infinite number of sentences. (3) In effect, every human language, as Binkert asserts,
“…allows for CREATIVITY” (3). Although there are severe constraints on individual structures when they are combined to form complex sentences, every human language, Binkert, again confirms, “…is
RECURSIVE” (3). This means that there are structures that can repeat themselves indefinitely. He emphasizes that: …it is impossible to make a list of all of the sentences in the English language;
additions to any such list can always be made by combining the sentences one has already thought of with words like and, but, or, etc. There is no longest English sentence. For example, (9) could,
theoretically, be continued without end. (9) This is the cat that caught the rat that ate the mouse that lived in the house that Jack was in when he told Harry that Bill said that Mary wanted to
know if Sue would be able to tell her father that Jane hates fairy–tales because they make her think of an unfortunate experience which occurred one day when she was visiting her aunt in Idaho
and... (Binkert: 3-4) Funny as it may appear, Binkert’s elaborate illustrating example above clearly confirms the validity of this postulation on the notion of grammar. And we can conveniently
admit, from his submission, that these two uses of the word grammar, i.e., grammar as characterization of a particular language (e.g., English grammar) and grammar as a theory of human language
generally – Universal Grammar – are basic to all of the other more specialized or expanded uses of the word. In most schools of modern linguistics, for example, grammar, as a description of a
language, includes the study of sounds and the way sounds are related to meaning. This usage is merely an expansion of the more common one in which a grammar only describes the classification and
arrangement of the forms of a language – the Syntax. Moreover, it is important to realize that, although there is a distinction between grammar as description and grammar as theory, nevertheless,
each of these basic uses implies the other. Language remains a vital tool for communication in all facets of life. Every language has its phonemes that are combined into words for meaning making.
The most fundamental evidence for this position about how words behave is their distribution in language: where can the words appear; where would they produce grammatical sense and the intended
meaning or some kind of deviance? In common usage, a word refers to some kind of a linguistic unit, and words are combined into phrases, clauses, and sentences according to the syntax (the set of
rules or principles that govern how words are put together to form phrases, well-formed sequences of words) of that language. Besides the words, there are other smaller building blocks that syntax
manipulates; the way these units are combined is very regular, obeying the rules very similar to those that combine larger units of linguistic structure. Apart from coming in categories, words
contain morphemes, which must be combined in a regular, rule-governed fashion. Words, in every human language, come in categories such as nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions,
determiners, complementizers, quantifiers, and modifiers. Each of these categories needs to be refined and used with strict adherence to the syntactic rules of whatever language. In linguistics,
syntax is viewed as the study of the rules that govern the ways in which words combine to form phrases, clauses, and sentences. It is one of the major components of grammar. According to Noam
Chomsky: Syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages. Syntactic investigation of a given language has its goal [s-] the
construction of a grammar that can be viewed as a device of some sort for producing the sentences of the language under analysis. (27) The strength of Chomsky’s submission above is that words fall
into their right slots as determined by syntax and generate meaning. Anthony Burgess shares a similar observation when he posits that “[i]t is syntax that gives the words the power to relate with
each other in a sequence… to carry meaning—of whatever kind—as well as grow individually in just the right place” (27). Jim Miller (13), Radford Andrew (16), Carl Baker, Brian Roak and Richard
William (31), agree that syntax is basically the structure of sentences, which must follow certain structural rules in order to make sense. In English, for instance, the expressions: 1. Chicken
cockroach the chased fat the tiny 2. Need order to words sense make to they in appear sentence every do not make sense even though we can tell the meanings of the individual words therein. The
reason for this is because of non-syntactic structuring of the words in the expressions. However, the two sentences will make sense if they are rendered following basic syntactic structural rules
thus: 1. The fat Chicken chased the tiny Cockroach. 2. Words need order to make sense in every sentence they appear. Indeed, these sentences now make sense as they follow the structural rules of
English syntax. We know this because of the tacit knowledge of sentence structure, which makes us instinctively convinced that the first sentences do not make sense. It is with this knowledge that
this study investigates and does a syntactic analysis of police investigation reports written in English. Languages have rules, English inclusive, and the rules of English are its grammar. “The
reason for these rules”, Camie Andrew asserts, “is that a person needs to be able to speak an indeterminately large number of sentences in a lifetime. … The effort would be impossibly great if each
sentence had to be learnt separately” (21). He further adds that “[b]y learning the rules for connecting words [,] it is possible to create an infinite number of sentences, all of which are
meaningful to a person who knows the syntax” (22). The implication of Camie’s argument is that, it is possible to construct many sentences that the speaker has never heard in his entire life
before. Perhaps, the wordings may have been familiar, but for their structural rendition. It is stating the obvious to observe that a finite number of rules facilitate an infinite number of
sentences that can be simultaneously understood by both the speaker and the listener. In fact, in his elaborate explanation, Radford emphasises that: In order for these [syntax] rules to work with
any degree of success, the rules have to be precise and have to be consistently adhered to. These rules cover such things as: the way words are constructed: the way the endings of words are changed
according to context (inflection); the classification of words into parts of speech (nouns, verbs, pronouns…) the way parts of speech are connected together. (26) It can be inferred from Radford’s
submission above that the grammar of a language, English inclusive, has several components which can be described thus: (i) The phonetics which governs the structure of sounds; (ii) The morphology
which governs the structure of words; (iii) The syntax which governs the structure of sentences; (iv) The semantics, which governs the meanings of words and sentences. This chapter, however, is
concerned primarily with the syntax of English or the basic rules of grammar. English has a syntactic structure such as SVO, which is subject, verb, and object; as in: The dog (subject) ate (verb)
the bone (object). This is the correct order, which demonstrates syntactic agreement between the words. If, however, the sentence reads: The dog ate their bone or worse still: The ate dog bone the;
there will, perhaps, be no agreement within the sentences, consequently making no sense. Even if there are many dogs, it is only one dog that is the subject of the sentence. For there to be
agreement, the definite article “the” has to be syntactically appropriate.
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