Special Sub-Topic: Some Features of Grammar
|What is conventional (school) grammar primarily based on?|
Authority and tradition. This heavy reliance on authority and the refusal to pay attention to linguistics and scholarship would be almost inconceivable in other subjects taught in school. It is also helps to explain why so much traditional grammar is unsound.
|Which of these is (or are) generally left outside the traditional eight parts of speech?|
All of these (The articles, Cardinal numbers (one, two, three, etc.), The word "not"). Linguistics has introduced a new part of speech, called 'determiners' which includes the articles and some uses of the cardinal number, for example, where it functions in lieu of an article as in "Two books I need are on the table, and the other is on the floor". However, the word "not" remains a problem as far as classification is concerned.
|Which kinds of definitions of the parts of speech are most powerful, that is, least easily proved wrong?|
Those based on grammar and function. Of course, in order to understand such definitions of the parts of speech one first needs a good knowledge of grammar. For teaching purposes, explanations based on meanings are much more useful, but it is important never to regard them as academically sound definitions.
|"A verb is an action word". What's the problem with this definition of the verb as a part of speech?|
It fails to take into account many types of verbs. Many verbs aren't "action words" at all as action implies an agent or "doer". Consider, for example, "to be", "to seem", "to become". Some others denote events, states or processes, such as "to die", "to decline", "to grow", "to sense", "to notice", "to remain". With many verbs the grammatical subject is inactive *from a semantic point*: consider, for example, "The table moved". Even for teaching purposes one needs to expand this explanation to "a word indicating an action, event, process or state". One needs to elaborate further. For example, it's useful to say that in standard English most verbs end in -s in the 3rd person singular in the present.
|A clause contains a finite verb. Which of these provides the most accurate defintion of "finite verb"?|
A finite verb is in a tense and has the form(s) appropriate to its person and number. The following are *not* finite forms of the verb and cannot create clauses, only phrases: infinitives, present participles, perfect participles. For example the phrases, "Having said that ..." and "That said ..." lack a finite verb and are therefore not clauses. Similarly, "To err ..." is not in a tense. Contrast with "Having said that, I agree with the rest" and "To err is human", both of which are clauses as they have verbs in tenses with the appropriate forms ("agree" and "is").
|Which of these best describes the status of the statement: "A verb is a doing word"?|
A guideline to help pupils identify the parts of speech. There are few greater mistakes in the study of grammar than to assume that guidelines given to help pupils pick out the parts of speech and various grammatical features are scholarly definitions.
|Does English have emphatic pronouns?|
y. The (acknowledged) English emphatic pronouns have the same form as the reflexive pronouns, as for example, "You yourself said that some weeks ago". It's unfortunate that the early codifiers of English didn't allow for a second set of emphatic pronouns in English - namely "me", "her", "him", "us" and "them" which are normally used after the verb "to be" as in "It's me", "it's us". It would have saved a lot of trouble if they had done so and there would probably be far fewer people saying things like "Between you and I".
|In which of these contexts does it make *least* sense to teach the "verbs of perception" (such as "to hear", "to see", "to feel", "to notice") as a distinct group?|
In a grammar class for native speakers of English. In English the "perception verbs" (or at least most of them) have some features in common. In particular, instead of the present continuous, one generally uses 'can' + the infinitive to indicate that an action is taking place here and now. Moreover, these verbs take the infinitive without "to" as in "I heard them enter the house" (or with a present participle, as in "I heard them entering the house", though the two don't quite have the same meaning). Native speakers of English (unless very young) will already be intuitively aware of this and don't need teaching it, unless they are actually *studying* the complexities of English at a fairly high level of sophistication. (Please note that "I hear what you are saying" involves a figurative use of "to hear", meaning something like "to understand"). Another feature of *many* "verbs of perception" is that when used intransitively they function as copulas (or "linking verbs") and are followed by adjectives, not adverbs, for example: "That looks good", "The meal smells delicious", "That sounds fine" and so on.
|All English words ending in "-ly" are adverbs.|
f. Although people sometimes speak of the ending "-ly" as a specifically adverbial ending, many words with this ending can be either adjectives or adverbs - for example, "quarterly" as in "This journal is published quarterly" and "It's a quarterly bill". Some words ending in "-ly" are adjectives, such as "elderly", "sickly", "woolly" and some have may have different meanings, depending on their use, for example, "poorly". Contrast "The problem is poorly understood" (where "poorly" is an adverb) with "He is poorly" (adjective) - and "He feels poorly" (adjective, if used in the sense of 'unwell').
|Every clause has a subject (unless omitted after a co-ordinating conjunction) and a predicate. Which of these provides the *most accurate* description of "the predicate" of a clause that makes a statement?|
The predicate includes a verb and usually expands on the subject. The use of "least inaccurate" is deliberate. Some clauses (sentences) have dummy subjects for purely syntactic purposes, as in "It's raining". Here "is raining" can't be said to "expand on the subject" as the subject doesn't refer to anything. The need for a dummy subject is syntatic. If you opted for "The predicate follows the subject", consider this sentence: "Never will we let them enter our house". The predicate must at the very least consist of one verb, as in "Time flies". However, "the verb and its object" is an unsatisfactory desciption as many verbs are intransitive.
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