Quiz about Unconventional Grammar
Quiz about Unconventional Grammar

Unconventional Grammar Trivia Quiz


Have you ever wondered what an essentially semantic grammar might look like? This quiz may shed light on this. Please note that in this kind of grammar the "Object" is inanimate, while the "Experiencer" is animate.

A multiple-choice quiz by bloomsby. Estimated time: 4 mins.
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Author
bloomsby
Time
4 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
193,744
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
6 / 10
Plays
2645
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
Last 3 plays: Guest 197 (0/10), Guest 172 (6/10), lout62001 (5/10).
This quiz has 2 formats: you can play it as a or as shown below.
Scroll down to the bottom for the answer key.
1. Why is it extremely difficult to provide an accurate, short and simple definition of the concept "subject of a sentence" (except in purely formalistic terms)? Hint

The concept "subject" in this context is a matter of structure, but any definition relies on meaning
There are different types of verbs with different types of subjects
For all of these reasons
Sentences may have different kinds of subjects

2. "The subject of a sentence making a statement is the agent or 'active doer' of the action described by the verb, unless the verb is passive". Is this an accurate definition?

Yes
No

3. "The men panicked at once". From a semantic point of view, which of these categories best describes the role of "the men" in this sentence? Hint

Instrument
Experiencer
Agent
Beneficiary

4. "Empires decline, decay and perish". Which of these best describes, in semantic terms, the role of "empires" here? Hint

Agent
Instrument
Object
Beneficiary

5. "Anne succumbed to drowsiness and fell asleep at her desk". From a semantic point of view which of these categories best describes the role of Anne? Hint

Agent
Experiencer
Place
Beneficiary

6. Is this sentence potentially ambiguous? "Those people terrify me".

Yes
No

7. "The key opened the door". Which of these best describes the semantic role of "the key" in this sentence? Hint

Experiencer
Agent
Instrument
Object

8. "It's raining". What does "it" refer to in this sentence? Hint

The sky
"It" doesn't refer to anything
The weather
A cloud

9. "Shut the window". What, if anything, can be regarded as the semantic subject of this sentence? Hint

Imperative verbs never have any kind of subject, actual or implied
The notion of any subject in this sentence is a logical absurdity
An implied "you"
The window

10. The function of linguistics is to tell people how to speak and write language correctly.

True
False


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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. Why is it extremely difficult to provide an accurate, short and simple definition of the concept "subject of a sentence" (except in purely formalistic terms)?

Answer: For all of these reasons

It is often not realized that the concept of "subject of a sentence" is purely structural. The only fully accurate defintions are those given in terms of structure, for example: "The subject of a sentence or clause is the noun, noun phrase or pronoun that determines the person and number of the verb." This is formalistic in that it presupposes a knowledge of grammar and grammatical terminology and is unsuitable for teaching purposes.

However, any definition that seeks to break out of this formalism, by using meaning, faces immense problems. Structure in itself, though essential to the functioning of language, has no meaning.
2. "The subject of a sentence making a statement is the agent or 'active doer' of the action described by the verb, unless the verb is passive". Is this an accurate definition?

Answer: No

Unfortunately, inaccurate definitions of this kind are sometimes taught in schools and can also be found in some reference works. Consider sentences like "She collapsed in her own home", "The old man died" and "The plants grew well". Obviously, there is no question of agency in these sentences.

After all, the absence of an agent with "to die" is in fact a key feature of its meaning: it's one of the things that makes "to die" different in meaning from from "to commit suicide", for example. Agency is essential to the meaning of the latter, just as its absence is a key feature of the meaning of the former.
3. "The men panicked at once". From a semantic point of view, which of these categories best describes the role of "the men" in this sentence?

Answer: Experiencer

Far from being the active doers or agents, the syntactic (grammatical) subject here - "the men" - undergo an involuntary experience: something happens to them, whether want it or not. They are, as it were, the "object" of the process described by the verb. (Animate objects of this kind generally belong to the category called the "Experiencer", while the category "Object" is generally reserved for inanimates).
4. "Empires decline, decay and perish". Which of these best describes, in semantic terms, the role of "empires" here?

Answer: Object

In this sentence, the grammatical subject is the semantic object of the process described by the verbs: things happen to empires in this sentence. (If the semantic object in this sentence were animate it would belong to the category called the "Experiencer", not the "Object", which is generally reserved for inanimates that undergo a change of state).
5. "Anne succumbed to drowsiness and fell asleep at her desk". From a semantic point of view which of these categories best describes the role of Anne?

Answer: Experiencer

Clearly the events described by the verbs are involuntary events that happen to Anne and there is no question of agency. (The "Experiencer" is in effect an animate semantic "Object").
6. Is this sentence potentially ambiguous? "Those people terrify me".

Answer: Yes

"Those people" could be an agent, actively and deliberately engaging in terrifying; or they could be merely a trigger for fear, in effect an "instrument".
7. "The key opened the door". Which of these best describes the semantic role of "the key" in this sentence?

Answer: Instrument

In semantic terms an unspecified, but implied person, machine or supernatural force is opening the door, using the key as an instrument. Logic and common sense require that there must be an agent at some level, even if the key is operated by computer, and even if the agent is at several removes from the action of the verb.
8. "It's raining". What does "it" refer to in this sentence?

Answer: "It" doesn't refer to anything

In English (and many other languages, too) the structure of a sentence making a statement must consist at the very least of a subject and a verb. "It" here functions as a dummy grammatical subject.
9. "Shut the window". What, if anything, can be regarded as the semantic subject of this sentence?

Answer: An implied "you"

In other words the implied structure is something like: "You shut the window". Some linguists would argue for an even more elaborate implied structure along the lines "I am telling you - you shut the window".
10. The function of linguistics is to tell people how to speak and write language correctly.

Answer: False

The function of linguistics is to *describe* language and language-use. Linguistics leaves the business of telling people how to speak and write to others.
Source: Author bloomsby

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