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ENGLISH GRAMMAR

Because we are professional sign language interpreters (not professional linguists), we will use a very simple definition of grammar.  Here, grammar means how a language works, or its system of use.

Many people cannot cite grammatical details where their native-language is concerned, yet are fluent users of it.  Typically, children are surrounded by native-users of their first language, and easily acquire it through constant exposure and immersion.  An infant or very young child knows nothing of how a language works; only that it does or does not, and then makes adjustments (corrections or changes) as needed.  

A child acquires fluency through exposure and use; s/he is not learning language in the academic sense ( through study).  From the child's perspective, the experience feels seamless and natural as breathing.

When we acquire a language via exposure (attempts at use and correction received directly or indirectly in the form of modeling by others) there is no need to learn about its inner workings, its system, until much later when we try to improve upon acquired skill-levels or decide to learn an entirely different language.  Such purposeful efforts to learn call for knowledge of how the language in question works, bringing the notion of grammar to our attention, perhaps for the first time.

The grammar of a language gives it infrastructure - shape, form, organization, functionality.  Without grammar, language is reduced to simply words that cannot extend meaning beyond themselves.

Learning a new language requires at least a basic knowledge of its rules of use, or the student is wasting his or her time.  After all, why learn a string of vocabulary if you are unable to use it to form a meaningful utterance, actually communicate?  In fact, linguists do not consider a string of vocabulary to be a true language if no distinct and consistent rules of use are in place.

Without grammar, mere words do not a language make.

The human body includes parts that function in specialized ways and work together in support of the whole.  Languages, too, have parts with specialized functions that work together in support of effective communication.  Words or signs, in accordance with their individual functions, work together to form a phrase or sentence.  Sentences, in accordance with their functions, work together to form paragraphs, and so on.

 


A fundamental component of grammar is a word's or a sign's "part of speech" - its assigned function (purpose).  At this word- or sign-level, the term "part of speech" might just as easily have been called "function of speech," or "role of speech."

PARTS OF SPEECH
this part still in development.

The eight parts of speech for English are:

1. NOUN

   Person, place, thing (includes concept, idea, or animal).
      (e.g. uncle, Brenda, lake, Atlantic Ocean, book, snake, suggestion, problem)

2. VERB

   Action, or state.
      (e.g. to drive, to dream, to consider, to remain)

3. ADJECTIVE

   Describes a noun.
      (e.g. disgusting, orange, invisible, missing, bleary)

4. ADVERB

   Modifies a verb.
      (e.g. clearly, tentatively, horribly, nearly, quite, gleefully)

5. PRONOUN

   Replaces a noun.
      (e.g. it, I, she, they, them)

6. PREPOSITION

   Describes the relationship of two or more nouns/pronouns in terms of time,
   distance, or location.
      (e.g. in, on, above, under, according to, rather than, during, since, until, without)

7. CONJUNCTION

   Used to connect words, phrases, or clauses.
      (e.g. however, although, but, if, and, yet)

8. INTERJECTION

   Exclamation without grammatical connection.
      (e.g. yikes, whew, ouch, well, ah-ha)

9. ARTICLE

   Gives identity (specific or nonspecific) to nouns.
      (e.g. the; a; an)


ACTIVE VOICE, PASSIVE VOICE
... this part still in development.

ACTIVE VOICE

                    When the
Subject performs the activity, this is ACTIVE VOICE.

                For example:

                            Phillip passed the test; or, My sister promised she would go.

 

PASSIVE VOICE

                    When the
Object receives the activity, this is PASSIVE VOICE.

                For example:

                            The test was passed; or, The promise was made that my sister would go.

 


ARTICLES

DEFINITE            the 

   Fixes the identity of the noun it modifies: Not just any brand of cheese will do; we want that brand.

 

INDEFINITE            a; an

   The noun is not specified; its identity is nonspecific.

 

ZERO ARTICLE

   No article is used: Time is money.

 


SYNTAX

Basic English sentence word-order is:

Subject Verb Object

            Here's an example:

I shot the sheriff.

            Using the example, the elements are:

I = Subject; shot = Verb; the sheriff = Object

 


PHRASE; CLAUSE; SENTENCE

... to be continued.

 


TENSE

... to be continued.

 


SUBJECT

In a sentence, the subject is the doer.  The subject is the actor, the one behaving.  Subjects carry-out activities; they do things.

            Here's an example:

My dog has fleas.

            Using the example, the elements are:

My dog = Subject ; has = Verb ; fleas = Object

In the example, the Subject is my dog because s/he is doing the activity (to have).  The Subject has fleas.  If the fleas were to have my dog, then the flea-group would be the Subject of the sentence and it would be written, Fleas have my dog, opposite in meaning to My dog has fleas.

 


PREDICATE

... to be continued.

 


OBJECT

In a sentence, the Object is the receiver of what the subject does.  The Object is the victim of the subject.  Poor Object , haplessly struck by the activity of a subject.  In a sentence, it is the Object that can truthfully protest, "I didn't do it!"  <wink>

            Here's an example:

George joined SecondLife.com.

            Using the example, the elements are:

George = Subject ; joined = Verb ; SecondLife.com = Object

In the example, the Object is SecondLife.com because it received George's activity (to join).  The Object was joined by George.  If the SecondLife.com were to have joined George, then George would become the Object , and it would be written, SecondLife.com joined George, not at all the meaning of the original sentence.

 


INFINITIVE

... to be continued.

 


PARTICIPLE

... to be continued.

 

This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 17, 2008.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

 

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