Sunday July 1, 2012
The classes that count
EXPLORING ENGLISH by Keith Wright
To learn the English language, one must understand that all words have a purpose or a function in a sentence.
All English words can be grouped into “Classes” which are commonly called the Grammatical Classes of Words.
However, in spite of what some grammarians teach, only eight of these “Classes” are also categorised formally and traditionally as “Parts of Speech”: nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.
It is also important to remember that the vast majority of words that are categorised as “Parts of Speech” can vary from one “Part of Speech” to another depending on its function in a sentence.
Example: “fish” can be a (i) Noun — That fish weighs three kilos. (ii) Verb — When we go to that beach, we fish from those rocks. (iii) Adjective — My uncle is a fish vendor.
An article is a grammatical class used to classify the words: the (definite article), a and an (indefinite articles).
The term “article” is sometimes used to classify any word that precedes a noun, including adjectives. It is for this reason that the “article” is included by some grammar writers as a “Part of Speech” just as adjectives are.
In some grammar books, the three articles are also categorised as demonstrative adjectives along with this, that, one, any, some, etc.
It is because of this “demonstrative” role that the articles, a, an and the can be classed as a special sub-group of the adjective.
Articles are also called determiners as explained below.
The definite article, “the”, often forms an essential part of a proper noun, eg. The Philippines, The Vatican, The Hague.
A determiner is a modern grammatical term used to categorise a class whose function it is to determine or indicate whether a noun or noun phrase is definite or indefinite, or is limited in some way.
Definite: this house — that mountain — my friend — the answer;
Indefinite: much ado — some food — any response — a disaster;
Limited: no hope — scarce resources — impossible situation.
Determiners can precede nouns, noun phrases, adjectives or stand alones.
Example: ...those people (noun) ... both our cousins (noun phrase) ... numerous hungry villagers (adjective) ... look at that (stand alone).
Definite determiners include the articles: “a”, “an” and “the” and words usually used as adjectives and pronouns such as that, this, those, my, our, no, each, both, etc.
Indefinite determiners include words such as many, some, much, several, little, substantial, various.
The term determiner is another grammatical class used for:
(a) Demonstrative adjectives, eg. that girl, this book, those players, my friend, our relatives, the school.
(b) Demonstrative pronouns, eg. Please take this. Who did that? I want both. I will try some.
(c) Adverbs of degree as in “That horse does not eat much.”
Determiners can be subdivided into three other subgroups depending on their position in a noun phrase construction and also based on their capacity to relate to each other:
(i) Central or common determiners
(i) The central or common determiner subgroup includes:
(a) the articles — the, a, an;
(b) the demonstratives — this, that, these, those, such, both;
(c) the possessives — my, your, their, our;
(d) the quantifiers — any, some, none, no, neither, each, every, any, much, etc.
(ii) The pre-determiners comfortably go before other determiners.
Example: half this apple; both your sisters; twice my age; once each week; all that money; such a worry, etc.
(iii) The post-determiners are to be used after a central determiner.
Example: your second task; my many ambitions; his endless dreams; some later reports, any secondary effects; those three issues; this constant pressure; etc.
Other categories can be developed based on the particular characteristic of the determiner.
Some have numerical or quantifying characteristics, eg. once, twice, two, primary, secondary, each, every, none, some, much, both, half, any, many, all, etc.
Others perform a possessive function, eg. my, your, her, his, our. As explained later in this series, some determiners can also be called quantifiers.
An intensifier is a word whose function it is to give a heightening, lowering or lessening effect on what are classed as “gradable” words.
Example: Joh is a very astute businessman. — Carmen is unfortunately extremely poor. — Michelle talks somewhat slowly. — Karl was intensely attentive during Mia’s lecture.
> Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) – a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.
The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Programme (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English proficiency of people with different competency levels.
contact@4Sliteracy.com.au for a free copy of the PDF File on Affixes.