Sunday August 12, 2012
Gaining that edge
By Keith W. Wright
Developing a comprehensive knowledge of grammatical terminology can result in one becoming a superior English communicator.
GRAMMATICAL terminology is not always easy to understand. Often, a term will have multiple meanings and applications. Sometimes, grammarians aggravate the learning process by their definitional disagreements. However, despite the difficulties, knowing both formal and functional grammatical terminology has its advantages.
Etymology is the study of the history or origin of a word or parts of a word by breaking it down into its basic elements and tracing it back to its root or earliest known form. Example: the words “inspector” > in (into) — specio (I look) — or – (one who); monstre > monster; niht > night; wacche > watch. Etymology can reveal the different forms a word has taken when passing from one language to another as well as show how words in different languages are related.
Genre is the term given to a category into which artistic or creative works or performances of all kinds, styles and types can be placed for prescriptive purposes. For example, the genre of a story about a Martian invasion of Earth would be Fiction. Genre is useful for analysis and categorisation but it is often considered to be more “descriptive” than “prescriptive” as, in modern times, the categories of classification are more arbitrary and subject to change. Example: a new genre of “Women’s Writings”. Different artistic works may have multiple genre categories, eg. A detective novel may be both Fiction and Drama.
Genre Analysis is the term applied to the prescription or description of various artistic or creative works or performances into their various kinds, styles and types. Example: a spy novel as Fiction; a murder mystery as Drama; a love story as Romance.
Register is a term used to describe or categorise a particular variation of speaking and writing according to its use in the community, eg. legal, scientific, journalistic, religious, formal, informal, academic, etc.
Example: Legal — A barrister says: “If it would please the Court…”. Religious — A priest says: “O most high and omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God…”.
Most categories are “occupation-related”, “social-set” or “purpose-directed”. Registers can be further sub-classified as (i) Field of discourse — where the variation relates to the “subject matter’, (ii) Mode of discourse — where the variation relates to the mode or method used, ie. written or verbal, (iii) Manner of discourse — referring to the social link between the language users, eg. academic.
A participle is a non-finite verb form or verbal derivative that may function as part of a verb group, as an adjective and as a gerund or verbal noun. When functioning as a part of a verb group, a participle can end with the inflection “ing” and is called a present participle, eg. Bill and Tony are playing cricket. A participle can also be a past or passive participle in which case it will end in -d, -ed, -en, --n, or -t. Example: Maria has finished her homework.
A past participle is sometimes referred to as an “ed-participle”.
A participle can act as an adjective and in an adjectival phrase, eg. Leaving the classroom, we raced to the football oval.
When a participle is in a phrase, ie. a participle phrase, it should be placed close to the noun or pronoun it is qualifying. Compare: The soldier sitting by the tank is wounded. — The soldier is wounded sitting by the tank.
When a participle is functioning as an adjective, it is also called an epithet. When it is located in the predicate of a sentence, it can be a complementary object or object complement, eg. The boss caught him daydreaming.
Similarly, a participle can be a subject complement, eg. The bank manager became concerned when the vault would not open.
It can also be absolute, ie. independent of and standing apart from, the other elements in the construction. Example: The paddock being ploughed, the farm hand stopped for the day.
Where a participle is placed in a construction can be important. Sometimes, a participle is left attached or dangling inappropriately and is referred to as a dangling participle, eg. Training hard, the coach encouraged his players to focus to bring them victory.
It is important to distinguish between a participle and a gerund as confusion can often occur because the latter has the same form as the present participle, ie. ends in “ing”.
The gerund acts as a noun and as its alternative name, verbal noun, indicates, it has a verbal-noun-like form. A participle is sometimes referred to as a verbal adjective because of its combined verbal and adjectival functions. Compare: Walking is good exercise. (Gerund) — He is walking to school this week. (Participle) — My uncle broke his walking stick. (Adjectival participle).
An error known as the fused participle, occurs when a possessive noun form of a word is not used preceding a gerund. Compare: Enthusiastic spectators turned out at dawn to watch the champion horse training. (Incorrect fused participle) — Enthusiastic spectators turned out at dawn to watch the champion horse’s training. (Correct possessive noun with a gerund).
> 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. E-mail
contact@4Sliteracy.com.au for a free copy of the PDF File on Accent Neutralisation Techniques.
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