Friday, 16 October 2009

Four Fundamental Units of Grammar and Formulaic Structure of English

Read. It’s a word. It’s a phrase. And would you agree to take it as a sentence as well, a one-word sentence, to be specific? Think of the first instructional word of Allah to Prophet Muhammad in Arabic, that is, Ikra. This Arabic word stands for the verb read, in imperative form that means order. In an imperative sentence, the person spoken to is always the second person that remains silent or unuttered/ unwritten. So, if the verb read is put in the sentence parameter in the imperative form, it stands out like this: (You) read. Now imagine that a father is angry with his child sitting at the table with his book open but unwilling to read. He then burst out ordering his kid: “Read” or “paurha” in Bengali. The tone and tenor of this read is of an imperative sentence.

Such a single word, therefore, can stand as more than one element of the English language—it is a word, a phrase, and can be understood as a sentence with you implied before the verb read. Verb, which indicates an action, the happening of an event, or a state, is one of eight parts of speech used as the elementary building blocks of grammar. By definition of higher English grammar, this, as other words in the categories of parts of speech, can be called phrase. In-between the phrase and the sentence there is another intermediary element called clause. Let’s try to make an elaborate, but easy comprehending, analysis of all the basic elements and ground rules of the language before breaking new ground in higher grammar.

Parts of speech
As determined by elementary grammars, there are eight parts of speech or word classes in the English language. The parts of speech are Noun, Pronoun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction and Interjection.

However, interjections have little significant role to play in the grammar of English. They have peripheral role in emotive expressions like oh and alas, swear words like shit and damn, greetings (hi, bye, etc.) and certain discourse particles like yeah, okay, well, etc. These are better handled in the context of discussion of spoken discourse rather than in the language system.

Modern grammarians also level the differences between noun and pronoun to class them into one. They argue that the differences between nouns and pronouns are not sufficient to justify treating them as separate primary classes. Rather, they regard pronouns as a subclass of nouns. And both the noun and the pronoun are defined as noun phrase (NP).
The traditional class named conjunction has also been replaced with two primary classes of subordinator (corresponding to the traditional subclass of' subordinating conjunctions') and coordinator that corresponds to the traditional subclass of' coordinating conjunctions, in view of their quite distinct grammatical roles in the syntax of language.

On the other hand, determinative words (commonly referred to as 'determiners' in modern grammars) like the, a, my, some, little, etc, that come before a noun to show how the noun is being used have been imported as a grammatical class of words.
Then, again, the grammatical word classes stand at eight, as of the eight parts of speech. They are as follows:

Noun (N) man, people, Dhaka
Verb (V) read, eat, has, have
Adjective (Adj) beautiful, bad, panoramic, red
Adverb (Adv) beautifully, never, fast
Preposition (Prep) at, in, on, of, from

Subordinator (Subord) after, that, when: Shantana says that she will leave for home
when she finishes the job.

Coordinator (Coord) and, or, but

Determinative (Dv) a, the, this, few, five, little, some

Phrase and Clause

Either of them is a group of words. But the former is a group of words without a finite verb while the latter is a group of words that contains subject and its related finite verb. Both are parts of a sentence. But a clause can stand independently and express a complete meaning as well. He went to school by car. In this simple sentence, He went to school is a clause and by car is a phrase. Rising from sleep early, Saba began to prepare her lessons. The second one is also a simple sentence as the ing-added verb rise is not a finite verb here. Rising from sleep early is a phrase while Saba began to prepare her lessons is a clause. A clause which can stand independently and express a complete meaning if separated from the sentence is called Principal or Independent Clause. If a clause cannot express a full meaning without being dependent on another clause (main clause of the sentence), then it is called Subordinate or Dependent Clause.

According to arrangement of the clauses in sentences, the sentences are classified as (a) simple sentence (b) complex sentence and (c) compound sentence. Simple sentence contains a single clause. He plays football. Complex sentence consists of one Principal and one or more subordinate clauses connected with subordinating conjunctions like when, were, because, since, while. When I was young, I used to go to cinema. He does not go out when it rains. A compound sentence contains more than one Principal clause joined by coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or). Moumita appeared at the examination and passed it with a distinction. He went to the field, played with his friends and came back home before sundown. If separated, each of the clauses of a compound sentence can stand out as a simple sentence.

If a sentence consists of long main clauses, comma is used to separate such clauses. Mr. Osman Gani has neglected the task of acquiring professional skill all through his career, and he pays for it when the question of promotion comes. Semicolon can be used instead of conjunction in-between main clauses in a sentence. The whistle has been blown; the match is going to kick off in no time, now that the trouble is over.
Subordinate clauses are mainly describing clauses: a. you use relative clauses as describing clauses to identify the person or thing you are talking about: I saw that man who misbehaved with you at your workplace. b. also use relative clauses to tell more about the person or thing you are talking about: He borrowed the money from a friend of his, who later sued him for not paying the money back. Zia reads at Taherpur College, which is situated in a river-port town. c. describing clauses start with relative pronouns. Use who to talk about people, which about things, when about time and where to talk about place: She works with Farhana, who has a cordial relation with her. Sayeed teaches Sociology, which is an interesting subject about a comprehensive study of humans and society. Anisur Rahman lives in Pennsylvania, where living is pleasant and life is full of prospects. We last met in Hong Kong in 2002, when I went to the reputed tourist resort on a free air ticket for vacationing.
Most frequently used is a describing clause with which to comment on a situation mentioned in the main clause: He has lost both of his parents so early, which is so sad. The rogue hurled abuses at his colleague, which is obnoxious.

Omitting that in that-claue: When a that-clause is used an object, often that is omitted: They promised (that) they would come soon. In subject clauses beginning with It, normally that is omitted after the common phrase: It’s a pitty/shame (that) you failed to keep your promise.

Explaining Phrases

The four open words in the parts of speech--noun, verb, adjective and adverb—as well as preposition have got phrases associated with them. These phrases are classified according to the word functioning as their head. Accordingly, the phrases are categorized and abbreviated as noun phrase (NP), verb phrase (VP), adjective phrase (AdjP), adverb phrase (AdvP) and prepositional phrase (PP). The first four may consist of a single noun, verb, adverb, or adjective or of several words built around the ‘head word’. Examples: NP—he, me, a place you have never seen. VP—play, may have thought. Adjectival phrase—excellent, rather dull. Adverbial phrase—nicely, a bit slowly.

Prepositional phrases are a bit different in that a preposition does not function on its own. A prepositional phrase must comprise a preposition + another word, usually an NP: before him.

Phrasal verbs

Many verbs consist of more than one word in English. Generally these verbs are verb + particle (in/on/out/off etc). These are called phrasal verbs. A phrasal verb does not have the same meaning as the normal verb. a. Phrasal verb: bring up one’s children. b. Normal meaning: bring me the book.

Most interesting is the idiomatic use of phrases (or sentences). Idiom is defined in English dictionaries as a phrase or sentence whose meaning is not clear from the meaning of its individual words and which must be learnt as a whole unit: Achilles’ heel (a week or vulnerable point in one’s character, plan).

The Sentence: Syntactic and Semantic Forms
Sentence is the largest unit of grammar, wherein the syntactic order of a language finds its completeness. Traditional grammars commonly define sentence as the expression of a complete thought. But modern grammarians find a little shortcoming in this meaning-based definition and use syntactic parameters as the constituents of different types of sentence instead of confining the sentence to the semantic definition. They point out that a single sentence may not always express a complete thought. Notice an example below:
1. An anxious Meena opened the box. She found all her ornaments intact in it. 2. An anxious Meena opened the box and found all her ornaments intact in it. Or, An anxious Meena opened the box, in which she found all her ornaments intact.
It appears that in (1) the first sentence is not enough to express the unit of thought involved, but yet it is a syntactically correct sentence. The thought is expressed with two simple sentences. In (2) the same thought is expressed in a single compound sentence or in a complex sentence.
A sentence is basically composed of two parts: Subject and Predicate. The predicative part may consist of a number of elements, such as verb, object, complement and adverbial. English uses subject-verb-object (SVO) parameter in sentence construction. We, the Bengalis, use a different one. Ami bhaat khai (I rice eat). Here the object bhaat takes its position before the verb khai. So, the Bengali word-order parameter stands out as subject-object-verb (SOV). Other languages may use different orderings as parameters for arranging the words in sentences.

Learn and Write English in Mathematical Method
Having crossed over the domain of the four fundamental units of grammar, let’s learn and write English in a formulaic method, much the same way we do sums mathematically. We can start with the construction of various simple sentences using different elements of the lexicon. Chinu sings. It’s a two-word sentence, comprising subject + verb. Combining the initial letters of the two words prepare a mathematical formula of this type of sentences: SV. Subject is the doer of a task or performer of an action or the topic of what the clause or the sentence is about. So, by using this formula like a die, put a subject of your choice into the S socket and a verb for the action that you intend into the V socket. Automatically comes out, then, a sentence of this brand.

There are basically seven types of clause--combining the elements of SVOCA or S (subject) V (verb) O (object) C (complement) and A (adverbial)--in various ways. Seven types of simple sentence can be composed according to the patterns of their clause structures. These are:

SV = I play (subject + verb). He was reading (subject + verb with auxiliary).

SVO = He ordered food (subject + verb + object). The cook is cooking rice
and curry (subject + verb with auxiliary).

SVC = He looked unkempt. Rafi became President (subject + verb +

SVA = Rumi sat on the sofa (subject + verb + adverbial). Minu has gone to
school (subject + verb with auxiliary + adverbial).

SVOO= Selina gave her a sari. Sohan bought him ice-cream (subject + verb +
object +object).

SVOC= They elected him captain (subject + verb + object + complement).

SVOA= Shirin put the pot on the table (subject + verb + object + adverbial).

Friday, 18 September 2009

Learn English Properly, Write Correctly

Unique English University
A unique online teaching arrangement with extensive courses on the English language and applied Journalism

Unique English University (UEU) offers advanced courses on all the relevant rules of English grammar and vocabulary exercises for students of higher secondary and higher levels, teachers of select groups and other professionals. It also provides courses on English-language journalism, defining journalism in varied modern paradigms and its genres as well as illustrating language, style and structure of news stories of different kinds.

Under its on-the-job training programme, the Univ conducts hands-on training courses for journalists and other professionals for developing their proficiency in the English language and journalistic work. Media and corporate houses, government offices, educational institutions and so can commission the services of the UEU for skill development of the members of their staffs.

Teaching in both the disciplines is principally done by Moslem Uddin Ahmed, BA (Hons) MA in English, a senior journalist and writer of two books on the English language and another two on journalism. ‘A Unique English Grammar’, written by him, is an outcome of his studious learning and extensive research in the main lingua franca of mankind, particularly in the digitized world. His latest journalism book titled ‘Feature Writing: Gemini Style’ offers an advanced student/journalist comprehensive feature-writing practice as well as illustrations on language, style and structure of hard-news stories, ethical dilemmas, etc. Both the books are followed at university level and by journalists who have procured those. Resource persons are hired if and when it is necessary.

Course fees depend on the duration and contents of a particular course required for a commissioning organization.

English language course offers innovative teach-ins on:

Formulaic structures of the English language
Phrase and Clause
Sentences and tenses
The sequence of tenses
Transformation of sentences
Viewing Voice anew: speak with freedom of speech
Narration: speaker-narrator-listener
Gimmicks of grammar: coinage and correction of common errors
Syntax: mistake in punctuation makes wrong meaning
Confusion about complement and object
Usage of Articles, Determiners, Prepositions
Subject-verb agreement
Classification of questions
Verbs and verbal derivatives: genesis of Gerund and Verbal Noun
Mood: how to be moody in manners of speech
Degree: measure the quality
Puzzles of the Possessive
A glance at spelling and pronunciation
Rhetoric and Prosody
Subcontinent’s vocabulary in English lexicon
Parliamentary parlance
A collection of useful words, phrases and idioms

Journalism course contains teach-ins on:

---Definition and genres of news
--How and where to begin in writing a news story
--Language and style
--Hard news (straightjacket story)
--Structure: inverted pyramidal order
--Depth reporting: story behind the story
--Structure: pyramidal order
--Guidelines for the reporter
--Feature-writing exercises: Gemini/Panos models