The Uses of Grammar

By Judith Rodby; W. Ross Winterowd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Getting Started:
Some Important Concepts

CHAPTER PREVIEW
Grammaticality is one of the most important concepts in this book. A grammatical sentence is one that would be spoken or written by a native speaker of English and would be judged grammatical. Native speakers know what is grammatical and what is not; they do not need to know grammar terms to analyze a sentence and determine that it is or is not grammatical. An ungrammatical sentence is one that a native speaker would not generate.
Descriptive grammar considers all of the sentences in a language, not just those that purists consider correct.
A grammatical sentence can be either appropriate or inappropriate. Appropriateness often depends on the level of formality of the sentence. Let's grab some chow is informal; We shall dine at seven is extremely formal. Both sentences are grammatical, but they would not be appropriate in the same situations.
Grammatical judgments are seldom cut and dried; they are usually not questions of absolute right or absolute wrong. For example, the sentence Timothy is in hospital would seem perfectly grammatical to a British speaker of English, but might well seem ungrammatical to a speaker of American English, who would prefer Timothy is in the hospital.
The parts of sentences can be talked about as forms or as functions. Forms are word classes or parts of speech such as noun, verb, and adjective. Functions are the work a structure does in a sentence: subject, object, and complement, for example, are terms for functions in a sentence. In Dogs chase cats, the word dogs is a noun functioning as subject of the sentence.
Sentences can be divided into subjects and predicates.
SUBJECT PREDICATE
My cat likes tuna fish.

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