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Analyzing English Grammar

Analyzing English Grammar

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Published by Bárbara Mariane

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Published by: Bárbara Mariane on Aug 19, 2012
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11/07/2012

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Analyzing English Grammar:An Introduction to Feature Theory
A Companion Handbook Joseph Galasso
California State University, Northridge2002 Draft May 5
 
 
Preface
The past few years have witnessed a shift in reasoning in how traditional grammar should be conceptualized. This shift, I believe, has done well to naturally aidstudents in achieving a higher and more comprehensive level of language. Theaim of this companion handbook is to provide an elementary introduction torecent developments in syntactic theory--particularly working within theframework of Chomsky’s 1995
Minimalist Program
. More specifically, thehandbook focuses on a theory called
Feature Theory,
as it has to do with basiclevels of grammar. Although Feature Theory is an integral part of Chomsky'soverall theory stated within the Minimalist Program, there is nothing inherent inthe theory itself which should prevent it from being presented along side, say,other textbooks on the topic of grammar which in fact may correlate to other syntactic theories. In other words, the principles behind Feature Theory as presented herein are understood to be based upon universal characteristics of alllanguages--characteristics which transcend all common discussion of grammar.For example, recent work on Features has refocused attention on traditionaldistinctions placed on
Form Class Words vs. Structure Class Words
: (andmore specifically,
Lexical vs. Functional Categories
). The core of this textattempts to provide students with a good working knowledge of such features asthey have to do with the more formal aspects of functional grammar, and to allowstudents to utilize this working knowledge to build "syntactic trees"(diagramming) one feature at a time. Ultimately, the hands-on work will providestudents with an inside peek at the multi-layered fine structure of grammar--starting with the more primitive, basic foundations of what makes a simplesentence to the unraveling of those finer grained features which form the makingsof complex functional grammar.This companion handbook is intended as a supplemental aid for undergraduate students of English grammar and needn’t presuppose any background knowledge of syntactic theory. The materials presented herein should be suitable for any incoming university freshman with a minimal amount of Explicit knowledge of grammar.I am grateful to Sheryl Thompson director of the PACE program at CSUNfor the generous stipend that helped get me started on this project. I would alsolike to thank Prof. Bob Noreen (Chair of English Dept, California StateUniversity, Northridge) as well as Prof. Sharon Klein (Chair of the LinguisticProgram) for their ongoing support.
 
 
0
.
Grammar
 Grammar is traditionally subdivided into two inter-related studies:
Morphology
 
and
Syntax
. Morphology is the study of how words are formed out of smaller units called morphemes. For example,
Derivational Morphology
is a word- building process by which we generate (or derive) the Noun
teacher 
from out of two smaller morphological segments: the verb stem {teach} + suffix {er}. Syntax,on the other hand, is concerned with how
Words
are strung together to form larger units of expressions such as (partial) @link 
Phrases
, @link 
Clauses
, and (full)@link 
Simple Sentences
. As an example, it is owing to an infringement on syntax(and not morphology) which prevents us from speaking the ill-formed sentence*
 John likes to teacher 
(=
 John likes to teach
).
(The asterisk “*” throughout indicates an ungrammatical sentence).
Recall, the derivational process sketched out above has taken the mainVerb stem {teach} and changed it into a Noun {teacher}. Surely, this change fromVerb to Noun has an immediate effect on how we are able to construe the word ina given sentence. In short, (postponing further discussion to later sections), thesyntax involved here would be the following:(0) [Subject] (
 John
) + [Finite Verb] (
like-s
) + (optional) Infinitive verbcomplements:Complements
(i) {to}+ verb (
to teach
),(ii) verb+{ing} (
teaching)
,(iii) bare verb stem verb+ø
(teach)
(only in use with modals-- e.g.,
 John can/will/may teach).
The syntax doesn’t allow the option of an infinitive verb marker {to-}to attach tonouns *[{to} + [Noun] ]. It is precisely this infringement that makes the sentenceillicit.The rules of syntax thus generate the full range of possible sentences:
i. John likes to teach. ii. John likes teaching. iii. John can teach.*John likes to teacher.
 Although all languages have
words
, and the word is typically regarded as thesacred unit of meaning that drives all of language, there is a considerable amountof linguistic material that cannot be neatly packaged into a “layman’s” notion of word. For instance, it is argued that one doesn’t learn words as isolated wordislands. Rather, it seems that one learns words in the following two-prongmanner: (i) as words relate to meaning (
lexico-semantics
)--based on a one-to-one

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