Field Of Grammar English Language Essay

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Grammar refers to a set of rules to govern the combination of words, phrases, and sentences, modification of the word forms for special use, and for the result interpretation. Grammar includes the six fields to study the rules: phonology, lexicon, morphology, syntax, prosody, and pragmatics. The rules of grammar operate whenever human write or speak (to put words in the corrext order), and interpret what others say (to understand the difference between I love you and You love me). In a narrow sense, grammar refers to syntax.

Morphology and Syntax are two main branches in grammar. (Wang, 2011) 

Syntax: the study of phrases within the clauses in the sentences 

Morphology: the study of bound or free morpheme of the word 

Morpheme is the smallest unit of grammatical form. The word "morphe" is a Greek word, meaning "form". (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007) 

English    e.g. childish = child + ish 

Turkish    e.g. anla = "understand"         anla+sh = "understand each other"

(Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007) 

Morpheme can also be divided into bound morpheme and free morpheme. Similar to its original meaning, bound morpheme have to be attached to another morpheme such as "-ful, -ly, -ive". (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007 ) It cannot stand alone. Free morpheme can form a word itself such as "joy, happy, great". 


3.2 Different Approaches to Grammars

Different grammarians have different concepts of grammar. Hence, different approaches are developed in the study of language. They are prescriptive grammar, descriptive grammar, and pedagogical grammar.


3.2.1. Prescriptive grammar

Prescriptive grammar can be defined as what rules people should follow and how they should follow when they use language. It tends to be traditional when comparing with other approaches. According to Collins and Hollo (2010), the approach that grammar should be presented as a set of rules for speaking and writing "correctly" is described as prescriptive grammar.

From the perspective of the traditional prescriptive grammarians, sentence (1) is regarded as acceptable but grammatically incorrect or ill-formed. The reason is it breaks the rule "A sentence should not end up with a preposition." (Collins & Hollo, 2010, p. 15). In sentence (2), on the other hand, the preposition "in" is moved to the place before the relative pronoun "which"; it is acceptable and grammatically correct, or well-formed.

1. Grantham hall is the dormitory which Eliza lives in.

2. Grantham hall is the dormitory in which Eliza lives.  

Prescriptive grammar, however, is only prescribed by a small group of learned scholars basing on the 'dead' languages such as Latin and Greek. Those scholars incline to the purity and the unchanging state of language. (Wang, 2011)


3.2.2. Descriptive grammar

Descriptive grammar refers to what rules people objectively and commonly follow and how they follow the rules when they are using the language in the real world.

In the past, "whom" was normally used as the object of a relative clause. In sentence (1), "whom" is the object referring to the sentence subject "Vanessa"; as language changes over time, sentence (2) has been accepted by more and more people; therefore, "who" becomes more commonly used. 

        1. Vanessa is the girl whom he falls in love with.

        2. Vanessa is the girl who he falls in love with. 

In the views of descriptive grammarians, new grammatical rules are welcomed in descriptive grammar. Descriptive grammarians "acknowledges that language is constantly changing" what's the source. Grammar is developing with the language and the society; it is a living organic thing to accept a wide range of changes as the nutrients for growth. (Wang, 2011)


3.2.3. Pedagogical grammar

Pedagogical grammar involves a kind of grammatical analysis and instructions created for second language learners. This kind of grammar is special when compared with the other two. If we do not examine how pedagogical grammar relates to other grammatical concepts, the analysis and instructions of this grammar approach may be difficult to be discovered. 

For instance, "gold" is an uncountable noun referring to the grammar lessons taught in secondary school. In sentence (1), gold is uncountable; while in sentence (2), however, eight golds refer to the eight gold medals. Thus, "gold" seems to be a count noun in this context. 

1.     Gold is a precious metal.

2.     Michael Phelps won eight golds in the Beijing Olympics.

(Lee, 2010) include this source in the "reference"  

Another example is the article "an". In the days in primary school, teachers told us that use "an" before words started with "a, e, i, o, u". When we studied in the secondary school, nevertheless, we were required to know in an in-depth way; for example, "an" is used before vowels. 

Although pedagogical grammar seems to be the best choice for teachers as a means to teach grammar, time-consuming and prudent preparation is needed. Also, teachers should have justifiable reasons before they make any decisions for teaching. In fact, there are four crucial considerations for the teachers and researchers to take as a reference of them what does it refer to?, for example, instructional time, learner independence, fossilization of knowledge and expert guidance. (Odlin, 1994)


3.3 Theories of Grammar


3.3.1. Traditional grammar

Traditional grammar describes the grammatical patterns through the application of the analytical tools that derived from Latin grammars. (Wang, 2011) It emphasizes that only some kinds of English were worth studying, especially those more formal language operated by the famous orators or writers. Also, the textual samples that used for analysis were sophisticated, and most of them are taken from literary, religious or scholarly materials. In fact, speech with informal styles was not allowed, or disapproved as correct; therefore, more and more people found that they can hardly apply traditional grammar in everyday use. Wrong concept in the first part, words can be modified=.= 

Indeed, the traditional English grammars are difficult that students need to learn the classification system and terminology first before applying the techniques to the sentence. (Crystal, 2003) 2nd-hand source


3.3.2. Structural grammar

Structural grammar mainly originates from the structuralism, the intellectual movement governs the human language, society, and culture semiotically. Since structuralism focuses on the arrangements of the words and the relationship between words and words, structural grammar does not only focus on the characteristics of words, but also the functions of words.

Structural grammar is also described as the process called substitution. During this process, and the word classes and structure of a sentence are extended into a larger structure. (Glauner, 2000) 2nd-hand source?? Reference book??


3.3.3. Transformational-Generative grammar

Transformational-generative grammar is mainly originated from the assumption of rationalists that there is a deep structure under the language. It tends to define rules which control the relations of every part of words within the sentences. In fact, this kind of grammar can generate limitless of grammatical sentences.  

Further details will be discussed in Session 3.4 Syntax.


3.3.4. Systemic-functional grammar

Systemic-functional grammar, also called systemic functional linguistics (SFL), can be said as the functional-semantic approach towards language that investigates the way people using language under different social background and the construction of language for the use of semiotic system. 

This kind of grammar is quite special that it tends to develop the theory of language as the social process, together with an analytical methodology that allows the systematic and detailed description on language patterns. All in all, the analysis of the systemic-functional grammar answers the three questions: what language is, how it works, what is its relation with the context (Trask, 2000).

 3.4 Syntax

3.4.1. What is syntax?

Syntax has been defined by various scholars. "…SYNTAX, which seeks to describe the way words fit together to form sentences or utterances…' (Thomas, 1998, p. 1); "Syntax means sentence construction: how words group together to make phrases and sentences." (Tallerman, 2005) The scope of this session is to illustrate how languages use syntax conveying meanings for varied purposes of communication.

3.4.2. Formation of basic sentences

In human world, there are various communicative ways to express their ideas; for example, writing letters, using dactylology and non-verbal language. Words appeared in text books or the newspaper are used to construct messages to the audience. How the audience get the thoughts is through the sentences. The composition of a basic sentence is formed by grouping various words into a phrase, phrases into a clause, and then clauses into a sentence. The first and foremost study is to examine the word class. Word classes

Sentence is constituted by phrases and clauses. Word classes (parts of speech), the basic element of a sentence, are the foremost study for the construction of a basic sentence which concerns the word classes, the word orders in phrases and sentences, the phrase and sentence structures, and the different sentence constructions.  

The table below shows the examples of the eight word classes: 

Word Class



book, sky, school, bag, paper


run, read, sing, swim, sleep, listen


satisfied, stupid, easy, cold, smart, beautiful


slowly, carefully, loudly, lazily


a, an, the, this, that, these, those


in, on, at, beside, into, in front of


but, and, or


if, since, although, after, because, while, that 

Word classes can be divided into open class and closed class. Open class words relatively accept new members. Noun, verb, adjective, and adverb belong to the open class. "Open class words are sometimes referred to as 'lexical' or 'content' words, reflecting their lexical content (for example nouns characteristically denote entities, verbs activities and states, and adjective properties)" (Collins & Hollo, 2010, p. 33). 

Closed class words relatively less intentionally accept new members. Determiner, preposition, coordinator, and subordinator are the members of closed class. "Closed class words are sometimes refers to as 'grammatical' or 'function' words, reflecting the fact that their primary role is to express grammatical categories (for example auxiliary verbs express aspect and modality; coordinators express conjunction)" (Collins & Hollo, 2010, p. 33). Phrases 

Phrase is combined by a group of words, grammatically called lexical items. Phrases are the components of clauses and sentences. There are five types of phrases, namely noun phrase (NP), verb phrase (VP), adjective phrase (AdjP), adverb phrase (AdvP), and prepositional phrase (PP).  

1. Noun Phrase (NP)

        NP  (pre-modifiers) + N + (post-modifiers)

Noun phrase (NP) is defined as having the word class, noun, as the head. Pre-modifiers and post-modifiers can be added to modify the head noun with related information. Pre-modifiers include determiners (Det), adjective phrases (AdjP), noun phrases (NP).; while post-modifiers are constituted by prepositional phrases (PP) and relative clauses (RCl). These phrases or clauses are used preceding or succeeding the head noun to provide additional information to qualify or restrict the meaning of noun. There are various ways to form a NP:    

        lake: (N)  NP

               calm lake: (Adj) + (N)  NP

               the calm lake: (Det) + (Adj) + (N)  NP

               a *very slim dog: (Det) *(AdjP) (N)  NP

               books about Evolution: (N) + (PP)  NP

               some books of Linguistics: (Det) + (N) + (PP)  NP

               a girl who is wearing a red dress : (Det) + (N) + (RCl)  NP 

*AdjP is the short form of "adjective phrase". It will be elaborated in point "4. Adjective Phrase (AdjP)". 

        2. Verb Phrase (VP)

                VP  V + (NP)

Verb(V) is the head of the verb phrase (VP). Verb phrase can consist of a verb and a noun phrase (NP) followed. In fact, verb phrase does not have to be constructed in this way. There are "...six classes of verb: transitive, intransitive, ditranstive, intensive, complaex-transitive, prepositional." (Thomas, 1998, p. 37) Would transitive and intransitive verbs be focused in this chaper since these two classes verbs are the easiest and most familiar understanding of verbs.

Transitive verbs (trans) refer to the verbs followed by direct object; verb standing alone without a noun phrase followed is intransitive verb (intrans). Some sentences of transitive verbs (in bold) and intransitive verbs (in Italic); underlined words represent the direct object of trans, for instance: 

I hit him.

Eliza ate a bowl of noodle.

Vanessa and Joe lifted the table together.

I drink milk every day.

Amy fails.

You jump ! I jump !

Peter fell badly and broke his left leg.

                3. Adjective Phrase (AdjP)

                        AdjP  (AdvP) + Adj + (AdvP/PP/Clause)

Adjective phrase has the word class, adjective, to act as the head to modify the noun. AdvP are optional to be added before the adjective. Qualifiers, determiners, and modifiers can be added before the adjective to form an adjective phrase (e.g. the most beautiful girl). Some examples of AdjP are constituted by qualifiers: very excited, so tired, even better, more beautiful, too harsh, and other qualifiers. Adverb phrase, prepositional phrase and even a clause can be followed the head.

You offer me some helpful suggestions.

May and June wore the same dress.

The games seem exciting.

the quite disgustingly fat dog

(adapted from Thomas, Beginning Syntax, 1993, p. 32)

Peter is fond of English.

Amy was afraid that no one likes her.

Students are hard-working for their examination.

There are two types of adjective, attributive adjective and predicate adjective. Attributive adjective precedes the head noun for pre-modification {for instance attributive adjective 'helpful' comes before the head noun 'suggestions' in sentence (a)}; while predicate adjective is linked with a copula to modify the head noun, such as 'seem' and 'is' in sentence (c) and (d) respectively. 

                4. Adverb Phrase (AdvP)

                        AdvP  Adv (Qualifiers)/(Modifiers)

Adverb is the head of the adverb phrase. AdvP is employed to modify the noun, verb, or adverb itself. AdvP can characteristically be omitted and it has high mobility in the sentence; for example:

Peter loves Mary truly, madly, and deeply.

The nurse sterilized the wound carefully with cotton wool.

Paul ran very fast in the race.

Amy is quite confident in her drawing.

Surprisingly, Mia dances!

Undoubtedly, we would insist until we win.

In the above sentence, AdvP could be removed without making any grammatical mistakes.

                5. Prepositional Phrase (PP)

                        PP  (NP) + P

Preposition is the head of the prepositional phrase. Preposition may come after the noun phrase (NP). The PP part of the examples is italicized and the sign '*' is used to denote the separated prepositions:

I bought two books of Linguistics and Grammar yesterday.

Peter prefers staying * at home * instead of playing basketball with friends.

Paul gets up at 07 :00 a.m. every day. 

  Sentence structures

There are three basic sentence structures: simple sentence, compound sentence, complex sentence.

 1. Simple sentence

The sentence with one independent clause (also known as a main clause) containing one verb is defined as simple sentence. 

1. I love you.

2. Mary loves shopping very much.

3. Peter waits for his girlfriend for an hour.

4. The girl who is holding a pink-cover notebook is my groupmate.


2. Compound sentence

Compound sentence is a sentence consisting of at least two independent clauses.

Compound sentences can formed in two ways:

1.      Use coordinators;

Coordinator is a word (e.g. but, or, and) or a pair of words (e.g. either...or, not only...but also) used to link the connection of two independent clauses. For example:

a. Betty loves reading novels and playing badminton.

b. Candy is tired, but she decides to finish her assignment first.

c. Mum does not only saute broccli, but also fry steak. 

In sentence (a), coordinator and is used to join "Betty loves reading novels." and "Betty loves playing badminton." into one compound sentence. 

2.      Use the semicolon  

Semicolon is a kind of punctuation. Two independent clauses can be joined together into one sentence by using a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb (for example: also, at the same time, however, besides, furthermore), to express their relationship. 

Sentence 1: I want to buy a new mobile phone.

Sentence 2: I cannot afford.

Relationship: I want to buy a new mobile phone; however, I cannot afford. 

Sentence (1) and (2) group together using the semicolon ";" and the conjunctive adverb "however" to build up or show the relationship between two independent clauses.

3. Complex sentence

Complex sentence is defined as a sentence containing one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. Examples below show complex sentences consisted of independent clauses (underlined) and dependent clauses (in italic); where there is more than one dependent clause, the clause is separated by a "*" sign:

a.      My friend claimed * (that) Lee thought * (that) Ceri liked chips.

b.      I persuaded Kim to cook a nice meal.

c.      For you to act so hastily was unexpected.

d.      That Chris liked Lee so much didn't surprise me.

e.      I hope to leave before breakfast.

f.      I wondered * whether they wanted * Lee to go.

g.      If you compare Lee with Kim, you'll find Kim is taller.

h.      Kim having left early, we drank her beer.

(adapted from "Understanding Language Series: Understanding Syntax", p. 75)

Independent clause containing one main verb can stand alone; while embedded clause, which is generally called dependent clause, has to attach to the independent clause. In sentence (f), two dependent clauses "whether they wanted" and "Leo to go" are have to be sticked to the independent clause, "I wondered", in order to complete the meaning.

3.4.3. Syntactic Analysis

Syntactic Analysis is a process to investigate the structure of components in a sentence (e.g. phrases, clauses, sentences).


I. Basic Syntactic Structures


1. Tree Diagram

Tree Diagram is a tree-like shape which shows the structure of a sentence.


e.g. Vanessa plays the doll.



2. Labeled tree diagram


[[Vanessa]subject[[plays]verb[the doll]object]predicate]sentence]


II. Basic Syntactic Generative Processes


1. Substitution

The subject or object in a sentence can be substituted to form a new sentence.


e.g. Kelven plays fencing at school.

Fredrick plays fencing at school.


In the above example, the subject "Fredrick" replaces the original subject" Kelven". Actually, new sentences can be created by changing the object or even the adverbial.


2. Expansion

New elements or meanings can be added in the process of expansion.


e.g. Vanessa loves eating ice-cream.

 Vanessa loves eating strawberry ice-cream.


"strawberry" here is an adjective to provide more description for ice-cream such as  the flavour here. Usually, it is an adjective phrase.


3. Extension

New information is added to the original sentence, it is an adverbial phrase. Some books classified adverbial into (1) "circumstance adverbs such as loudly, continually" to modify the verb, (2) "degree adverb (deg) such as quite, too, highly, extremely, very", (3) "sentence adverbs such as frankly, certainly, actually". (Thomas, 1998, p.23 - p.25 )

Adverbs are also "gradable" and several types of adverbs can be categorized as "manner (e.g. carefully, leniently), time (e.g. now, afterwards), place (e.g. there, locally), direction (e.g. away, home)". (Peter Collins & Carmella Hollo, 2010, p.94 )


e.g. Suki is polishing nail.  Suki is polishing nail now.


"now" is an adverbial of time, and it tells when is the action of the doer.


4. Transformation

The process of transformation transforms the basic sentence into a yes-no question. It is also "a way to capture the relationship between a declarative and a yes-no question" (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.151); for instance,


The basic structure is called deep structure, and the derived structure, which is transformed, is called surface structure.


I.     Declarative sentence  Interrogative sentence

        (Basic structure  Yes-no question)


e.g. Vanessa is dancing.  Is Vanessa ____ dancing?



From the above diagram, the auxiliary 'is' is moved, and the dash represents the original position of "is". This action called 'Move Aux' (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.151)


If there is no auxiliary in the sentence, the verb 'do' acts as a support for the empty auxiliary, and it called 'do support' (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.157)


        e.g. Vanessa dances.  Does Vanessa ____ dance?


In accordance with apart from the basic structure to yes-no questions, other sentence types are transformationally related:


II.   Active voicePassive voice


Below examples show similar transformation process, an auxiliary (AUX) and main verb (V) of passive.



e.g. Mia ate an apple.  An apple was eaten by Mia.


German (Tallerman, 2005, p.190)

e.g. Der Frost verdarb den Apfel.

Der Apfel wurde vom Frost verdorben.

( The forst spoilt the apple.

The apple by the frost was spoilt.)


III. "There" sentences (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.152)


"There" is omitted and the NP becomes the subject of the sentence.


e.g. There is a rabbit on the grass.  A rabbit is on the grass.


IV. PP Preposing (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.152)


        (PP = Prepositional Phrase)


e.g. Eliza eats the cake with the fork.  With the fork, Eliza eats the cake.


V.    wh-questions


Wh-questions begin with a wh-word such as what, who, where, when, why, and also how.


e.g. Joe is playing badminton.  What is Joe playing?



The transformation of wh-question:

(1) The original tree diagram of the sentence is shown. It also called the deep structure (some books may define it as'd-structure' (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.152 ))

(2) The direct object (Od) replaced by wh-word 'what'

(3) Move the auxiliary (AUX) 'is' before the subject.

(4) Move wh-word to before the auxiliary (AUX) to form a wh-question, the transformed tree diagram of the sentence is the surface structure (as the above, some books may define it as 's-structure' (Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams, 2007, p.152) Furthermore, 'what' here is a complement (Comp) and form a Complement Phrase (CP)

Sometimes, in other languages, the word order can be very different in position.


French (Tallerman, 2005, p.222)

e.g.(1) Tu vois Pierre ce soir.  Qui tu vois ce soir ?

(You see Pierre this evening.  Who you see this evening?)


e.g.(2) Tu vois Pierre ce soir.  Tu vois qui ce soir ?

(You see Pierre this evening.  You see who this evening?)


3.5 Conclusion

Grammar plays an important role in confirming the accuracy of message. Sometimes, ambiguity may come out if there are grammatical mistakes. By understanding the structure of grammar thoroughly, message can be clearly delivered and make the best use of language.