ENGL384 - Concepts of Grammar

Every language has grammar, every speaker of every language knows grammar, and everything we say has grammatical structure. Some people have very strong notions about what counts as _good grammar_ and this can be a source of anxiety for many. However, any use of language involves elaborate systems of grammatical rules which we are never explicitly taught and which we are not conscious of following. This course explores the nature of grammar from a variety of perspectives, with an emphasis on helping students develop the vocabulary and technical skills needed to identify and describe the basic grammatical structures of English words and sentences. Ultimately, these skills should help students understand the structures used in all varieties of Present Day English, including formal and colloquial, spoken and written, and standard and non-standard dialects, but we will focus mostly on standard British and American varieties. Topics include grammatical categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc.), syntactic roles (subject, object, head, complement), phrase structure (noun phrases, verb phrases, etc.), and inflection (e.g. case and number for nouns; tense, aspect and modality for verbs; grade and comparison for adjectives). In addition to simply learning how to recognize such structures in ordinary language, we will consider why it is that languages should include such structures in the first place and how awareness of these structures might or might not help students to become more effective readers and writers. In the end, our study of grammar should lead to a deeper understanding of the human mind itself, and a new appreciation for the prodigious complexity in the most trivial acts of language use.