Morphology and destiny: On words for snow and Sapir-Whorf

We had a lot of fun in my grammar class yesterday.

We were beginning a unit on morphology. The night before class, I had carefully prepared lecture notes on my tablet (I’m using a new textbook this year and taking the opportunity to revise all my lesson plans).

For reasons known only to my tablet, however, the notes I prepared were gone when I showed up in class yesterday morning , meaning that I had to wing it after all. Since my goal for the lecture was to derive a typology of English morphology from my students innate grammatical knowledge, I decided simply to write a bunch of different types of words on the board and see where things took us: dog, books, do, does, revert, convert, I’ll, we’d, and… undoifications.

Turned out this last was an inspired choice. One student clapped every time we managed to put one of the sub-forms into a meaningful sentence and the student blogs are full ideas stoked by the example: one student went home and impressed his Read the rest of this entry »

Grammar Essentials 2: Parts of Speech (Word Classes) Exercise Answers

Here are possible answers to the exercises in Grammar Essentials 2: Parts of speech. In some cases more than one right answer might be possible. Read the rest of this entry »

Basic Old English Grammar

Old English and Modern English can be deceptively similar from a syntactic point of view. In particular, word order frequently is the same in the two languages (though Old English is actually probably closer in some aspects of its word order to other Low German languages such as Dutch). This means that it is often possible to translate simple declarative sentences from Old English by simply looking up the meaning of each word in a dictionary… Read the rest of this entry »

Grammar Essentials 2: Parts of Speech (Word Classes)

Words are different from each other in meaning—car and unwelcome mean different things, after all. But they can also differ from each other in more than meaning: they can also differ in the way they are used in sentences. Read the rest of this entry »

Grammar Essentials 1: Inflections (Inflectional Morphology)

For the most part, English uses word order to indicate the relationship among words in sentences. When I say “The boy bit the dog”, people listening to me know that it was the boy who did the biting because The boy comes first in the sentence. Likewise, they know that it was the dog that was bitten because the dog comes after bit. Read the rest of this entry »

Grammar: A Guide to the Essentials

This tutorial is intended for high school, college, and University students who need a quick guide the essentials of English grammar. Its goal is to help you understand the core grammatical terminology used in textbooks and lectures in courses on foreign languages, the History of English, Old English, or other medieval and classical languages. Read the rest of this entry »

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