sexta-feira, julho 23, 2010

Making Decisions on Grammaticality — Inglês Avançado

Look at the sentences below.

a. In your opinion, label each sentence as G for grammatical, N for ungrammatical,and ? for “not sure” or “don’t know”.

b. For those sentences you labeled as N, identify the element or elements that you think are ungrammatical and explain why you think they are ungrammatical.

c. For those sentences you labeled as ?, if you can, discuss why you are unsure.

1. She had less problemswith themove to a new school than she thought
she would.
2. She lays in bed all day whenever she gets a migraine headache.
3. My sister Alice, who is older than me, still lives at home.
4. Everyone needs to buy their books before the first day of class.

Discussion: Discovery Activity 1

In all of these sentences there is a difference between casual English and formal English. In formal English, particularly when written, there are rules that speakers are taught that must be followed in order for sentences to be considered “correct.” In the first sentence, few should be used only with nouns we can count, such as apples, pens, or days while less should be used with nouns we can’t count, such as math, water, or beauty. According to this rule, the sentence should be She had fewer problems with the move to the new school than she thought she would (see Chapter 3).

In the next sentence, there is a formal grammar rule distinguishing between lie and lay. Lie is a verb that is not followed by an object, while lay is a verb that is followed by an object. Compare these two sentences:

Cats lie on beds lie = resting or sleeping
Cats lay mice on beds. lay = put

Another way to differentiate these two similar verbs is to describe lay as an action verb and lie as a non-action verb. According to the rule that tells us that lie doesn’t take an object but lay does, Sentence (2) needs to be rewritten in formal English as:

She lies in bed all day long whenever she has a migraine headache.

Grammar as a Set of Rules 3

Adding to the confusion between lie and lay is the fact that the past tense form of lie is lay. (The past tense of lie is lay). As the distinction is becoming less and less common, even “serious” publications interchange the two forms, which illustrates how language, and what is considered acceptable, gradually changes:

Goldmann and Wermusch detected the dried-up river bed of this branch, which had discharged into the sea west of the present-day city of Barth. The two concluded that large parts of Vineta must lay buried in the silt of the lagoon north of Barth. [Bryasac, S. (2003 July/August). Atlantis of the Baltic. Archeology, 64.]

In Sentence (3) there is a grammar rule that dictates I needs to be used here, not me because than compares two nouns in subject position as in:

My sister Alice, who is older than I, still lives at home.

Nevertheless, for many users of English, I after than sounds stilted or affected in spoken English and in informal written contexts, such as e-mail or personal correspondence.

In Sentence (4) Everyone needs to buy their books before the first day of class, the discussion of which pronoun to use is a subject of controversy. Traditional grammarians for centuries have argued that the singular male pronoun is the grammatically correct form because words such as anyone or anybody are singular, even though they refer to plural concepts. The choice of the male pronoun his was based on the assumption that the male pronoun encompassed reference to females.

While such an argument may be true of Latin and other languages such as Spanish or German, there is no basis for this in English. In Spanish, all nouns are either masculine or feminine. In the case of Latin or German, all nouns are masculine, feminine, or neuter. The plural form, when reference is made to both sexes, is the male plural form in all of these languages.

English, in contrast, does not classify its nouns according to gender, except in a few instances where they clearly refer to a specific sex such as girl or father. In addition, English plural nouns are gender neutral (we, our, ours, you, your, yours, they, their, theirs), unless the antecedent (preceding noun or noun phrase) specifically indicates gender.

The use of “his” after such pronouns as anyone or everybody is an artificial construct of traditional grammarians, derived from early English grammarians who wrote the first grammars based on “logical” Latin. Guided by the “logic” of Latin, they concluded that since -one and -body are singular and since a male pronoun should encompass reference to all persons, his was the “logical” or “correct” choice.

Although grammarians have insisted that speakers use “his” for centuries, the tendency has been to use the plural pronoun form their and to avoid any reference to gender. In fact, in the last several decades, it has become generally unacceptable in American English to use the singular male pronoun after such words as each, everyone, somebody.

Following the rise of the feminist movement and the changes in the status of women in society, somemodern grammarians, in response to the gender controversy have begun recommending the use of he or she, while others urge using plural nouns and pronouns in order to avoid the problem. Instead of Everyone needs his book, the sentence can be reworded as “all students need their books.” Another strategy is the use of “a” instead of “his” as in: Everyone needs a book.

What was the Purpose of this Discovery Activity and discussion?

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