Language in use  
English Language & Linguistics

English Language

 

Sentence Structure

The analysis and deconstruction of a sentence is a vital skill in understanding language. Sentence analysis is not always easy but it is an essential tool in understanding how language works. Sentence analysis is often referred to as "Grammar" but the latter is a sometimes imprecisely used word for "a systematic account of the rules governing language" (Crystal). Analysis of a particular sentence will demonstrate that you have some understanding of the meaning of grammar, of what a rule is, of what is accepted usage and how to interpret meaning and its significance.

It cannot be stressed too strongly that the ability to deconstruct a sentence is essential for any candidate seeking to achieve a good grade at English Language AS/A Level.

The pages below look at grammatical analysis in a variety of ways. But let's get one thing straight right at the beginning. Standard English has a set of grammatical rules of its own. English dialects have their own grammatical rules too, which are sometimes the same as, and sometimes different from, Standard English. Latin has a grammar too. These grammatical rules are not the same! Whatever some people say, do not let old rules of Latin grammar interfere with modern rules of English grammar. English grammar differs in many ways - and one in particular - word order - provides a good example:

Latin is an inflected language - that is, it used word endings to convey the relationships between words, whether a word was a subject or an object for example. However English has relatively few inflections and makes the relationship between words by using both word order and prepositions.

The classic example of
Word Order v Inflection
is the Latin
canis hominem mordet
which in English would mean
the dog bites the man
.

Latin could change the word order of this sentence without significantly changing its meaning - but if we change the word order in English it could become ...

The man bites the dog
... an entirely different meaning caused entirely by a change in word order.
To change the Latin meaning would involve changing the word endings.

There, that's that over with. Now read on about the interesting bits of English grammar!

The green sports car - an example of a deconstructed sentence.

Clauses - a simple guide to complex and compound sentences

Teacher Strike Idle Kids - examples of semantic and syntactic ambiguity in headlines

Homonym nouns and verbs. 20 examples of words which look the same but have different meanings whether they are nouns or verbs.

Bushisms - examples of curious syntax in the speeches of George W Bush.

Non-standard examples of language in use

The grammar of Pronouns.

Noun phrases

Chomsky and Universal Grammar

The Apostrophe

 

Links

 The apostrophe