“Grammar” is the attempt to
describe how language works. The way you
have been taught to do so in the past might well have seemed fairly arbitrary
to you: you were probably expected to learn some terms for things like parts of
speech, but then you might not have had much luck when you tried to apply these
terms to real sentences. In this course
we will certainly be learning some more terms, but at each point we will be
asking ourselves why and what we are supposed to be learning. When we look at the parts of speech, we will
ask why we are distinguishing one part of speech from another and what criteria
we should use to distinguish them, before coming up with our definitions. We will try to look at larger language
structures in the same way: we will ask what we are trying to figure out, and
which of several possible different ways of describing something really does
most to help us understand how language operates and how sentences convey
meaning. For that is the goal: not just
to memorize terms, but to gain as much understanding as we can of one of the
most commonplace but also most complex of human phenomena.
Required text Richard Veit, Discovering
English Grammar, 2nd ed.
Grade based on short written exercises, quizzes, and exams.