Modern English Grammar

“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.