“Grammar” is the attempt to describe how language
works. The way you have been taught about
grammar 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 the emphasis will be on discovery —
how language works — rather than memorization.
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.
Grade based on short written exercises, quizzes, and exams.
Required text: Richard Veit, Discovering English
Grammar, 2nd ed.