Grammar: The Supposed “Morbid Anatomy” of Language


“The techniques of grammatical analysis can be used to demonstrate the enormous creative power of language-how, from a finite set of grammatical patterns, even a young child can express an infinite set of sentences. They can help us all to identify the fascinating ‘edges’ of language, when we find the many kinds of humorous and dramatic effects, both in literature and in everyday language. As we discover more about the way we each use grammar as part of our daily linguistic survival, we inevitably sharpen our individual style, and thus promote our abilities to handle more complex constructions, both in speaking/listening and writing/reading. We become more likely to spot ambiguities and loose constructions, and do something about it.

Grammar need not be dry, arcane, pointless; it can be alive, entertaining, relevant. As with so many subjects, it depends only on how it is put across. “

Phew! Before you start feeling daunted by David Crystal’s crystalline analysis of the relevance of grammar when you set about learning the nuances of a language, here’s consolation: relax. It isn’t as hard as it sounds. Or at least, the CLAT questions on Grammar aren’t, if you just do one thing: keep reading these posts, and pay attention to what is put up here.

Moving on to a broad classification of the Grammar questions covered:

1. Sentence completion: Fill In The Blanks requiring you to fill in the most appropriate word.
2. Sentence correction: Identify grammatically incorrect parts in a sentence.
3. Sentence transformation: This involves structural changes in the sentence without altering the meaning. Includes Active to Passive Voice, Direct to Indirect Speech, Interchanging parts of speech and Degrees of comparison.
4. Phrasal verbs: Idiomatic expressions combining verbs and prepositions to make new verbs whose meaning is often not obvious from the dictionary definitions of the individual words. Amazingly flexible for creating new terms, more and more of such verbs are coming into existence with every passing day. Again, starting this week, I would put up at least five examples as often as possible. For today, we have:

1. Account for: to offer a convincing explanation
2. Act on: base your action on
3. Act up: behave badly or strangely
4. Add on: include
5. Allow for: consider while planning or calculating something

5. Spellings: might sound stupid, but people do mess this tiny section up. Manasa’s post for today deals with just that.

The subcategories within these will be taken care of when we deal with them individually in subsequent posts. As you delve deeper into grammar, and consequently, into the way the language works, you are bound to be captivated by the wonder that language is. Trust me.

Apoorva Yadav.


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