The Grammar Hardware Store

 

Phonology
Consonants
Vowels

Morphology
Affixes
Bases

Lexicon
Form Classes
Structure Classes

Syntax
Phrases
Sentences

General

Customer Service
Manager

Updated May 20, 2001
Mark Canada, 2001
mark.canada@uncp.edu

Introduction

Welcome to the Grammar Hardware Store.  Whether you are looking for building materials to construct a sentence or just trying to identify an interesting part or material you found in someone else's sentence, we are here to help.  Like ordinary hardware stores, we carry all of your building needs.  You can find individual parts in the phonology aisle, assorted building materials in the morphology aisle, assembled components in the lexicon aisle, and units and whole rooms in the syntax aisle. 

I suggest you begin your visit at the Customer Service desk, where you will get a quick overview of our products.  If you still have concerns, just call me.

Mark Canada
Manager


 

Customer Service

 

Like architecture, grammar consists of several units.  Just as builders combine parts and building materials to create components, units, and whole rooms, English speakers combine phonemes and morphemes to create words, phrases, and entire sentences.  The table at the right shows how a single small part fits in a complete project.

Notice that we have looked at only one element at each level: one part or phoneme, one building material or morpheme, one component or word, and so on.  We could, however, look at every element of a room or sentence at the same level of detail.  The grammar store carries each level of supplies that go into English sentences, from phonemes up to whole sentences.

Architecture

English Language

Part: pin

Phoneme: /f/

Building material: hinge

Morpheme: ful

Component: cabinet

Word: wonderful

Unit: cabinet console

Phrase: a wonderful teacher

Room: kitchen

Sentence: The students have a wonderful teacher.

Before you begin wandering through our aisles, allow me to offer a little advice.  First, make sure you understand the difference between form and function.  Our products come in a variety of forms; we have nouns, adjectives, prepositional phrases, and infinitives, among other things.  Many of these products can be used for more than one purpose.  That is, they have multiple functions.  A prepositional phrase, for example, is always a prepositional phrase in form, but it can function as an adjectival, an adverbial, or even a sentence modifier.  You can find more information about form and function in the syntax aisle, which features a table listing the various forms and functions in English grammar.

Second, note that complicated sentences are often like complicated rooms.  Just as a room with a ceiling and walls can have a smaller unit--such as a cabinet--with its own ceiling and walls, a sentence can have smaller sentence-like things within it.  The sentence I know that you like cake, for example, is an independent clause (I know that you like cake) with another clause (that you like cake) inside it.  When you look at a sentence, treat it the same way you would treat a room in a house.  Take in the general impression and then inspect the individual pieces.  Look for things that stick together--prepositional phrases and relative clauses, for example--and examine them one at a time.
 

Phonology

Phonemes come in two varieties.  The first consists of consonants, sounds produced by placing the tongue in a particular place, impeding the flow of air in some way, and either vibrating or not vibrating the vocal cords.  In the grid below, the top row indicates the place of articulation--that is, the place where the tongue affects the flow of air.  The first column indicates two things.  First, it lists the manner of articulation; that is, it indicates whether the tongue stops the flow of air (stop), creates friction (fricative), stops and creates friction (affricate), stops the flow of air through the mouth and lets the air flow through the nose (nasal), allows the air to flow around it (liquids), or otherwise affects the flow of air (glides).
 

Consonants

Bilabial

Labiodental

Interdental

Alveolar

Alveopalatal

Velar

Glottal

Stops
Voiceless
Voiced


/p/ as in pat
/b/ as in bat

 

 


/t/ as in tip
/d/ as in dip

 


k as in cot
g as in got

 

Fricatives
Voiceless
Voiced

 

/f/ as in fan
/v/ as in van

/q/ as in thin
/d/ as in this

/s/ as in sip
/z/ as in zip

/sh/ as in pressure
/zh/ as in pleasure

 

/h/ as in hot

Affricates
Voiced
Voiceless

 

 

 

 

/ch/ as in chug
/j/ as in jug

 

 

Nasals

/m/ as in mat

 

 

/n/ as in nap

 

/ng/ as in bang

 

Liquids
Lateral
Retroflex

 

 

 


/l/ as in lip
/r/ as in rip

 

 

 

Glides

 

 

 

 

/y/ as in yet

/w/ as in wet

 

The second variety of phonemes consists of thevowels, sounds produced by vibrating the vocal cords and letting the air flow over the tongue.  We create different vowels by holding the tongue in different positions.  If, for example, you hold the tip of your tongue high at the front of your mouth, breath outward, and vibrate your vocal cords, you will produce the middle sound in the word feet.  To refer to this sound, we will use the symbol /i/.  The remaining vowels, along with their symbols, appear in the grid below.  The headings refer to the position of the highest part of the tongue.
 

Vowels

Front of Mouth

Center of Mouth

Back of Mouth

High in Mouth

/i/ as in feet
/I/ as in fit

 

/u/ as in soon
/u/ as in soot

Middle of Mouth

/e/ as in fate
/e/ as in fed

/U/ as in fun

/o/ as in soap
/a/ as in sought

Low in Mouth

/ae/ as in fat

 

/a/ as in sod


 

Morphology

The next step up from phonology is morphology.  That is, morphemes are often made up of phonemes, just as some building materials actually comprise individual parts.  Take a hinge, for example.  A typical hinge actually has at least two parts: a pin and two leaves.  Similarly, a typical morpheme has at least two phonemes.  A few morphemes, however, consist of individual phonemes.  We might think of these single-phoneme morphemes in the same way we think of nails and screws--that is, individual items not made up of separate parts.  Here are some examples:
 

Phonemes

Morphemes


/d/ + /e/ (2 phonemes)


/de/ = they (1 morpheme)

/p/ + /a/ + /t/ + /s/ (4 phonemes)

/pat/ + /s/ = pots (2 morphemes)

/e/ (1 phoneme)

/e/ = a (1 morpheme)

/t/ + /i/ + /ch/ + /U/ + /r/ (5 phonemes)

/tich/ + /Ur/ = teacher (2 morphemes)

Morphemes can be classified in three ways.  First, we can say whether a morpheme is free or bound.  If it is free, it can stand alone as a word.  Both a and teach, then, are free morphemes.  If a morpheme is bound, it cannot stand alone as a word; er is a bound morpheme.  Second, we can label morphemes as bases or affixes.  A morpheme that constitutes the core meaning of a word is called a base morpheme, while one that we add to a base is called an affix.  In the word teacher, teach is the base, and er is an affix.  Finally, we can further classify affixes as inflectional or derivational.  English has only eight inflectional affixes--that is, affixes that depend on the function of a word in a sentence.  For example, the inflectional affix s on the end of pot makes the word plural.  The remaining affixes in English are derivational affixes, which change the form or meaning of words.  The chart below lists all eight of the inflectional affixes in English, as well as some examples of derivational affixes.
 

Inflectional Affixes

Derivational Affixes

-s: creates plural nouns, as in "She owns two dogs."
-s: creates possessive nouns, as in "I found my dog's leash."
-s: creates third-person singular form of verbs, as in "He walks."
-ed: creates past tense of verbs, as in "He walked."
-en: creates past-participle verbs, as in "I've given her a chance."
-ing: creates present-participle verbs, as in "I am running."
-er: creates comparative adjectives and adverbs, as in "She's smarter than I."
-est: creates superlative adjectives and adverbs, as in "She's the smartest of the bunch."

Noun Affixes

Verb
Affixes

Adjective Affixes

Adverb
Affixes

-ant
-er
-hood
-ment
-ness
-tion
(and others)

-ate
-en
-ize
(and others)

-able
-al
-ful
-y
-ous
(and others)

-ly
-ward
-wise

The chart below labels the various morphemes in a typical English sentence:

"The students have a wonderful teacher."
 

The

student

s

have

a

wonder

ful

teach

er

free

free

bound

free

free

free

bound

free

bound

base

base

inflectional affix

base

base

base

derivational affix

base

derivational affix

 

Lexicon

The term lexicon refers to the stock of words in the English language.  These words come in several varieties, but we can categorize them in two broad classes.  In the form class are the cabinets, walls, and ceilings in the House of Grammar; they are the main stuff of which the language is made, the main stuff that concerns us.  Words in this class can change form as a result of derivational and inflectional affixes.  Moreover, form-class words have distinct meanings; indeed, they also go by the name lexical-content words.  Over the years, we lose some form-class words because they go out of style, while others come into fashion.  If words in the form class are the major parts of the House of Grammar, structure words are the screws, nails, and mortar.  They are the simple items that keep everything together.  Indeed, like nails and other fasteners, words in the structure class usually are solid units; that is, they generally do not take affixes and thus are actually single free morphemes.  Their meaning, furthermore, is often hard to pin down.  Instead of conveying meaning, they serve mainly to connect words in the form class.  The chart below lists the various types of words in each class.  Although your text book separates pronouns from the other classes, I have included them among the structure words, since they resemble other structure-class words more closely than they resemble words in the form class.
 

Form Class

Structure Class


Adjectives
Adverbs
Nouns
Verbs

Auxiliaries
Conjunctions
Determiners
Expletives
Interjections

Interrogatives
Particles
Prepositions
Pronouns
Qualifiers

More complicated than most other words in the structure class, pronouns appear in several forms.  Personal pronouns, for example, can be in one of three persons: first person, second person, or third person.  They also can be singular or plural.  Finally, depending on their function in a sentence, they appear in the subjective case, objective case, or possessive case, or reflexive form.
 

Personal Pronouns

Subjective Case

Objective Case

Possessive Case

Reflexive Form

First person (singular)
First person (plural)

I
we

me
us

my
our

myself
ourselves

Second person (singular)
Second person (plural)

you
you

you
you

your
your

yourself
yourselves

Third person (singular)
Third person (plural)

he, she, it
they

him, her, it
them

his, her, its
their

himself, herself, itself
themselves

 

Syntax

Phrases

Just as you can combine cabinets, countertops, doors, windows, and other building components in different ways to create different rooms, you can combine words in different ways to create different sentences.  In this section of the Grammar Hardware Store, you will find some basic information about the various types of phrases and sentences we find in English.  Think of those different phrases as the different units you might find in a house: walls and cabinet consoles, for example.  The different sentence patterns are like the different types of rooms we find in houses: kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and so on.

When building and furnishing a house, we can use some units for different purposes.  A wall might support the roof, for example, or it may simply divide the living space.  Similarly, some words and phrases can serve different purposes in different sentences.  For instance, a prepositional phrase might describe a noun and thus be an adjectival in one sentence; in another sentence, it might describe a verb and thus be an adverbial.  In both architecture and grammar, then, we can talk about both form and function.  The term form refers to what an element is; function refers to what the element does in a sentence.  The chart below lists various forms of phrases in English, according to the various functions they can serve.
 

Nominals

Adjectivals

Infinitive: I like to swim.
Infinitive phrase: I like to swim 10 laps before breakfast.
Gerund: I like writing.
Gerund Phrase: I like writing poetry and fiction.
Noun: She lives in Raleigh.
Noun Phrase: I found a big box.
Nominal Clause: I knew that he would finish first.
Pronoun: We own a dog.

Appositive: My friend Brian lives in New Jersey.
Infinitive: I made the decision to stop.
Infinitive phrase: I made the decision to stop early.
Noun: Stay off of my blue suede shoes.
Participle: The convicted thief bowed his head.
Participial Phrase: The man convicted of theft bowed his head.
Prepositional Phrases: Her reason for coming is out of line.
Relative Clause: I know a biologist who lives in the desert.

Adverbials

Sentence Modifiers

Infinitive: She reads to learn.
Infinitive Phrase: She reads to learn about other cultures.
Noun: They came home.
Noun Phrase: I hope to leave Sunday afternoon.
Prepositional Phrase: The dog ran around the yard.
Participle: They have gone fishing.
Participial Phrase: They have gone fishing in the lake.
Subordinate Clause: She cringes when they split infinitives.

Adverb: Interestingly, Albert Einstein struggled in school.
Vocative: Candace, would you open that window?
Interjection: Oh, I don't think she would have left early.
Subordinate Clause: Although he was hurt, Al finished first.
Appositive: He coughs incessantly, the result his smoking.
Relative Clause: She arrived late, which surprised us.
Absolute Phrase: Arms akimbo, George waited at the door.
Infinitive Phrase: To be honest, I didn't read the book.
Prepositional Phrase: His reasons, of course, were honorable.

Keep in mind that phrases can be quite elaborate.  Indeed many of them resemble whole sentences and fit into the sentence patterns illustrated below.

In addition to all of these phrases, we have various ways to expand verbs; that is, we can add words called auxiliaries to the verb to express subtle shades of meaning. The formulae for adding these auxiliaries appear below, along with examples.  The optional items appear in parentheses.

Verb-Expansion Rule for the Active Voice

Tense

(Modal)

(have + past participle)

(be + present participle)

verb

present

 

 

 

give

past

 

 

 

gave

present

should

 

 

give

present

 

 

is

giving

past

 

 

was

giving

present

will

 

be

giving

past

 

had

 

given

past

should

have

been 

giving

 Verb-Expansion Rule for the Passive Voice

Tense

(Modal)

(have + past participle)

(be+ present participle)

(be+ past participle)

verb

present

 

 

 

is

given

past

 

 

 

was

given

present

will

 

 

be

given

present

 

has

 

been

given

past

 

had

 

been

given

present

will

have

 

been

given

past

 

 

was

being

given

past

should

have

been

being

given

Sentences

Rooms in homes generally belong to a small number of categories: kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room, utility room, closet, garage, porch, sunroom, and attic.  Each has particular characteristics.  Similarly, as your text book explains, English has 10 basic sentence patterns.  The chart below lists each pattern, along with its required elements.
 

Sentence Patterns

Examples

Subject + be + Adverbial

Ben is here.

Subject + be + Adjectival

Ben is funny.

Subject + be + Nominal

Ben is a carpenter.

Subject + linking verb + Adjectival

Ben appears happy.

Subject + linking verb + Nominal

Ben became a father.

Subject + intransitive verb

Ben jogs.

Subject + transitive verb + direct object

Ben constructs buildings.

Subject + transitive verb + indirect object + direct object

Ben gave Martha a desk.

Subject + transitive verb + direct object + adjectival

Ben finds Martha friendly.

Subject + transitive verb + direct object + nominal

Ben considers Martha a friend.

Just as we can move walls and slightly alter ceilings in a house, we can transform sentences by moving elements and slightly altering the verbs.  Here are a few transformations we find in English:

Underlying structure: This restaurant serves fabulous lasagna.