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The English language has come under a threat especially in America as result of bad grammar. There has been a lot of criticism of English speakers in the United States who are being accused of misusing and breaking the basic grammatical rules. Although such criticism has been hear over years from publishers, editors and readers for the last three centuries, the aspect whether this criticism is fair still baffles many people. Questions are being raised whether it is the grammatical rules that are evolving or whether the English grammar is taking a real battering from its users. The changing trends in grammar has made many industries to enrol their employees in remedial classes in order to get them acclimatized to grammatical rules that will enhance proper communication worldwide. With such attention being paid to the grammatical aspect of any given language, it is therefore essential for students and learners to equip themselves with the necessary grammatical skills that will enhance their communication in addition to ensuring that they are up to date with changes that are taking place within the language’s grammar.

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Grammar, as used in linguistics, describes the set of rules in structure that govern house clauses, phrases and words are composed in any given natural language. The term grammar is also used to refer to the study of these rules which include syntax, morphology and phonology which are often mirrored by phonetics, pragmatics and semantics (Mc Carthy 1991). In addition to that, it is used to show the way in which words group themselves and how they change in order to make sensible sentences. Grammar also describes the behaviour of the words when these words are pluralised or negated, or the order used in order to formulate questions or the order used to join more than one clause in order to form a sentence.

The English Learning and Teaching (ELT) methodology provides with mechanisms used to present and practice English grammar. These techniques and mechanisms are used to deal with activities in which students are given by their grammatical information teachers, which can be either covert or overt. When teaching covert grammar, the grammatical facts are hidden to the students even though they are learning the language. The activities the students may be given include but not limited to being given in-class exercises such as to fill blank gaps, read through passages of in which new grammar was introduced and practised. However, such students’ attention is drawn into the activity rather than being drawn into the functioning of the grammar.

This type of teaching aids the teachers in assisting the learners to acquire and practise the English language without having to draw any conscious information regarding the grammatical facts of the language, or any other language that applies grammatical rules. On the other hand, overt grammar teaching implies that the teacher provides the learner with actual grammatical explanations and rules, meaning the information are explicitly presented. The grammar of the language is overt and open and the learners have to understand the intricate of the language whereas in the covert teaching, the learners are left to grapple with the learning of the new language and are less conscious of the grammatical information contained therein.

The emphasis of teaching grammar has shifted away in the recent years. Language teachers have other issues to concentrate and grapple with, for instance how people learn a new language and what they would like to say in that language. The result of this is that a new and adaptive way of teaching has been formulated and put into action, which is the communicative approach (Yule 1998). There are two main issues concerned with the communicative approach which are stated as teaching of language and the use of communicative activities. A distinction is made between the language acquisition and learning together with the above named issues.

There has been a perception by some people that teaching a language’s grammar does not necessarily help the people to know how to use the language. This can be illustrated as follows: just because somebody had the knowledge of the verb to be did not mean that he or she had the ability to introduce themselves correctly. Language was considered to be used to do certain constant tasks such as exchanging pleasantries, apologising, showing affirmations, indulging in arguments and other simple functions (Thornbury 1997).  Therefore, instead of having grammar taught, it was thought that teachers should have taught functions. However courses that are based only on teaching language functions from beginner through to elementary level run into a problem; learners have to have the knowledge of grammar in order to perform these functions but as shown described before, grammar was not often being taught.

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Nowadays, however, there is a general feeling and urge that students have not only the need to perform the various functions entailed in the language, but also the have the need to have a grammatical base as well. The modern courses provide a method in which the grammar structure is taught and the learners get to use that structure as part of a functional conversation. To illustrate this, we consider an English student getting to learn the ‘going to’ future. The student may first learn to use the new structure by asking simple questions, for example a learner may ask another, “what are you going to do after classes?” With practise, the student can later be incorporated into functional and logical exchanges, for example let us consider a conversation between two learners, Peter and James:

Peter: Where are you going?

James: I’m going to watch the match.

Peter: it would be good for you if you carried water with you.

James: Why is that?

Peter: it’s going to be extremely hot!

Among the numerous effects that encompass the communicative approach is the realisation that by just getting the students to indulge in language drills that is in a controlled is merely enough to assist them to master the English language appropriately whenever they need t. Students need other activities so that they can talk or write with ease the language that they are learning (Willis 2003). There are instances where the learners have use the language the natural way, for instance when they are in a classroom and have to communicate an idea to their fellow classmates other than practising the language. With the advancement in knowledge, there are many materials both printed and electronic which give the major on the activities such as problem solving, role playing, discussions, project work and games that go a long way in teaching and encouraging the students how communicate (Carter 1997). Learning grammar through communicative activities has a number of advantages some which are: the student find the learning enjoyable, they give the students a chance to break from the normal teacher-student classmate arrangement as well as giving the students a chance to use the newly learnt language in various contexts within the classroom setting.

1.3 Grammatical Function and form

There are a number of reasons why learners perceive learning of English to be a daunting task. One of the reasons is that a form of confusion arises due to mismatch between grammatical form and function. For instance, an English tutor may have the knowledge that the present continuous tense describes actions that are in full progress at the current moment. However, there are different contexts in which this tense is used. As an illustration, we take into consideration the following sentences in which the present continuous tense has been used (Davies & Dubinsky 2003).

  1. She’s coming for the meeting at 3 o’clock tomorrow evening (depicts a future arrangement)
  2. Let’s take time to reflect and flashback to the same time last year. It is 3 o’clock on a Thursday evening, standing near the old windmill..... (This context depicts a narrative present based on a story from the past)
  3. You are always complaining! (This scenario depicts an annoying, repeated and annoying habit)

From the three sentences above, the tense has been used to mean differently with each use. This shows that confusion may arise as the same form has several meaning and it may proof difficult for a student trying to master the grammar of the new language. This situation is further made difficult in the essence that many meanings can be expressed using several forms. To illustrate this, we use the following sentences:

  1. She’ll come tomorrow. (A present and instant decision)
  2. She’ll be coming tomorrow. (This shows a definite arrangement)
  3. She is to come tomorrow. (An obligation that she has to fulfil)

Such confusions in form and function have made teachers to wary and have made decisions of what form (or structure) to teach, and what function (or use) the form/structure is to be put.

Collocation, which is an expression that consists of two or more words, is used to correspond to some conventional ways of saying things. In other words, collocations of a given word are statements that give the habitual context of that word. In recent times, collocation has been used to justify the various actions that have been taking place in the world. For instance the scientists have tried to explain the destruction of ozone layer due to excessive pollution has led to “global warming” as well as the common term that tea lovers use to describe highly concentrated tea as “strong tea”. Another good example of changes in collocation is the way that US branded Iraq as having “Weapons of mass destruction”.

Academic discourse and writing are targeted to a specific audience that share common grammatical conventions and style. For example newspapers represent an area in writing of journalism and therefore must provide a way in which the capture the attention of the reader at a glance. That is the major reason why the modern day newspaper articles have hold headlines followed by an excerpt that gives just a preview of the story but with enough suspense to make the reader move get interested to read the story. Such area in journalism can have very many variations in discourse (Carter & McCarthy 2006). It should be noted that the aim of an academic writing is to persuade and prove to the reader that the student has understood the area that he or she is presenting, which calls for the necessary knowledge in the grammar of the presenting language. The major thing that is to be understood is that writing should be done in stages. The stages include making the dissertation sketch overview that includes the breaking of the findings into appropriate chapters, drafting and revision of the arguments which allows the exposition of the ideas of the student, the most important being to check that the draft confines to the grammatical rules such as punctuations, spellings and word arrangements, and final step is clarification of any remaining arguments that may have been left out in the previous steps. The student should write clear and concise statements and avoid awkward and long clauses help in maintaining interest and attention of the reader. 

Grammar in modern academic writing plays a pivotal role and learners should take considerable time in understanding how it is applied. To begin with, the writer should be conversant with the ideas of paragraphs. A paragraph should be developed based on a single idea, and it is through the cascading of the various paragraphs that an academic writing emerges. The length of the paragraphs should be optimum- neither too long nor too short. The paragraphs should also have varying lengths in order to break the monotony of having same structure (Quirk et al. 1985). In addition, the linking of the paragraphs should be clear and in a way that they move the reader from one paragraph to the next seamlessly.

Some other grammatical issues involved in writing academic essays and dissertations is that the writer should leave needless words that are there to elongate the sentence but have no particular meaning. This is necessary so as to ensure the clarity of the work that is being done. In addition, the writer should use specific terms rather than assumptions and abstractions. Through this, the writer is able to show the prowess and technical knowhow that are related to his or her academic discipline. Moreover, the writer should also control the use of adjectives that have the tendency of leaving the reader in a state of vagueness when describing the facts the academic writing. However, such a guideline is not a benchmark for academic rule discourse but rather a guideline that a writer should relate to. The confidence of the writer regarding his or her research topic should provide an easier avenue to present the ideas (Torres & Walker 2009).

The continued emigration and immigration has played a role in changing the grammar rules as used in English. For example, residents of countries that were colonized by the British especially in Africa learn the British English and its grammar rules. When they get scholarships the US, they have to learn the new grammatical rules that apply to the US English, for example, and individual has to know that gasoline is to US while petrol is British, that in US it is “organization” while in British it is “organisation” and many more differences. Such changes in grammar have to be adopted by the people immigrating to a specific country.

Another reason that has led to the changes between form teaching and functional teaching of grammar is the need to communicate globally. The people in the world want to have an avenue where they can only converse with others without having to know the complex underlying structure of the language they are conversing with. For example, a student from Japan who comes into the US to study Engineering will learn the basics of the English language that will enable him or her to communicate with his or her teachers and colleagues irrelevant of whether the English he speaks is correct or not, as long as the message is delivered. This has shown a shift towards functional learning of language more than formal learning of the language.

Changes in technology have led to changes in the way grammar is applied in academic writings and dissertations. For example, there emerged a new rule in paragraph layout in addition to the traditional inside indentation method. Typed letters have block type of paragraphs where the starting line of a next paragraph begins at the leftmost margin but one line space below its preceding paragraph. Computers have come also with inbuilt grammar checkers which allow students to type in their work while correcting them for grammatical errors such as spellings and sentence construction. In addition these, computers have also fuelled the decline in grammatical knowledge through the creation of social sites such as Twitter and Facebook for which people have a freestyle mode of communication where no grammatical rules apply.

Teaching grammar and studying grammar has a long term benefit to the learner as they are able to understand the complexities behind how the words are formed in order to create sensible and comprehensible phrases that are ideal in communication, especially through writing. In conclusion, having grammar being taught brings about improvement in students’ writing skills as shown through the discussions above. Furthermore it has to be noted that the current generation of tech-savvy students do not have the basic grammatical foundation since they spend most of the time interacting with their gadgets. Social sites have played a major role in fuelling bad grammar among this generation. The restriction in words to be written has led the people to create innovative, and often destructive, ways so shorten words in order to cram many words into a single message. This has a long term effect as the people find themselves shortening such words in areas they are not supposed to, for example in academic essays. It is therefore imperative that grammar rules be taught in order to have a generation that understands the structure of the English language.

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