Topic 12 – Essential elements of morphosyntax of English. Elementary communicative structures. Progressive use of grammatical categories in oral and written communication to enhance production.

Topic 12 – Essential elements of morphosyntax of English. Elementary communicative structures. Progressive use of grammatical categories in oral and written communication to enhance production.

1. Introduction.

The structures of a language, the rules governing the changes of their forms and the combination of elements composing it, constitute the grammar of that language. It is studied by linguistics. Linguistics is the science which deals with the study of the language and it can be divided into 5 main levels described above.

1) Phonetics, Phonology This is the level of sounds. One must distinguish here between the set of possible human sounds, which constitutes the area of phonetics proper, and the set of system sounds used in a given human language, which constitutes the area of phonology.

2) Morphology This is the level of words and endings, it refers to the analysis of minimal forms in language which are, however, themselves comprised of sounds and which are used to construct words which have either a grammatical or a lexical function. within the same level we must take into account Lexicology. Lexicology is concerned with the study of the lexicon from a formal point of view and is thus closely linked to (derivational) morphology.

3) Syntax This is the level of sentences. It is concerned with the meanings of words in combination with each other to form phrases or sentences.

Language typology attempts to classify languages according to high-order principles of morphology and syntax and to make sets of generalisations across different languages irrespective of their genetic affiliations, i.e. of what language family they belong to.

4) Semantics This is the area of meaning.

5) Pragmatics The concern here is with the use of language in specific situations. The meaning of sentences need not be the same in an abstract form and in practical use. In the latter case one speaks of utterance meaning. The area of pragmatics relies strongly for its analyses on the notion of speech act which is concerned with the actual performance of language. This involves the notion of proposition – roughly the content of a sentence – and the intent and effect of an utterance.

This topic is related to the second and third level of linguistics which analyze the word structure and types of words and how they form longer structures such phrases and sentences. Furthermore, Apart from learning a language grammar , if we want to communicate with it productively, we will have to learn that there are other factors shaping the meaning of a grammatically correct sentence in a language, such as: situations, speakers and social background, that is, the context, which is studied by pragmatics.

This unit will be divided in four main chapters. The first one will analyze main elements of morphology and the second one would be devoted to syntax. The next section will describe how morphological and syntactic elements work together to create meaning and the last chapter will detail a series of activities to develop Communicative competence by using specific morphosyntactic elements.

2. Essential elements of morphosyntax.

The range of constructions studied by grammar is divided into sub-fields. The oldest and most widely-used division is that between morphology and syntax.

The most basic units of syntax are the sentence and the word. The sentence is the largest unit of syntax: as we move upwards beyond the sentence we pass from syntax into discourse analysis; the word is the lowest unit of syntax: as we move downwards beyond the word we pass from syntax into morphology.


Two main fields are traditionally recognized within morphology:

a) Inflectional morphology: studies the way in which words vary in order to express grammatical contrasts in sentences, such as singular/past or past/present. These grammatical contrasts are called grammatical categories:

aspect: perfective, imperfective progressive, non progressive

case: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, partitive

gender: masculine, feminine, neuter, animate, inanimate

mood: indicative, subjunctive, optative

number: singular, dual, trial, plural

person: first, second, third…

tense: present, past, future

voice: active, passive

b) Derivational morphology: studies the principles governing the construction of new words, without reference to the specific grammatical role a word might play in a sentence. There are three chief processes in English by which new words are created:

Affixation: divided into prefixation (adding prefixes) and suffixation (adding suffixes).

Conversion: a word changes its class without any change of form e.g. aim and to aim.

Compounding: adding one base to another e.g. blackboard.

Reduplication: type of compound in which both elements are the same e.g. knock-knock.

Clipping: informal shortenings e.g. flu, ad, telly.

Blendings: two words merge into one, e.g. smog = smoke + fog.

Infixation: emphatic structures such as abso-booming-lutely.

2.2. The word.

a) Closed classes: They can be composed of all the existing elements or of those that may be created. I

b) Open classes: The components of this group admit any addition of other elements.

The classification below, or slight expansions of it, is still followed in most dictionaries:

Noun (names): a word or lexical item denoting any abstract (abstract noun: e.g. home) or concrete entity (concrete noun: e.g. house); a person (police officer, Michael), place (coastline, London), thing (necktie, television), idea (happiness), or quality (bravery).

Pronoun (replace or again placed): a substitute for a noun or noun phrase (them, he).

Adjective (describes, limits): a modifier of a noun or pronoun (big, brave). Adjectives make the meaning of another word (noun) more precise.

Verb (states action or being): a word denoting an action (walk), occurrence (happen), or state of being (be). Without a verb a group of words cannot be a clause or sentence.

Adverb (describes, limits): a modifier of an adjective, verb, or another adverb (very, quite). Adverbs make language more precise.

Preposition (relates): a word that relates words to each other in a phrase or sentence and aids in syntactic context (in, of). Prepositions show the relationship between a noun or a pronoun with another word in the sentence.

Conjunction (connects): a syntactic connector; links words, phrases, or clauses (and, but). Conjunctions connect words or group of words.

Interjection (expresses feelings and emotions): an emotional greeting or exclamation (Huzzah, Alas). Interjections express strong feelings and emotions.

Article (describes, limits): a grammatical marker of definiteness (the) or indefiniteness (a, an). The article is not always listed among the parts of speech. It is considered by some grammarians to be a type of adjective[13] or sometimes the term ‘determiner‘ (a broader class) is used.

3. Syntax

In the discourse, the basic unit is the statement which is defined because it is a fragment of communication, no matter what its extension is, within to marked pauses or the previous silence plus a marked pause. For the fragmentation we do not take into account its grammatical structure or its context, which may be insufficient and incomplete.

a) Some organise all its constituents in relation to a verb conjugated in a personal form. These are named sentences.

b) Other statements are characterised in relation to the lack of a verb in personal form according to the nucleus, e.g. yes. These are called phrases.

3.1 Types of phrases: ( son los sintagmas del castellano).

A small group of words that gives meaning to a sentence is called as a phrase. A phrase is not a sentence as it does not express a complete thought or an idea with a subject and a verb. In other words, a phrase is two or more words, which can be a clause without subject-verb pair. A phrase can be very short and can be quite long. According to the English language, a phrase is a collection of words that acts as an element in the syntax of a sentence. It can be a clause or can contain a clause within it.

Based on the words, a phrase can act as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb or preposition in a sentence. Keeping in mind the phrase functions and constructions, it is categorized into a noun phrase, adjective phrase, adverb phrase, verb phrase, appositive phrase, participle phrase, infinite phrase and gerund phrase.

3.2. Parts of a sentence.

According to Quirk and Greenbaum when analysing the smallest parts of the sentences, they distinguish between subject and predicate.

3.3. Elements of a sentence.

There are five elements we can split the sentence in.

3.3. 1. Subject: The subject of a sentence can be a clause with nominal function:

(That he came quickly) was unusual. but it is normally a nominal clause and in its simples forms are a personal pronoun or a proper noun. In affirmative sentences the subject is always placed before the verb and in interrogative sentences the subject is placed after the operator. It also keeps person and number agreement with the verb.

3.3.2. Verb: The verbal sentence may be composed of one or two words. In the case of two words, it is composed of a main verb preceded by one or more “auxiliary” verbs. John wrote a letter

There are different types of verbs, in close correspondence to other types of objects and complements. Quirk and Greenbaum distinguish between:

3.3.3 Complement: These elements may have the same structure as the subject itself. We must distinguish between:

Subject complement: this type of complement has a direct relationship with the subject.John is a student subject complement (attribute=with stative verbs).He became richer subject complement (predicative=with dynamic verbs as the result of the action)

Object complement: this complement has a relationship with the direct object similar to the one the subject complement keeps with the subject.

The prize made him rich à object complement (resulting attribute)

I drank the coffee cold. à object complement (current attribute)

3.3.4 Object : The objects are placed after the subject and the verb. When the sentence is passive, both of them assume the subject status.

Direct object: In general it is a name referred to a person and the semantic relation between them is that something is done for or received by someone. It is more frequent than the indirect object and this always appears whenever there is an indirect object, preceding it.

Indirect object: It is normally the recipient or receiver of the action. John wrote his friend a letter indirect object

3.3.5. Adverbial: Adverbials may be many and varied. The adverbials can be performed by:

1) Adverbial locutions with and adverb as nucleus: He went home slowly.

2) Nominal phrase:We go on holiday every summer.

3) Prepositional phrase (nominal clause introduced by a preposition):

We live in a large house.

4) Clauses with either personal or impersonal forms:Watching him go she cried / My father took me to the zoo when I was 8.

3.3.6. Types of sentences: According to the number of predicators:

● independent. paratactic or hypotactic. According to Grammatical structures

Declarative: Subject is present

Interrogative: operator as initial position.

Exclamative: Initially introduced by : wHAT+hOW+NOUN PHRASE

Imperative: Do not have grammatical subject. According to pragmatics:

Here is Searle’s classification for types of illocutions:

A. Assertive: an illocutionary act that represents a state of affairs. E.g. stating, claiming, hypothesizing, describing, telling, insisting, suggesting, asserting, or swearing that something is the case.

B. Directive: an illocutionary act for getting the addressee to do something. E.g. ordering, commanding, daring, defying, challenging.

C. Commissive: an illocutionary act for getting the speaker (i.e. the one performing the speech act) to do something. E.g. promising, threatening, intending, vowing to do or to refrain from doing something.

D. Expressive: an illocutionary act that expresses the mental state of the speaker about an event presumed to be true.. E.g. congratulating, thanking, deploring, condoling, welcoming, apologizing.

E. Declarative: an illocutionary act that brings into existence the state of affairs to which it refers. E.g. blessing, firing, baptizing, bidding, passing sentence, excommunicating.

4. Elementary communicative structures and progressive use of grammatical categories in oral and written productions.

At the stage of Primary Education, children have not yet acquired the capacity of abstraction. For them to learn a foreign language will be to communicate with other people for different aims. We must take advantage of this conception and give priority to the content of messages, to the situations and to the activities where the language is present and the language is used, making the learning of grammar something hidden. We should avoid teaching the mechanics of grammar but fostering curiosity about language in meaningful contexts.

Three phases of teaching and learning grammar in primary education:

  1. Grammar inaccuracy: In the first stages we should focus on listening and phonetics. we can use mechanic approaches based on repetition and basic structures. TPR is a method which helps young learners develop grammatical awareness ate the early stages.
  2. Introduction of grammar:
    1. Rule learning: induction and explication. Grammar rules may be acquired in either of two ways:

1) Through induction: It is not possible to learn the rules of a language entirely through explication given the current state of knowledge. The process of induction is one whose essence is learning through self-discovery. We present our pupils with relevant language data and they, first, abstract a rule based on the presented data, and secondly, develop a basis for its application.

2) Through explication. Learning through explication requires two essentials: basic knowledge of the language of the explanation and advanced cognitive development The formal learning of grammar is not our objective when teaching English to our pupils. We want them to use grammar categories to improve their communicative competence. We can do this using, for example, songs and stories, which can introduce our pupils to the grammatical patterns of English in a natural and authentic way.

  1. Mechanical acquisition replaced by cognitive learning.

We can distinguish three stages:

presentation: the aim is to get the learners to perceive the grammar categories in both speech and writing and to take it into short term memory.

controlled practice: the aim is to cause the learners to transfer what they know from short-term to long-term memory preparing them to use them for communication.

production stage: production or comprehension of meaning for some non-linguistic purpose, for some real-life purpose. There are some principles which definitely contribute to successful grammar learning and teaching:

Interaction will make possible that in particular moments specific needs of certain structures, either new or more complex ones arise. Then, first of all, the student will be able to use non linguistic resources and when the latter are not sufficient, the pupils can ask their teacher so that he can give them the appropriate mechanisms. It is the teacher duty to design a series of activities progressively demanding more complex linguistic uses.


Nowadays… clt.. communicative competence… grammar subcompetence.. through the four skills