Part Three: “Grammar”

The use of “grammar” as one would typically use it is different from how one would use it in Linguistics. It refers to a great number of things, from the word level all the way to the complex interpersonal communication standards of a society. It also splits words into many groups and classes. These classes often behave very differently and contain different numbers of words. In this article, I will define some of the important areas of grammar, all of which will have their own articles.

Word classes are different types of words. Think of verbs or nouns, adjectives, and conjunctions. Languages split these up in various ways, some combining word classes, some featuring word classes alien to English. Word classes can also be variously sized, and open to new words. Some languages in Australia have as few as 100 verbs, and that’s it! Many languages in North America don’t have many simple nouns, with most words we would call nouns being conjugated verbs.

Morphology is the way words are changed to produce more complex meanings. Morphemes are the smallest unit of meaning in a language, being unable to be broken down. They can be combined into strings to create more meaning. Take Inuktitut tusaatsiarunnanngittualuujunga, meaning “I can’t hear very well.” It can be broken down into the following morphemes.

tusaa- tsiaq-junnaq-nngit-tu-alu-u-junga
to hearwellbe ableNEG (not)IND.3 (it is true)AUG (very)beIND.1 (I am saying something true)

Syntax is the order of words within a sentence and how they interact. This is at its most basic when we look at the order of the subject, the direct object, and the verb. English generally goes SVO, subject-verb-object. If you were to describe a chicken biting a boy, the subject (the chicken) comes first, the verb (bites) comes next, and the object (the boy) comes last.

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