National Punctuation Day

September 24 was National Punctuation Day! Hurray!

So happy BELATED National Punctuation Day.

I HAVEN’T forgotten you guys, and no Grammar and I are NOT on a break. I have been swamped with homework from my other classes this week, BUT a new and riveting post about Grammar is on the way!

I promise. My word… Is my bond. Or my words, rather.

Until next time, sarah.

Get Down with Nouns.

What is a noun?

The most basic of all basic definitions of a noun would be this: the name of a person, place, thing OR idea. That definition is definitely helpful, BUT English is a pretty complex (and at times confusing) language, so nothing is ever that simple.

The word “noun”, is a noun, because it is the name of something. BUT noun is not JUST any noun. It is an abstract noun, an inanimate noun and a count noun. (It also is NOT a proper noun, but we won’t hold that against it.) NOW: what the heck does all that mean? Well, I’ll tell ya.

First we’ll look at proper versus common nouns. This is the easiest category I find, and one of the categories most people would be familiar with, whether they know it actively or not. Common nouns refer to general categories, like man, driver, hairspray. These are all things or people, but they are not SPECIFIC things or people. And they aren’t places (specific ones or otherwise), at least not the last time I checked. Whenever you are writing and you have a noun, if it is common you wouldn’t capitalize the first letter. Where as with a PROPER noun, ya would. Hopefully. Proper nouns refer to a specific noun, and the first letter of any proper noun should be capitalized. This generally refers to the names of places or people, like Sarah (oh so very proper), or Hollywood, or The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These are specific places or people, as opposed to just saying that girl, or that museum, or that place where all those famous people live. No capital letters required, unless you’re getting really close and personal with that noun. Now if all ya’ll are comfortable with that we can move along to concrete versus abstract nouns.

A concrete noun is exactly what it sounds like. Anything that is a noun, that physically exists on the planet, is concrete. Grammar wise. Like my computer is a concrete noun, the table my computer rests on, also a concrete noun. Abstract nouns are ideas or concepts that cannot be physically represented. Like, love. Or anger. There are images we associate with these nouns, but you can’t really point out an object called “anger.” You can try, but you would fail. And I prefer success. Moving along, next we can take a look at inanimate versus animate nouns.

Inanimate and animate nouns could also be described as human and non-human nouns, but as an animal lover, I prefer to stick with inanimate and animate. It is a more inclusive use of language I find. Basically anything ALIVE is an animate noun. My dogs, Teddy and Ally, are animate nouns. The bones I give them to chew when they are acting out and preventing me from doing my homework, are inanimate nouns. The bones I guess at one point were part of a living creature… BUT we won’t confuse ourselves. Anything that isn’t currently alive is an inanimate noun. SO, salt and pepper shakers are inanimate, food is inanimate, I would hope so anyway. Plants and the like are considered inanimate, I realize they are technically “alive” but for grammar purposes we will consider them dead. A big thing with animate and inanimate nouns is it would designate what pronoun we would use to refer to that noun. We would use “he” or “she” to refer to an animate noun, and “it” to refer to an inanimate noun. Bringing it back to plants you wouldn’t necessarily say “she needs watering.” (unless you’re my best friends mother), you would say “it needs watering.” And taking us back to the example of my pups, I would say “Teddy is hungry, he needs fed.” not “Teddy is hungry, it needs fed.” When you read or say these things out loud they sound or look wrong, because it has been ingrained in our brain when we learned English the difference between inanimate or animate nouns, we may just not have realized we knew this information.

The last subcategory of nouns is, to me, the most confusing. BUT, don’t let that put you off. This category is referred to as count and noncount nouns (also referred to as “mass nouns.”) When nouns in this category are used incorrectly, it can have grave grammatical consequence… So, pay attention. A count noun is really any noun that can be counted. Sounds relatively simple, right? Counting in this context means, one balloon, two balloons, three balloons…. You get the picture. A non count noun on the other hand cannot be counted in this way. Let’s take wine for instance. You can’t really go one wine, two wines, three wines, four… (You might count this way if you have had three or four glasses of wine… but that doesn’t make it right.) You actually use a unit of measure to count noncount nouns (or to keep track of your consumption, in this case.) So, it becomes one glass of wine, two glasses of wine, three glasses of wine. One time I actually saw a BAG of wine advertised, which I found odd, but took pleasure in the fact that it was grammatically correct. Count nouns can’t stand alone, they have to be accompanied by “a” or “an”, where as noncount nouns are totally comfortable flying solo, which is good because they are usually incompatible with “a” or “an.” I say usually because some noncount nouns can be treated as count nouns. That’s where it gets tricky and confusing. ALSO, another tricky area, the less vs. fewer situation. UGH.

I am writing a novel here… To conclude with count nouns, the grammatically correct way to ask for MORE of a count noun is “Could I get MORE balloons, please?” (Also, the polite way.)  The same goes for a noncount noun “Could I get more wine, please?” (Also, the polite way… This is near the BEGINNING of the night.) BUT when you are indicating the opposite, with a count noun you say “I would like FEWER balloons, thanks.” Where as with a noncount noun, you ask for less. “I think you should give her LESS wine. Thanks.” Of course, in colloquial language the word less is kind of thrown around, count or noncount, but this is a handy rule to keep in mind if you are ever in scholarly company, ya lush.

Until next time, sarah.

Barry, Anita K. “Human Grammar: Language as Human Behavior”, New Jersey: Pearson, 2002. Print.

An Apostrophe Travesty… Apostro-vesty?

When is an apostrophe not an apostrophe?

When it is used incorrectly.

We were discussing proper grammar in my English class this morning and among homonyms, predicates and pronouns, proper punctuation also emerged as a popular grammar problem. We had just finished an in-class writing assignment the class previous, and supposedly due to our pitiful performance, Dr. D decided an overview of appropriate apostrophe placement was required. Apparently, this is an issue that a lot of people (humanities students among them) struggle with.

So, when exactly is an apostrophe appropriate? There are three widely accepted situations in which apostrophe use, in the English language, is proper: contractions, possessives (plural & otherwise), and in colloquial speech. For those that are unsure, a contraction is when you take two words, and join them together to make one word. It is kind of like downsizing at a big company, with less tragic consequences. An example would be the commonly used, “it’s”. (Not to be confused with “its”, thats a whole ‘nother blog post….) The true meaning of “it’s” is actually “it is”, but due to the evolution of the English language those two words were eventually smushed together and shortened into the now perfectly acceptable “it’s”. Other examples would include: you’re (you are), I’ll (I will), they’re (they are) and the list could go on and on.

There are also contractions like “y’all” (you all) but that falls into the category of colloquial speech, or slang. When an apostrophe is used in colloquial speech, it is typically to indicate that there has been information withheld. An example of that could be seen in the use of “the ’90s”, where the “19-” has been removed and replaced with an apostrophe to indicate “the 1990s”. Or in the case of the word “‘nother” that I used earlier in this post, where the “a” has been omitted and replaced with an apostrophe. Another use of the apostrophe in slang terms would be in the rare instance that a plural is being indicated, but because it is a term that is unusual to pluralize an apostrophe shows that the pluralization was intentional; such as you would see in the phrase “Mind your P’s and Q’s”. This use of an apostrophe is not as universally accepted, and is generally accepted based solely on the style of writing. That brings us to the issue of using an apostrophe when indicating possession, plural or otherwise.

We all own things. And while that is fairly easy to prove with speech (that’s MINE!) due to tone and grabbiness, we use the apostrophe to indicate grammatically when something belongs to someone, or something. An example of this use would be, “This  is Sarah’s blog.” The blog BELONGS to me, therefore that needs to be indicated with a handy piece of punctuation. BUT, grammatically, human beings are not the only things that can own objects. Objects can take possession of other objects, plants can own things, pets, other animals… You name it, it can own something. In the English language, anyway. Such as, “The table’s legs were rather shaky, a shoddy piece of furniture making on the carpenter’s part.” Pretty simple, right? Where possession CAN get a little tricky is when you want to give a noun that is plural possession. This type of punctuation can look strange and make you feel uncomfortable at first, but I can assure you it is correct. I’ll just jump right into the example, “The kids’ playground.” Kind of weird, right? Basically, “kids” is plural, and to indicate that the playground belongs to them you place an apostrophe on the end of the word, sans another “s” (kids’s looks even stranger, and it is incorrect… DO NOT DO THIS.)

Well, I hope that I managed to clear up any confusion, if any confusion did in fact exist. That is all I have for now!

Until next time, sarah.

“Apostrophe”, www.wikipedia.org, WebSeptember 18 2012.

Grammar?

What is grammar, anyway?

Grammar is “the rules of language”. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines grammar as “the whole system and structure of a language or of languages in general, usually taken as consisting of syntax and morphology (including inflections) and sometimes also phonology and semantics.”  But, what exactly does that mean?

I never learned grammar in school. Until I was forced by the requirements for my degree I hadn’t even thought of attempting to learn grammar, because it just seems so hard and confusing. Yet, I use grammar everyday, ALL day. I speak to people all the time, and I am (what I would consider) a pretty good writer, so I use it while I am writing (hopefully) as well. It is interesting how something that has gotten a horrible reputation as being difficult is something that we naturally learn. When something is grammatically incorrect, if you are a native English speaker you can usually pick up on it right away. You may not necessarily be able to explain WHY it is incorrect but you will have like feeling deep in your gut that says “That don’t sound right.” Did you just have it? Ditto. In the textbook “English Grammar: Language as Human Behavior,” Anita K. Barry talks about how when you are a native speaker of English, learning about grammar is not going to be the same as learning the grammar of a language you are not as familiar with. She explains that this is because you already know English, and hopefully you know it well if it is indeed your native tongue. You are able to use English effectively to communicate, both by talking and writing, and if you are reading this, I would like to think that you can at this point in your life read English pretty well also. BUT you can still gain valuable experience from learning English grammar. We all ‘know’ English, but we may not ‘know’ grammar.

Grammar is a system that we have developed so that everyone could understand each other with a minimal amount of confusion. Wikipedia has taken the liberty of adjusting the definition of English grammar and making it a little less scary to grammar-phobes. Wikipedia refers to English grammar as “the body of rules that describe the structure of expressions in the English language. This includes the structure of wordsphrasesclauses, and sentences.” Now, that’s not so bad is it?

We all know what words are, they are the ingredients of a sentence. When put in the right order they can be powerful, emotional, beautiful or…. wrong. There are eight different word classes in English grammar, each with its own particular job. Much like the ingredients you would use when baking, too much or too little of a particular word or type of word can make syntax go terribly wrong. We have nouns, adverbs, adjectives, verbs, conjuctions, pronouns, determiners & prepositions to play around with in English. These are the building blocks of language; we take words in these categories and use them to construct phrases and clauses. Then, we take the phrases and clauses and put them into sentences. Grammar is really not that frightening when you break it down and think about it.

So, what is grammar? Well, it is words — nouns, verbs, adverbs etc. — and it is sentences. It is independent clauses, which when used effectively can evoke emotion in its readers or listeners. Grammar are the words you say when you tell someone you love them, & the words you think when you think you hate someone. Grammar can be INCREDIBLY boring at one moment, & weirdly fascinating the next. Grammar is something used by everyone, correctly or not. Grammar is language, plain and simple.

Until next time, sarah.

English Grammar“, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_grammarSeptember 15 2012.

“New Oxford American Dictionary”  Oxford University Press. 2010. Web.

Barry, Anita K. “Human Grammar: Language as Human Behavior”, New Jersey: Pearson, 2002. Print.

‘C’ and ‘G’, A History.

I stumbled across an interesting blog post last night on dictionary.com, it refers to an fascinating development in the English language.

Check it out: http://hotword.dictionary.com/gandc/

The post explores how the letter ‘c’ and the letter ‘g’ used to represent the same sound in the English language, FASCINATING! In present time it is hard to imagine (or imacine) two very different sounds being represented by the same symbol (which looked like neither a modern day ‘G’ or ‘C’, but rather a strangely misshapen ‘V’, odd.), but it happened. The character was referred to as ‘gimel’ which, according to Wikipedia, “is the third letter of many Semitic alphabets, including PhoenicianAramaicHebrewSyriac and Arabic“. In the Phoenician alphabet, which is the alphabet referenced in dictionary.com’s blog, the gimel was used to refer to a camel, and they used the character to create a sound very similar to the sound we create with a present-day ‘g’. How Great. As per the usual with language, gimel didn’t just show up in the Phoenician alphabet, but it migrated over to the Greek alphabet as well, where it received a new, more familiar name, ‘gamma‘. Though the Greeks changed the name, they kept the sound created (similar to our present use of ‘g’) the same. Much like the Greeks ‘borrowed’ gimel from the Phoenician alphabet, the Roman’s took the same liberty with the letter gamma.

The Romans gave gamma a makeover. They changed the way gamma looked, morphing it into a character more similar to the letter ‘c’ we use in English today. They also doubled the amount of work the character would do by assigning it another sound to make, the ‘k’ sound, as in “Can you believe they are allowed to mess around with language like that?”

They can, and they did. BUT, as you can imagine, having two sounds for one character could create some minor confusion when reading or writing. (Should I make this sound OR….?) I know I would experience major anxiety, so I reckon the Romans had a tough time of it until someone got the bright idea to differentiate between the two; groundbreaking. They once again made a minor change, adding a little dash to the character & changing its appearance to something similar to what the capital ‘G’ looks like these days. So how exactly did these letters make their way into our English alphabet that we know and love?

Well: the Roman’s travelled to England and introduced the alphabet there. The letter ‘c’ retained it’s ‘k’ sound, and was even incorporated into some of the Celtic languages found there. SO, the letters ‘c’ and ‘g’ managed to maintain their character until William the Conqueror decided he needed to over-compensate and managed to invade England. Being from France, he brought with him the language of Love (French!). During this period of history French became the lingua franca for the English government and much of the upper class. Because of all the French-speaking going on, the English language morphed slightly once more and the letter ‘c’ gained another sound, the ‘s’ sound heard in words like “celebrate” or “resonance”. So although the French didn’t last long politically in England, their language sure left a mark.

There you have it, the history of ‘c’ and ‘g’. How they came to be a crucial part of our language today, and also a little bit of an insight into just how much the English language has endured. Language is something that is continuously changing, words are always getting added or being dropped, and there are people like you and me on the internet creating slang and web-speak. The English language is a big, beautiful thing that most of us may never fully understand BUT we can always appreciate.

Well, that’s all I have for now, thanks for dropping by!

Until next time… sarah

“C”, en.wikipedia.org, Web. September 12 2012.

“Could English exist without the letter G?”, hotword.dictionary.com, Web. September 06 2012. September 12 2012

DAY 1

Hello Blogging World! 

This is my first ever post, on my first ever blog, what an exciting endeavour! I am so looking forward to exploring the complexities of the English language, and finding different ways to absolve grammar from its reputation as boring and difficult. People either hate grammar, or really hate grammar, and I think it is unfair. Let’s give grammar a chance! Because, like it or not, grammar is the basis of our language and, love it or hate it, you still use it. Whether or not you use it correctly is debatable. But if there weren’t people using it wrong, there would never be people using it right, right? Oh, wouldn’t that be a travesty. That’s all I have for now, thanks for stopping by!

Until next time, sarah.