Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adverbs and Adverbials :: Difference Explained

The term adverb refers to a word class to which words like slowly, here, now etc belong . Adverbials , on the contrary, is a functional label , covering all the syntactic units performing the same function as single-word adverbs , that is, they are units which describe the action denoted by the verb . These syntactic units may be Prepositional Phrases or Noun Phrases.

An adverbial can describe an action by telling us how, where and when an action is done . Examples

* She sings sweetly . ( how)

* She has gone there. (where)

*He is sleeping now( when)

Instead of using single-word adverbials as in our examples above , we can use Prepositional Phrases and Noun Phrases to describe actions .

* She gets up at 6 o' clock .

* He left home in a hurry .

* She has gone to the hospital.

In these examples we have used Prepositional Phrases as advebials .

In the following examples we are using Noun Phrases as adverbials :

* He worked hard all day

* She came back home home last week .

* They will join us tomorrow .

* She left for the US the day before yesterday.

* They opposed the government proposal tooth and nail.

Please note that the term adverb refers to a word class while adverbial refers to different syntactic units performing a similar function, namely, describing the action performed by the verb.

The basic concept of describing an action is provided by the term adverb while the different realizations of the concept are provided by the term adverbial.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Subject-Verb Concord : A New Perspective

Subject - Verb Concord may not be a problem for native speakers of English .They have their instincts to trust to .! But it is a major problem area for ESL learners . The crux of the problem lies in the fact that English sometimes bases its concord on meaning and sometimes on form which can be confusing to learners . They do not know whether to follow form or meaning . Thus in the sentence

One of the books is missing .

the learner can follow meaning and choose the singular verb is .But in the sentence

More than one book is missing .

the learner has to follow form in the face of the fact that the subject is undeniably plural and choose the singular verb is.

I think that the form-meaning conflict can be put aside if the instructors train the learners to look upon the subject as a complex consisting of a Noun Phrase with a headword along with its modifiers . Instead of subject- verb concord , the learnershould think of subjectNP headword-verb concord and view the problem of concord in a new way . Then he can forget about meaning- form conflict ! This will obviate the problem to a great extent .

I will discuss specific examples to illustrate the new perspective

1 One of the books is missing .

Here the subject NP consists of the headword one and the prepositional phrase "of the books" . , post-modifying it . The verb naturally agrees with the headword one

2 More than one book is missing .

The subject NP consists of the headword bookwhich is pre-modified by "more than one". The form-meaning conflict need not bother us . The concept of headword- verb concord has made it irrelevant !

3 Many a ship has sunk in the sea .

The subject NP '"many a ship" has ship as its headword . and " many a " as its pre-modifier . Hence,the singular verb has

4 Ship after ship has sunk in this bay .

The headword ship is post-modified by "after ship" and the verb agrees with the singular head , despite the plural sense of the subject as a whole .

5 John or his friends are responsible for this.

As or is a co-ordinating conjunction the head of the NP could be John or his friends ( a case of multiple heads). and the verb could agree with any of them . Proximity is a strong attraction and the verb agrees with the subject nearer to it than with the one farther to it ! .In subjects joined by correlative conjunction either---or and neither---nor we can see proximity concord similar to this .

6 None of them is responsible for this .

The subject NP ''none of them" consists of the head none " and the post-modifier 'of them" .Hence, the singular verb is . The NPs neither of them and either of them follow the same pattern .

7 The President , along with his wife, has left for the US.

Along with his wife is a post-modifier of the head President It does not fully coordinate with the head like and , and so the verb agrees with the singular head .Similar examples are quasi-coordinators like together with, as well as, rather than , as much as etc .

The learner should realize that learning concord on the basis of meaning-form conflict can be absolutely confusing Let him view the problem in a new light .

NB . cases of concord not discussed above can be decided on the basis of meaning

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