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You've just hit on one of the single biggest problems with the traditional approach to English grammar concerning the way the language expresses time information!! Emotion: big smile

If you did not understand the information about to send you to, you would have no choice but to list that as an exception, because without this, there is no way of understanding why your sentence is possible and what information it's providing.

The key to your answer is called Aktionsart -- it's perfection and duration inherent in the meaning of the verb itself.

Every sentence in every language on earth can be analyzed for certain universal information. TAMPA stands for Tense, Aspect, Mood, Perfection, and Aktionsart.

No individual component can function be considered to stand by itself in a sentence. In other words, you can't effectively determine one element and how it's working without considering the other four at the same time because they all work together.

This should answer all of your questions:

http://calleteach.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/tampa-on-time-language /

Read it in order (it's not that long). Let me know what you think, and if after reading that whether the answer to your question is clear.

--drew
Drew,

Fine, I'll read it. But you still haven't answered your student. I have worked at this company for ten years. He's created a sentence that looks like one of yours but it doesn't fit with what you just told him (or her). So using this Aktionart, how would you clarify this?

- DJB -
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
The verb 'work' when used with this particular meaning naturally has duration as part of it's meaning. Afterall, if you work somewhere, you obviously do it over a period of time don't you?

(My students also learn the durational aspect alongside the non-durational ones (progressive/continuous alongside "simple" -- I don't like those terms because the first pair don't always get used for the same meaning and the only thing 'simple' about non-durational aspects is the fact that they're not even a single aspect. Different languages have different numbers of durational and non-durational aspects. English has only one durational aspect but has 4-5 non-durational ones (depending on who you ask) with them looking mostly identical. Aspect is actually nothing more than the use of structure (some form within the sentence) to convey duration or a lack of duration. So in English you have two categories of Aspect -- durational and non-durational. Since all the non-durational forms use the same verbal structure, they can be discussed as a single group.). Because they learn to use both aspects together they don't fear one form over the other so they would already be familiar with the ideas of duration in regard to aspect and aktionsart.)

Because verbs are naturally perfected or unperfected and naturally durational or non-durational as part of their meanings, aspect and perfection (which they know are both the use of structure within the sentence to convey these same types of information -- duration and completeness) may be used to either override or emphasize the aktionsart, or in some cases has no effect at all (when the aspect/perfection of the sentence match that of the verb).

So in the sentence: "I have worked at this company for ten years," because the aktionsart of 'work' is durational, then the entire sentence is durational. This means that it already allows you to convey the same information as "I have been working at this company for ten years," but there is no reason to use the durational aspect because duration is already established. If you really wanted to draw attention to the idea of duration, you could use the durational aspect form and perhaps emphasize 'working' with your voice. But, unless there is a need to do so, the durational aspect would be redundant here.

Perfecting durational forms allows for the additional information of "how long up to the point of completion". Unless it is pointed out, there is no way to know whether 'working' is finished and no longer occurring. What is possible though is to measure the duration of 'working' up to the TCOM used.

In your example "I have been working at this company for ten years," the perfecting auxiliary 'have' is in the present which means that the TCOM is 'as of now'. So this sentence gives the information: (as of now, the verb 'work' has been occurring for a duration of 10 years).

If you understand what all the little parts do, and keep those TAMPA elements separate versus trying to mix them up into concepts like 'the simple present' or 'the past progressive' or 'the perfect', it's all very simple and students not only grasp the concepts, but lose so much of the usual anxiety over when to use which form and when not to, because they actually understand what it's all for!

As mentioned in a previous post, if grammar is approached with a fully open mind and the preconceptions are left behind, even the seemingly most complex attributes of the language are simple, easy, and the rules (when derived from this approach) work 100% of the time with no exceptions.

Emotion: big smile
Hi Drew

Welcome to EF.

Forgive me for asking what level are your students. I ask because most of the people asking questions about the language are non-native speakers ranging from "what is hello?" To can you help me with my English degree. Most are somewhere between the hello stage and the Upper-Int level. Your posts are very comprehensive but I do wonder how many non-natives can understand them, worse still will find English off-putting.

Please don't think I am being rude, as I am not. I would like to help all, therefore suggest that you consider grading your language level to the level it was asked in. The linguistics area where this post was moved, is fine for debating the finer points of English, at the level your language awareness clearly is.

Dave
Hi Dave,

No worries. I was a bit unsure of the navigation of the forums when I first found this thread and did not realize that there was in fact a separate linguistics forum at the time. I realize much of what I've written is quite technical, but it's not necessarily advanced or complex. My students over the years have ranged from absolute beginners with no or very little understanding even of their own native grammar to native speakers of English specializing in English or linguistics.

The information and concepts I've written about in this thread are things I would provide to all of my students be they students who'd not spoken a single word of English before the first day of class or be they veteran ESL instructors or curriculum designers. The approach would however be different. While I don't know what the level of the OP is, I'd begun contributing to this thread with my efforts more directed toward the teachers on the board. Only as a response to the previous dispute did I find the need to continue in this manner. But, as it's now been moved to the linguistics sub-forum (was it not in linguistics originally?) I am guessing that the thread has now been recognized as having changed over more to a discussion among instructors.

I shall certainly make an effort to gauge my responses toward the potential level of target audience of whichever sub-forum. I must say though, in situations in which another member may provide what I view as incorrect information in response to another poster or in response to myself, I will likely tend toward clarity over simplicity of form (if the two are not compatible in such a situation) for the sake of anyone else who may read the thread as the risk of confusing a ready because of writing style is far less dangerous than the risk of confusing them with incorrect information.

Either way, I look forward to assisting learners with simple and concise answers as well as engaging ESL and linguistics colleagues here in advanced discussion and debate.

Cheers,

Drew
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
I enjoyed reading this thread! This is really great.

First of all, thank you, Drew. And thanks, all others who supported or criticized.

I am not an English instructor but I am a linguist and a foreign language teacher (not of my native language). English is my third language and I have been studying it for a while. Dave Phillips, I do understand these posts, I found them interesting and useful. I want them to be on the same level.

I'd like to say that I agree with Drew on many things she wrote.

"The problem with using 'verb' to refer to this concept is that verb is also used to denote verb phrases, verb the function, verb the part of speech, and any number of components within a sentence that either behave like a verb in some way or have a verb (the part of speech), even are of the same form as a verb. So under the traditional usage a verb can be made of verb which work with verbs and have verbs in them which sometimes control verbs. Seems a bit confusing to me."
I agree that the terminology in English Syntax is confusing and I think it is not studied and systemized well enough. Recently, I tried to read some articles on the classification of parts of speech and constituents of a clause, etc. I gave it up after reading four or five different sources that presented a pretty chaotic picture.

The rest about modal and auxiliary verbs was very interesting, in spite of some "weird" terms like "verject" or "vector".

Besides that, I really liked the part about "native speakers at an immediate disadvantage". I can say that my knowledge of my native language, which is Russian, is not as deep as my knowledge of Spanish (the language I teach and I am specialized in).

I tried once to teach Russian (just gave several lessons to a friend) and realized that I couldn't explain many things. I had to answer many times: "I don't know, I can't answer it right now, I have to think about it". Of course, being a linguist and knowing well more than one language helps a lot, but, anyways, I am sure that those foreigners who studied Russian as deep as I studied Spanish can teach Russian as a foreign language and explain things better than me.

Thank you for your explanation of the perfect. First of all, you are a great teacher, because you teach your students to think and understand, not to memorize the rules. This is the real teaching. Second, I liked it, because, I see it in a very similar way, specially the part about completeness. I would explain it in a very similar way if I had to (I don't mean drawing circles. that's a unique idea. I mean the theoretical part). As for "I have worked here for 10 years", it's good to see one more point of view on that.

Drew, even though I can't agree on some things you wrote, it doesn't make your posts less interesting for me.

Sometimes, when some one is really enjoying a book he doesn't want it to finish soon. That's what happened to me when I was reading this thread.

I am looking forward to reading more. Please keep posting.
An interesting thread.

One can agree with a lot of what Drew says, but I am less than convinced that a lot of it has a useful application in the teaching of English.

I think we ought to distinguish between two things:

A didactic grammar, which is a set of of rules formulated to help learn a langauge

and

An analytical grammar, which sets out to describe a language

The two will of course have a lot in common.

An analytical grammar will be written by a linguist who is a social scientist. He will choose his terms carefully and, as suggested and proper for a scientist, will try and formulate strict rules. I sometimes feel that social scientists can be a bit too scientific. They are after all studying humanity in all its aspects and humanity is very messy. I cannot help feeling that language is on the whole a bit too slippery to be pinned down. In particular, analytical languages, like English, are perhaps more difficult to pin down than synthetic languages. Indeed, if languages of any sort were easy to pin down all linguists would agree. They do not.

The way in which a didactic grammar is written has to vary according to who it is aimed at. Take definiteness/indefiniteness of nouns for example. Whilst usage differs betwen French and English, the concept presents no difficulty to a French speaker. A Russian however needs to get to grips with it very early on - lesson 1 in fact! It would be pointless and time wasting to say as much about definite and indefinite articles to a French speaker as you need to say to a Russian speaker. And again, the French verbal system is such that it corresponds sufficiently closely to the English one that one does not need to get bogged down in discussing aspect. Indeed, looking at it from the other side, I managed to learn to speak French more than tolerably well without anyone ever mentioning the word "aspect". And from a didactic point of view making distinctions betwen auxiliaries and modals may not be helpful. You just want to know what word to use!

I think it is perfectly acceptable for a didactic grammar to be drawn up with rules that have exceptions. It makes learning easier. To a linguist the concept of irregularity may not have a place, but is it extremely useful as a didactic tool.

Of course we need to throw out all the silly Latin derived rules such as not splitting infinitives. However, I think it is unwise to dismiss traditional grammar out of hand since a lot of it is sensible as a guide, even if it does not stand up to close scrutiny as a well-thought out analysis.

I often wish that more people were aware of the insights of modern linguistics, but I think we have to accept that most people are just not that interested. Language teachers should though at least study the basics to underpin what they are doing.
@Oshka Thank you very much! I'm glad you've enjoyed reading and I look forward to chatting with you further. Emotion: smile

@Forbes I agree with many of your observations and the overall message of your post, but have responded to particular points below:

ForbesAn analytical grammar will be written by a linguist who is a social scientist. He will choose his terms carefully and, as suggested and proper for a scientist, will try and formulate strict rules. I sometimes feel that social scientists can be a bit too scientific. They are after all studying humanity in all its aspects and humanity is very messy. I cannot help feeling that language is on the whole a bit too slippery to be pinned down. In particular, analytical languages, like English, are perhaps more difficult to pin down than synthetic languages. Indeed, if languages of any sort were easy to pin down all linguists would agree. They do not.
Certainly all linguists do not agree on all things. I'd imagine that no field exists in which everyone involved agrees on much of anything much less everything. You point out that language is a challenging thing to break down into set rules. This is certainly true, at least on the surface. However, one key difference between a linguist and a grammarian is that while the latter is trained to catalog and describe the grammar of a language based on how that language behaves within the scope of that grammar. Their job is not necessarily to explain, nor to ensure accuracy or usefulness. A linguist on the other hand is trained to see all languages as the simple, logical, mathematical systems they are, and to then examine, document, and explain how that language functions. The interesting thing is that while grammarians seem content with ignoring the linguistics of the language about whose grammar they concern themselves, linguists carefully consider both the descriptive grammar (the grammar based on linguistic analysis of the language) and the prescriptive grammar (the grammar "prescribed" by the grammarians and based on their set of 'rules') together.

Contrasting the two can be quite valuable because while differences between the two are in fact due to incorrect 'rules' in the prescribed grammar, others are due to some situation in which the linguist's analysis may have missed something and considering such possibilities allows the linguist to eventually produce a very accurate analysis of the language the provides both a scientific survey of the language but also the necessary understanding required to document the true accurate grammar.

The linguistic analysis of a language and the grammar used to teach a language are not only mutually exclusive, but in fact are dependent upon one another with grammar having no value if it can't stand up to the scientific scrutiny of linguists. Any instructor who's had to deal with the looks of frustration and confusion on their students' faces when encountering the many 'imperfect' grammar rules taught in most courses should understand how little value such incorrect rules actually have. Grammatical rules based on sound linguistic analysis aren't any more advanced or complex or intricate, they are simply correct. Linguistic analysis is what leads to correct grammar rules. Why would you not want to understand both, and in the classroom, if given the option between the correct answer (that can also be fully and clearly explained, justified scientifically, and backed up by proper analysis, and that works all the time without exception) and simply an established answer (that is considered the answer merely because someone said it was the answer years ago, and then other people repeated what he said without questioning it, and that only works part of the time (if ever), and that usually has no explanation other than 'just because', that is not based on any sound investigation or backed up by science, and that often has as many exceptions as it has applications)?
ForbesThe way in which a didactic grammar is written has to vary according to who it is aimed at. Take definiteness/indefiniteness of nouns for example. Whilst usage differs betwen French and English, the concept presents no difficulty to a French speaker. A Russian however needs to get to grips with it very early on - lesson 1 in fact! It would be pointless and time wasting to say as much about definite and indefinite articles to a French speaker as you need to say to a Russian speaker. And again, the French verbal system is such that it corresponds sufficiently closely to the English one that one does not need to get bogged down in discussing aspect. Indeed, looking at it from the other side, I managed to learn to speak French more than tolerably well without anyone ever mentioning the word "aspect". And from a didactic point of view making distinctions betwen auxiliaries and modals may not be helpful. You just want to know what word to use!
I certainly agree that the way in which the grammar is presented should be tailored to the target audience. However, I don't believe that the grammar itself should ever be changed. Correct is correct regardless of who's reading it. The challenge is figuring out the best way to present that grammar. While I don't think every situation requires a discussion of terminology, I see nothing wrong with a student learning and understanding a concept like aspect. And, since aspect is an amazingly simple concept (as most linguistic concepts are), I find it very doubtful they would get 'bogged down'. If however the instructor or the person writing a grammar or coursebook does himself not understand such a concept, then yes, he'd likely have quite a difficult time helping his students learn it and they'd end up confused (and rightly so).

Students certainly do want to know what word to use, but I have never in 15 years of teaching ESL and many more years teaching various other subjects, met a student who didn't want to know why to use those words more!
ForbesI think it is perfectly acceptable for a didactic grammar to be drawn up with rules that have exceptions. It makes learning easier. To a linguist the concept of irregularity may not have a place, but is it extremely useful as a didactic tool.
Is it really easier for the learner? I've always found that it's the rules that don't make sense or don't work all the time that frustrate students the most.

If the ability to verify grammar rules for correctness and to correct them if wrong (through linguistic study), then while I would not call it 'acceptable' to have a system with errors, I would accept the fact that no alternative exists and that you have the make the most of what you have at your disposal. However, through linguistics, we do have this ability, and to maintain a grammar that is easily proven incorrect and even worse, to attempt to teach that incorrect grammar to students is not only irresponsible, but morally wrong and if such a thing could be said to exist, from a teaching point a flat out 'sin' as it betrays the basic trust that students place with their teachers that they will provide them with truth and understanding to the best of their abilities (and not just tell them something that may or may not be correct because it's easy).
ForbesOf course we need to throw out all the silly Latin derived rules such as not splitting infinitives. However, I think it is unwise to dismiss traditional grammar out of hand since a lot of it is sensible as a guide, even if it does not stand up to close scrutiny as a well-thought out analysis.
Well, if it doesn't stand up to scrutiny, how is it sensible, and why teach it?
ForbesI often wish that more people were aware of the insights of modern linguistics, but I think we have to accept that most people are just not that interested. Language teachers should though at least study the basics to underpin what they are doing.
Well, I admit I too wish more people were interested, but I also recognize that the ability to see a language, look past the surface of it, and see it as a system of patterns and mathematical processes is a unique skill that most people find quite difficult to master. Not everyone actually needs to delve into language this way. Not everyone wants to. But, whether interested or not, everyone can benefit from linguistics.

I agree that language teachers should study the basics. I believe in fact that they should be required to study even the more detailed linguistics at least of their own language because, whether they realize it or not, they are using the true grammar of the language (the one linguists would document, not the one grammar books purport), every time they speak or write or think. Our brains naturally put our native tongue into this accurate grammar. One thing our brains don't do though is provide a list of which rules it's using to allow us to communicate so effectively. Only by studying the linguistics of their own language can a native speaker teacher be made aware of what he is actually doing when he chooses a particular word or form and why.

Only once they understand their own use of those rules can they then pass that understanding on to their students!

--Drew
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thanks but i don't think so.Emotion: smile
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