The Rules of Language
Language is bound by Rules. These rules can be categorised as Semantics, Syntactics, and Pragmatics rules. Semantics focuses on how people use language to evoke meanings, individual words, and their meanings. Syntax, on the other hand, relates to how words are organised to form phrases and sentences. For example, in the English language, we read from left to right, and words are arranged following the Subject – Verb – Object structure. The subject comes before the verb and the object. Pragmatics is the study of language as it is used in a social context, including its effect on communicators. For example, the question How are you? has a wide range of meanings depending on who is asking, who is asked the question as well as the context and setting in which the question is asked.
Syntax is the study of sentence structure and the rules of grammar. While people can do what they want with language (and many often do), syntax helps common users of a language understand how to organise words so that they make the most sense
For example – The dog man chased by the was = The man was chased by the dog.
Semantics is the study of the meaning of sentences.
For example – I robbed a bank vs A bank robbed me
Pragmatics is the study of the meaning of sentences within a certain context.
Semantics and pragmatics may also be differentiated in terms of the former being the literal and the latter, the intended meaning of words.
Semantics is the Conceptual, Literal, Objective, or Dictionary meanings of words also known as the denotative meaning of words, while Pragmatics is the hidden, invisible, or subjective meanings of words also known as connotations.
|Word||Denotative Meaning||Connotative Meaning|
|Blue||the colour blue||sad|
|Cool||low temperature||popular; acceptable|
|Dead||absent of life and/or animation||unusually quiet setting|
|Dog||domestic animal||follow closely, unpleasant|
|Crazy||insane; mentally unstable||wild and exciting|
|Shark||predatory/carnivorous fish||highly skilled, swindler|
Connotations can vary in degree. For example:
|Positive Connotation||Neutral Connotation||Negative Connotation|
Grammatical error is a term used in prescriptive grammar to describe an instance of faulty, unconventional, or controversial usage, such as a misplaced modifier or an inappropriate verb tense. Also called a usage error. Some say these should be classified as ‘error in English’. Let’s take a look at some very common grammatical errors.
1. They’re vs. Their vs. There
The first (they’re) is a contraction for “they are”. The second refers to something owned by a group of people while the third refers to a place (there). E.g. They’re going to enjoy leaving there because their bole and fish is the best in Port Harcourt.
2. Your vs. You’re
Your refers to owning a thing, a possessive while You’re means being something and is a contraption of You are. E.g. Your house is the largest on the street you’re driving to.
3. Its vs. It’s
“Its” is possessive while “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.” E.g. The bread is past its expiry date. It’s hard to tell when the next supply will arrive.
4. Referring to a Brand or Entity as ‘They’
Brands, entities, and organisations are non-living things. it is, therefore, wrong to describe them using the third person pronoun, “they”. Refer to businesses and brands as Its.
5. Possessive Nouns
Most possessive nouns will have an apostrophe. However, where you put that apostrophe can be confusing. Here’s an example of possessive nouns used incorrectly:
All of the dog’s tails grew back.
In this sentence, “all” indicates that there’s more than one dog, but the location of the apostrophe suggests there is just one.
Here are a few general rules to guide the correct placement of the apostrophe:
- If the noun is plural, add the apostrophe after the s. For example: the dogs’ bones.
- If the noun is singular and ends in s, you should also put the apostrophe after the s. For example: the dress’ blue color.
- On the other hand, if the noun is singular and doesn’t end in an s, you’ll add the apostrophe before the s. For example: the lizard’s tail.
6. Affect vs. Effect
When you’re talking about the change itself, that is, the noun, use “effect.”. When referring to the act of changing, that is the verb, say “affect”.
7. To vs. Too
“To” is used before a noun or verb, and describes a destination, recipient, or action while Too is an alternative for also or as well. When Too is used to replace as well or also, remember to include a comma before and after. For example, She, too, is a Libra.
8. i.e. vs. e.g.
Each one means something different. i.e means “that is” or “in other words,” while “e.g.” means “example given” or “for example.” The former is used to clarify something you’ve said, while the latter adds colour to a story through an example.
9. Who vs. That
When you’re describing a person, be sure to use “who.” When describing an object, use “that”.
10. Who vs. Whom vs. Whose vs. Who’s
“Who” is used to identify a living pronoun. “Whom” is used to describe someone who’s receiving something. “Whose” is used to assign ownership to someone. “Who’s,” on the other hand, is used to identify a living being. It’s a contraction for “who is”.
11. “Alot” vs. A lot vs. Allot
Alot is not a word! “A lot” means a vast number of things, while “Allot” refers to setting aside a certain amount of something.
12. Into vs. In to
Into is used to indicate movement, while “in” and “to” vary in their application because they are prepositions.
13. Lose vs. Loose
Lose means the inability to find something or someone. Loose on the other hand is an adjective that means “not tightly fastened or held”.
14. Then vs. Than
“Than” is a conjunction used to make comparisons. “Then” is an adverb used to indicate the timing of an event.
15. Use of Commas
A comma is used to separate elements in a series; independent clauses that are joined/linked by an and, but, for, or, nor, so, or yet; and to separate an introductory word or phrase.
16. Assure vs. Insure vs. Ensure
- “To assure” means to promise or say with confidence.
- “To ensure” means to make certain.
- “To insure” means to protect against risk by regularly paying an insurance company.
17. Less vs. Fewer
Use “Fewer” for items that are quantifiable while Less is used for non-quantifiable items.
Semicolons are used to link two independent clauses that could stand on their own.
19. Between vs. Among
“Between” is used to refer to two or more things that are clearly separated. Among is used for items that are not separated.
Give TWO examples of any TEN of the above Grammatical Errors.