A Grammar Guide to Clear & Correct Expression
The book helps train the mind in writing grammatically correct, logically clear, and semantically satisfactory sentences. It doesn’t just teach grammar rules and conventions, or deal with problems that are due to the features of the language, its structure, and modes of expression; but cultivates language sense, develops understanding of language use, and manipulation art for linguistic devices and certain rules of thumb for spelling. Grammar partly develops understanding of language, but it cannot teach language as such; it is basically a corrective measure marked by conscious effort. Grammar needs support from Logic, the tools of analysis, and our in-built system of Understanding. These cultivate in us language sense, chisel tools of analysis, and teach appropriate language use and better communication. Logic not only classified grammatical categories into noun, verb, modifier, connective, Case, comparison, Number etc., but unearthed several features of the language which, among other things, include that the base form of noun is singular but that of verb is plural. Arguing unto oneself one can infer that if the sentence “A boy go” is wrong, then the base form of noun and verb must be opposite in Number. This inference is perfectly valid, and it gives us the knowledge that we can add ~s, ~es, and ~ies to obtain the plural of nouns and the singular of verbs. It is Logic that brings to the fore the fact that English does not have a future tense and it discriminates between time and tense in the following manner: Time = time – past, present, and future; Tense = the verb form indicating the past and the present. (English, therefore, needs an auxiliary verb to talk about the future.) Logic can declare a grammatically well-formed sentence – such as, “I am there – to be logically invalid because “here, now” is part of the meaning of the I-phrase. Further, it can point out the discrepancy between the self-same sentence, one written, and the other spoken: for example, the sentence “I am dumb,” when written, is all right, but spoken, it becomes self-refuting. The faculty of Understanding also helps. Against the background of the feminist movement, a sentence like “if anybody comes, ask him to wait” has been transformed in writing and in speech thus: “If anybody comes ask him/her to wait,” and “If anybody comes ask them to wait.” It looks as if a grammatically correct sentence is rendered incorrect in speech and yet accepted all right by usage. My contention is why accept it as ‘usage’ if we can defend the use of “them” in speech. In logic, the word “or” can have two different meanings – one in the exclusive sense and the other in the inclusive sense. In the exclusive sense, ‘him/her’ means either him alone or her alone, but in the inclusive sense it means either of the two or both, which we generally express using the phrase, “and/or.” Thus, in the inclusive sense of the word the use of “them” is quite justified. Logic, together with Understanding, clarifies construction of grammatical concepts and devices in use – for example, use of ‘There’ as null subject or empty noun, of participles to describe the status of some action as completed or continuing, of prepositions to define Case relations, of modals and articles to communicate special meanings, and of nouns, participles, and determiners as descriptive or limiting adjectives. It is only because of logical understanding that one can differentiate the phrases “blue sky” and “sky blue”, and lay down their meanings as follows: Blue sky = the sky is blue; Sky-blue = the colour blue is much the same as that of the blue sky. The book focuses on meanings, both grammatical and theoretical, to explain how words acquire different meanings with change of form or category, prefixing, compounding, combining of word elements, and in their contextual uses, contrived or otherwise. The author doesn’t decry the method of translation, for he is aware that confrontation with difficulties in translation would reveal to the non-English several aspects of English grammar. The book has added materials, which particularly help natives of the Indian sub-continent exploit their knowledge of the mother tongue to their advantage while learning English. It also incorporates materials that inform how faulty constructions and ambiguities in words, mostly committed by the people of the sub-continent, can be avoided, and if they occur, how they can be rectified.
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This 'Grammar Guide' is more than a grammar book, because it does not restrict it to formal correctness, grammatical meaning of words, and the conventional methods of expression. The real purpose is to know the language well enough to be able to communicate with clarity and precision, to cultivate language sense and develop the art of language use. The book focuses on theoretical meaning of words and phrases, discusses the role of logic in language, and teaches how to deal with language problems and acquire better speech and better communication. The book deserves a 5-star rating in its favour.