Verbs, Part 4: Theta-Roles, or How to Eliminate Passive Voice

My favorite syntax resource, Radford's English Syntax: An Introduction.

My favorite syntax resource, Radford’s English Syntax: An Introduction.

The discussion in this post requires a different view of language structure. For a deeper understanding, I refer you to Andrew Radford’s English Syntax: An Introduction (ISBN 0521542758), particularly pp. 190-193 . Much of this post draws from that source.

Objectives:

  1. Identify the theta-roles assigned to nouns by verbs.
  2. Revise Passive Voice from sentences by using verbs with alternate theta-role assignments.

Skill level: Advanced

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Literary Influences: L.M. Montgomery

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The Essential L.M. Montgomery Personal Libary (plus Jane of Lantern Hill, as a bonus)

Cynicism taints almost every facet of my life.  This may seem like an odd confession to make at the start of a literary influences post—especially one that focuses on the eternally optimistic works of L.M. Montgomery—but I feel like it has to be said. I acquired my cynicism by degrees from a pretty young age. By the sixth grade, I was a smart-mouthed, sarcastic, socially isolated 11-year-old. My only reliable friends were books (and with little wonder, given my temperament).

That was the year I met Anne of Green Gables.

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Verbs, Part 2: Tense, Mood, and Aspect

This post covers the verb features of Tense, Mood, and Aspect. It’s boring, and I’ve put off writing it forever because it’s boring.

Objectives:

  1. Define the verb features of Tense, Mood, and Aspect.
  2. Supply the correct form for a set of given verbs and features.

Skill level: intermediate

“The past and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.”

As grammar jokes go, this one is fairly awful. (But I laugh all the same, of course, because my sense of humor apparently sprouted in one of our local corn fields.) Of the verb features, Tense is probably the easiest to understand. Mood, and Aspect were once these nebulous terms to me, conditions that I understood existed but that I couldn’t pinpoint or keep track of. A fourth verb feature, Voice, merits its own post and will be discussed only minimally here.

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Verbs: Part 1 of Many

This post is the first in a series on Verbs. Dry, dry, horrifically essential stuff.

Objectives:

  1. Discuss the difference between finite and non-finite verbs.
  2. Extract all the verbs from a passage of prose; categorize them as finite or non-finite.

Skill Level: beginner

If the five lexical categories were Tolkien’s infamous rings, the Verb would be the One Ring to rule them all.  For writers, it can make or break a narrative. A wrong verb or a wrong tense on a verb can skew your intended meaning and instantly derail your reader’s focus. It can also summon grammar-wraiths to hammer their shrieking condemnation down upon your head. (Man, how I wish I were only kidding about that.)

Thus, as writers, it behooves us to be well acquainted—and perhaps even intimate—with our friend and sometimes friendly nemesis, the Verb.

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Coming Soon! A *Mostly* Unnecessary Sequel!


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“That’s the ending? You can’t just end it there!”

These are the words my mother uttered when she finished reading my first draft of Kingdom of Ruses. It has a sort of open ending, I’ll admit, but intentionally so. The major plot points are resolved, the hero has triumphed, and all is well, so the story ends. (Sorry for the spoilers, all ye who have not read it: Surprise! It’s not a tragedy!)

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Literary Influences: Thomas Hardy

"Thos. Hardy"  LOC, LC-DIG-ggbain-13585

“Thos. Hardy”
LOC, LC-DIG-ggbain-13585

Heaven forbid that any of Thomas Hardy’s characters should ever get a paper cut; they’d probably saw off the injured limb in response.

I feel kind of odd listing him as one of my literary influences. He’s more my template of “what not to do,” which is terrible, because he’s generally considered to be a good writer, and many of his works are counted among the classics. I’ll set the stage for my dislike, shall I?

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Nouns: An Overview

This post provides an overview of the Noun. Skill level: Beginner

Objectives:

  1. Define the term “noun” semantically, morphologically, and syntactically.
  2. Discuss features of nouns in English (number, possession).
  3. Create nouns from other parts of speech using only syntactic placement to indicate the change.

I’d love to say that nouns are a self-explanatory category. I mean, we all know what a noun is, right? Or, we’ve heard the word and have a general idea, or… something. The purpose of this post is to codify that “something” into a more concrete understanding. If you know exactly what a noun is and can accomplish all of the above objectives already, then feel free to move along.

If not, or if you want a refresher, read on.

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I Can Syntax, and You Can Too!

Ease-peasy, this syntax stuff.

Easy-peasy, this syntax stuff.

This posts covers an introduction to basic syntax. Skill level: Beginner.

Objectives:

  1. Identify the three levels of syntax.
  2. Classify words according to their appropriate levels.

For a definition of “syntax,” click here. (I could paraphrase, but I’d have to give credit anyway, so I might as well send you straight to the source.) Right, then. With that settled, let’s jump right in, shall we?

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Linguistics for Writers: An Introduction

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

~Alexander Pope

I try to obey one basic philosophy when it comes to grammar and usage mistakes: “Be gentle with others; be strict with yourself.”

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