Kalantzis and Cope on the Complexities of Traditional Grammar

Taking the pattern of analysis we used to provide an overview of traditional grammar in the book, here’s a more complete version of traditional grammar, describing finer distinctions between parts of speech and their interconnections.

  • Proper nouns have a capital letter, and refer to particular person or place (Mary, Chicago); common nouns, with no capital letter, refer to ordinary or general things (girl, city).
  • Personal pronouns refer to people and things (‘she’, ‘it’, ‘theirs’); relative pronouns connect people and things (‘who’, ‘that’); interrogative pronouns ask questions (‘who?’, ‘where?’); demonstrative pronouns point to things (‘these’, ‘that’); reflexive pronouns refer back to a person or thing (‘itself’, ‘myself’); indefinite pronouns refer to … whatever or whoever (‘you’, ‘something’).
  • Adjectives can be positive (‘good’), comparative (‘better’) and superlative (‘best’). Articles are special kinds of adjective which must be connected with common nouns, be that a definite article for something specific (‘the’) or an indefinite article for instances of something general (‘a’, ‘some’).
  • Verbs can be transitive, which means they connect an actor with the thing acted upon (‘kicks’ in ‘The girl kicks the ball’); and they can also be intransitive when the actor acts, but nothing can be directly acted upon by this kind of action (‘laughed’ in ‘The boy laughed’).
  • Adverbs can be positive (‘fast’), or comparative (‘faster’) and superlative (‘fastest’).
  • Prepositions do so many important connective things that the range of their uses almost defies classification, adding different kinds of meaning to almost every part of speech (‘in’, ‘of’, ‘at’, ‘before’),
  • Conjunctions can be co-ordinating (‘and’, ‘but’), subordinating (‘because’, ‘while’) and correlative (‘either … or’; ‘not only … but’).

These parts of speech can be varied and recombined in many different ways to say an infinite range of things.

  • A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning. For instance, ‘unbelievable’ has three units of meaning, or morphemes, the prefix ‘un’, the stem ‘believe’ and the suffix ‘able’.
  • Nouns can vary if they are singular (‘dog’), plural (‘dogs’) or possessive (‘dog’s’).
  • Pronouns vary depending on whether they are first person singular or plural (‘I’, ‘me’, ‘we’), second person (‘you’) or third person male, female or neuter singular, or plural (‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘they’); they can also indicate possession (‘my’, ‘our’, ‘your’, ‘her’, ‘his’, ‘their’).
  • Verbs can vary in their tense depending on whether they are past perfect (‘walked’), past continuous (‘was walking’), past pluperfect (‘had waked’), present (‘walks’), present continuous (‘is walking’), future (‘will walk’), future continuous (‘will be walking’), future perfect (‘will have walked’) or infinitive which refers to any time (‘to walk’).
  • They also have different moods: indicative (‘You are well’), imperative (‘Be well!’), interrogative (‘Are you well?) and subjunctive (‘If you are well’).
  • Finally, verbs can also be in the active voice where an actor directly acts upon someone or something (‘Mary kicked the ball’) or in the passive voice where the thing being acted upon and the action are given priority (‘The ball was kicked by Mary’).


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