There are different types of grammar: traditional, comparative or descriptive, differential, structural, transformational, transformational-generative, functional and others.


Traditional grammar involves the teaching of grammar through analysis, as opposed to teaching it through analogy (compare Audio-Lingual Method or Grammar-Translation Method). Traditional grammar originated in Greece in the 5th century and was developed on the basis of Greek and Latin. Traditional grammarians were mainly concerned with the standard literary usage; they tended to condemn more informal and colloquial usage both in speech and in writing as incorrect. Furthermore, they often failed to realize that the standard language is, from the historical point of view, merely that regional or social dialect which has acquired prestige. The grammar involved the study of the parts of speech, their paradigms and paradigmatic relationships (declarative, imperative, affirmative, interrogative, and negative sentences). Traditional grammar was subsequently applied, with few modifications, to the description of a large number of other languages (Lyons, 1970).

Differential grammar in Hallidays et al. opinion is a system of superimposing the grammatical patterns of one language upon those of another. Differential grammar makes it possible to determine some of the main grammatical difficulties involved in learning the target language. Thus, what is required is a special type of description that accounts for all types of differences and equivalents. Firstly, we must establish limits of tolerance and areas of usage; secondly, we must distinguish the unique forms from alternative ones. For example, the adverb well in He speaks well of you is the equivalent of an adjective ³

Differential description of grammar is concerned with a small fixed number of possibilities and a clear line between them. For instance, the Past Indefinite tense of regular verbs is expressed by adding the suffix -d, or ed to the infinitive. In lexis, on the other hand, there may be a limited choice too, as between positive and negative forms; but there may be a wide range of possibilities, for example: He was sitting on the chair /bench/stool/seat These two types of choice are known respectively as closed and open. The range of possibilities in a closed choice is called a system; that in an open choice a set. The closed system is thus characteristic of grammar, the open set for lexis.

A short statement of the definition would be thus: grammar deals with closed system choices which may be between items this, that; he, she, we or between categories (singular, plural; past, present, future); lexis is concerned with open set choices which are always between items (chair, bench, seat, stool). Thus differential grammar is a modification of traditional grammar; paradigms are replaced by a system of choices and categories and notions of norm and usus are introduced.

The theory of structural grammar also known as phrase-structure grammar or immediate constituent grammar is associated with the names of such linguists as L. Bloomfield, C. Fries. According to L. Bloomfield a sentence is an independent linguistic form, not included by virtue of any grammatical construction in any larger linguistic form. W. Elkins gives a formal definition: a sentence is a linguistic unit consisting of sound and meaning symbols that follow the structural pattern N-V and produce an intonation pattern satisfactory to the speaker/listener.

The parts into which a sentence can be segmented are the constituents of the sentence. The term immediate constituent (ICs) refers to those constituents that together form a higher-order constituent. In our example, a and walk are the ICs of a walk, took, and a walk are the ICs of took a walk, while John and took a walk, are the ICs of the sentence. The immediate constituent grammar differs fromtraditional grammar in its concentration on structural meanings which are specifically signalled by a complex system of contrastive patterns (Fries).

Ch. Fries provided frames to enable anyone to derive for major word classes noun, verb, adjective and adverb. It referred to the major classes by number, the minor ones by letter. The authors of structural grammar developed the technique of immediate constituent analysis, a technique of splitting a sentence into its immediate constituents, which in turn were broken down into their immediate constituents and so on to the ultimate constituent. The aim of their structural grammar approach was to be as concrete and objective as possible. An attempt was also made to devise a system whose purpose was to indicate all the phonetic clues to grammar.

Transformational grammar, developed by N. Chomsky, tried to give a mathematically precise description of some of the most striking features of language. Of particular importance in this connection is the ability of children to derive structural regularities of their native language its grammatical rules from the utterances of their parents and others around them, and then to make use of the same regularities in the construction of utterances they have never heard before.


Transformational-generative (T-G grammar) is a grammar in which transformations are included among the rules, by which a set of grammatical items are specified. This approach to grammatical analysis, first published by N. Chomsky in his book Syntactic Structures, has been the main source for ideas about the method of description (cf. R. Scott, E. Morokhovska). Its theory attempted to provide descriptions of many aspects which structural grammar did not touch upon. N. Chomsky states that grammar must be based on two things: observation of language and ability to satisfy the native speakers intuition about his language. For example, it must be explained that active and passive sentences are related to each other; that some pairs of sentences, though alike on the surface, are different at a deeper level. Thus, the following pair of sentences The man was eager to please and The man was easy to please are alike in their surface structure but are different in their deep structure. Consider the rules required to form the sentence The headlights penetrated the darkness. According to T-G analysis, it is a sentence (S) that consists of a noun phrase (NP) followed by a verb phrase (VP); in turn, the (NP) consists of a determiner (D) and a noun (N); the (VP) consists of a transitive verb (Vt) and a noun phrase (NP) and this last (NP) consists of a determiner and a noun. This information can be represented in a tree diagram:

Such analysis becomes generative when it is expressed in the form of rules. The analysis above could be expressed in the following rules:

1. S NP+VP

2. VP Vt+NP

3. NP D+N

Vt penetrated

D the

N headlights, darkness

In these rules the arrow means written as. Rules that allow for a single symbol at a time to be written or replaced by another symbol or string of symbols (e.g. D, N) are known as phrase-structure rules. By adding further words to the right-hand side of rules 4, 5 and 6, they could produce hundreds of sentences.

Transformational grammar has provided much new information about its nature; it is explicitly generative and its rules are arranged in a definite sequence. The rules of a generative grammar are not to be identified with the prescriptive rules that formed a part of traditional grammar. A prescriptive grammatical rule is a statement such as you should never end a sentence with a preposition that tells us whether we are right or wrong to use a particular construction. Generative rules have no such implication of social correctness. They are objective descriptions of the grammatical patterns that occur.

Other types of grammar are historical which trace the development of the structure of a language back to its origins, comparative or descriptive which traces the development of contemporary language forms in a number of different languages, and functional in which meanings are emphasised over forms.

For many years situationally based dialogues have provided students with a corpus of foreign language words and expressions with which to work. The situations, frequently found in present-day textbooks, describe experiences common to the foreign culture, introduce the students to typically American or British way of interacting and reacting.

Dialogue instructions can serve several purposes; some dialogues are designed to demonstrate grammatical rules, and examples of rules in use and the variations of paradigms are introduced systematically in the exchanges.

The aim of grammar-demonstration dialogues is to lead students to inductive recognition of the rule or the paradigm. These dialogues need not be memorized: they can be studied and discussed, dramatized and used as a basis for recombinations. They lead naturally to grammatical explanations and intensive practice exercises through which the operation of the rule or paradigm becomes clear to students, enters their repertoire, and is then used by them in a genuinely communicative interchange.

To sum it up, grammar in its development has traversed the way from observation to elucidation, from didactics to analysis, and from analysis to conceptualisation. Two steps can usually be distinguished in the study of grammar. The first step is to identify units such as word, phrase, and sentence, the second step is to analyse the patterns into which these units fall, and the relationships of meaning that these patterns convey. But no grammar-book has so far registered all multifarious kinds of formal patterning and abstract relationships.




In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest grammatical unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word, by definition, is freestanding. Every word comprises one or more morphemes.

Classification of morphemes

Free vs. bound

Every morpheme can be classified as either free or bound. These categories are mutually exclusive, and as such, a given morpheme will belong to exactly one of them.

  • Free morphemes can function independently as words (e.g. town, dog) and can appear with other lexemes (e.g. town hall, doghouse).
  • Bound morphemes appear only as parts of words, always in conjunction with a root and sometimes with other bound morphemes. For example, un- appears only accompanied by other morphemes to form a word. Most bound morphemes in English are affixes, particularly prefixes and suffixes, examples of suffixes are: tion, ation, ible, ing etc.. Bound morphemes that are not affixes are called cranberry morphemes.

Bound morphemes can be further classified as derivational or inflectional.

  • Derivational morphemes, when combined with a root, change either the semantic meaning or part of speech of the affected word. For example, in the word happiness, the addition of the bound morpheme -ness to the root happy changes the word from an adjective (happy) to a noun (happiness). In the word unkind, un- functions as a derivational morpheme, for it inverts the meaning of the word formed by the root kind.
  • Inflectional morphemesmodify a verb's tense or a noun's number without affecting the word's meaning or class. Examples of applying inflectional morphemes to words are adding -s to the rootdog to form dogs and adding -ed to wait to form waited.

Allomorphsare variants of a morpheme that differ in pronunciation but are semantically identical. For example, in English, the plural marker -(e)s of regular nouns can be pronounced /-z/, /-s/, or /-ɨz/, depending on the final sound of the noun's singular form.

Morphological analysis

In natural language processing for Japanese, Chinese and other languages, morphological analysis is the process of segmenting a sentence into a row of morphemes. Morphological analysis is closely related to part-of-speech tagging, but word segmentation is required for these languages because word boundaries are not indicated by blank spaces

Changing definitions of morpheme

In generative grammar, the definition of a morpheme depends heavily on whether syntactic trees have morphemes as leaves or features as leaves.

  • Direct surface to syntax mapping LFG leaves are words
  • Direct syntax to semantics mapping
    • Leaves in syntactic trees spell out morphemes: Distributed morphology leaves are morphemes
    • Branches in syntactic trees spell out morphemes: Radical Minimalism and Nanosyntax leaves are "nano" morpho-syntactic features

Given the definition of morpheme as "the smallest meaningful unit" Nanosyntax aims to account for idioms where it is often an entire syntactic tree which contributes "the smallest meaningful unit." An example idiom is "Don't let the cat out of the bag" where the idiom is composed of "let the cat out of the bag" and that might be considered a semantic morpheme, which is composed of many syntactic morphemes. Other cases where the "smallest meaningful unit" is larger than a word include some collocations such as "in view of" and "business intelligence" where the words together have a specific meaning.

The definition of morphemes also play a significant role in the interfaces of generative grammar in the following theoretical constructs;

  • Event semantics: the idea that each productive morpheme must have a compositional semantic meaning (a denotation), and if the meaning is there, there must be a morpheme (null or overt).
  • Spell-out: the interface where syntactic/semantic structures are "spelled-out" using words or morphemes with phonological content. This can also be thought of as lexical insertion into the syntactics.


In linguistics, word formation is the creation of a new word. Word formation is sometimes contrasted with semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning.The boundary between word formation and semantic change can be difficult to define: a new use of an old word can be seen as a new word derived from an old one and identical to it in form . Word formation can also be contrasted with the formation of idiomatic expressions, although words can be formed from multi-word phrases

Types of word formation

There are a number of methods of word formation.

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