scribed in terms of person and number, in that we have first person singular (I), second person singular (you), third person singular (he, she, it), first person plural (we) and so on. So, in the sentence The boy likes his dog, we have a noun boy, which is third person singular, and the verb likes ‘agrees with” the noun.
In addition, the form of the verb must also be described in terms of another category, that is of tense. In this case, the verb (likes) is in the present tense, which is distinguished from the past tense (liked). The sentence is also in the active voice, with the boy doing the liking. An alternative is the passive voice in which the liking is done to the boy, as in The boy is liked by his dog.
Our final category is that of gender, which helps us describe the agreement between boy and his in our example sentence. In English, we have to describe this relationship in terms of natural gender, mainly derived from a biological distinction between male and female. The agreement between Boy and his is based on a distinction English makes between reference to male entities (he, his), female entities (she, her), and sexless entities, or animals when the sex of the animal is irrelevant (it its).
Since traditional grammar is based on the rules of Latin, it is quite another thing to go on to claim that the structure of English sentences should be like the structure of sentences in Latin. The view of grammar as a set of rules for the ‘proper’ use of a language may be best characterized as the prescriptive approach.
It may be that using a well-established grammatical description of Latin is a useful guide for studying some languages (e.g. Italian or Spanish), is less useful for others (e.g. English), and may be absolutely misleading if you want to describe some non-Europe languages. This last point became clear to these linguists who wanted to describe the structure of North American Indian languages at the end of the nineteenth century. The categories and rules which were appropriate for Latin grammar just did not seem to fit the Indian languages encountered. As a consequence, throughout the present century, a rather different approach has been taken. Analysts collect samples of the language they are interested in and attempt to describe the regular structures of the language as it is used, not according to some view of how it should be used. This is called the descriptive approach and it is the basis of most modern attempts to characterize the structure of different languages.
Let’s take a look at the following sentence:
The dog followed the boy.
We can identify five words (constituents). How do those five constituents go together to form constituents at the phrase level?
Structural linguists realize that a sentence does not only have a linear structure, consisting of individual words one after another in a line; t
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