- For Teachers
Last edited by MikeNewYork; 27-Nov-2006 at 19:02.
HOW GRAMMARS OF ENGLISH HAVE MISSED THE BOAT
THERE'S BEEN MORE FLUMMOXING THAN MEETS THE EYE
Charles-James N. Bailey
Consider the possibility that English grammar has been misanalysed for centuries because of grammariansí accepting fundamentally flawed assumptions about grammar and, not least, because of a flawed view of the history of English; and that these failings have resulted in a huge disconnect between English grammars and the genius of the English that really exists among educated native-speakers.
The development of the information age and of English as a world language means that such lapses have even greater negative import than formerly. But what is available on the shelves has fallen into sufficient discredit for grammar to have forfeited its place in the curriculum, unrespected and little heeded by the brighter students.
[added emphasis is mine]
Last edited by riverkid; 27-Nov-2006 at 23:20.
The debate seems to be really heating up, and given that the definition of 'tense' is limited to a set of "verb inflection forms" that indicates time, I guess English really does not have a future "tense" per se. But is English not able to express future events? The fact that English verbs don't have future inflection doesn't really mean English is incapable of expressing future. To me any language capable of expressing future possibility have future tense; perhaps I should choose or invent another word for my definition, since the word 'tense' is already taken.
I believe that there are only two tenses in English, and also that time is only one element of the function of tense in English, and that simply believing that tense = time gives an inaccurate picture. All languages, including those without any tenses, can express time- they just do it in different ways. I think that we use present tense forms to talk about the future in English, but others see things differently, and I can't get that heated up about people talking about the future tense.
If I can digress, in Khmer, which I am trying to learn at the moment, they use 'nung' in the way that we use 'will', when they want to mark the future, though, they often just use the present and a time expression. They don't distinguish between the first and second conditionals, and this is a literal translation of how I was taught to do the third:
If I went, I will speak to him.
The past shows that it's a third conditional and their 'will' functions as 'would have'. Interesting to try to classify 'nung'- a futurity marker, for both past and present time. They express things in a very different way, but it works perfectly.
riverkid and Mike are arguing here because they are using different definitions of "tense". Mike is using the definition used for the purposes of teaching English to non-native speakers; riverkid is using the narrower, linguistic definition. They'll never agree until they can first agree on which definition of "tense" they're using.