Words, Parts of Speech and Forming Grammatically Correct Sentences

Words and Rules in a Language

All languages consist of words (Vocabulary) and a set of rules (Grammar) that put these words together into a sentence.

Words are the most basic elements of human communication. Each language has words for every item the speaker needs to communicate with others.

Phrases are constructed out of one or more related words.

Sentences are made up of a sequence of Phrases. A sentence in any language is the minimum set of words that will communicate a complete idea.

Consider the Sentence "I know English".

"know" is the Verb that specifies the action in the sentence. "I" specifies who performs the action and is called the Subject of the sentence. "English" is the Object of the sentence as it specifies what I know.

Linguists have theorized that ALL of the world's 6,000+ languages follow an Universal Grammar in sentence construction.

Parts of Speech

Words in a language are assigned a "Part of Speech(POS)" based on how the word is used.

The main Parts of Speech in English are:

Noun -a word (other than a Pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun)   table, dog, teacher, Canada

Pronoun -a word that can function by itself as a noun phrase and that refers either to the participants in the discourse (e.g. I, you) or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse (e.g. he/she, it, this)   I, you, we, he/she, it, this

Verb -a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence   (to) work, (to) learn, (to) eat

Adjective -a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it   big, red, easy, soft

Determiner -a modifying word that is used with a noun to point to a specific instance of the noun   the, this, that

Adverb -a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word-group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree   slowly, quietly, well, often

Preposition -a word governing a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation like time, place and direction to another word or element in the clause   at, to, in, over

Conjunction -a word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause   and, but, if

In this chapter we will color-code the parts of speech to make them easy to identify.

Parts of Speech Assignment based on Usage of the Word

The Part of Speech (POS) assigned to a word is based on the word's usage in a sentence.

We will illustrate this with a sample sentence.

Sentence

"The brown fox jumped quickly over the lazy dog."

WordUsagePart of Speech (POS)
TheSpecific instance of noun (fox) Determiner
browndescription of noun (fox) Adjective
foxname of an animal Noun
jumpedaction Verb
quicklydescription of verb (jumped) Adverb
overdescribes position of noun (dog) Preposition
theSpecific instance of noun (dog) Determiner
lazydescription of noun (dog) Adjective
dogname of an animal Noun

Example of the Application of Grammar Rules

"The boy wrote a letter."

Rule:Sentence = Subject + Verb + Object
Subject Verb Object
The boy wrote a letter

In this sentence:

The Subject, Verb & Object composition of a sentence is universal in all languages. The sequence of these three components (S,V,O) will be different across languages.

English is a called a Head-First language and the Verb occurs before the Object. Sentences in English will always follow the S-V-O sequence.

Bangla (like other Sanskrit-derived "Indic" languages) is called a Head-Final language. In these languages, the Verb will occur after the Object. Sentences in Bangla will always follow the S-O-V sequence.

Because of this "switch", the English phrase sequence of "Subject-Verb-Object" will always be "Subject-Object-Verb" when translated to Bangla.

The Subject and Object Phrases

The Subject and Object phrases can be further defined by the following rule.

Determiners

Determiner-a modifying word that is used with a noun to point to a specific instance of the noun  the, this, that.

You would want to use a Determiner when you are pointing to a specific person, place or thing. For example, you can say "dog" to point to a class of animals called dogs as in "dogs eat meat". Or you can be more specific and say "the dog ate my homework". If the dog you are pointing to is nearby you would probably say "this dog ate my homework" while a dog further away would be referred to as "that dog ate my homework".

There is a set of determiners that are formed as the possessive case of a pronoun or noun. Using the construct above, the dog could be "my dog", "your dog" or "his/her dog". Here, "my" means "belonging to me". "your" means "belonging to you" and "his/her" means "belonging to him/her". A longer list of possessive determiners will be shown in a later chapter.

In everyday speech, these six Determiners -- the, this, that, my, your and his/her -- and should handle most situations.

Common Determiners

EnglishBangla
 the  + -টা 
+ -Ta 
 this  এই + -টা 
ei + -Ta 
 that  ওই + -টা 
Oi + -Ta 
 my  আমার 
amar 
 your  তোমার 
tOmar 
 his/her  ওর 
Or 


The Noun, with the Determiner, in the Subject/Object would look like the following:

Determiners applied to Nouns

EnglishBangla
 the dog  কুকুরটা
  kukuroTa 
 this dog  এই কুকুরটা
  ei kukuroTa 
 that dog  ওই কুকুরটা
  Oi kukuroTa 
 my dog  আমার কুকুর
  amar kukur 
 your dog  তোমার কুকুর
  tOmar kukur 
 his/her dog  ওর কুকুর
  Or kukur 

The starter rules have only dealt with Subject-Object-Verb structure of English/Bangla Sentences and the use of 3 Parts of Speech - Nouns, Determiners and Verbs.

These rules can be supplemented by other rules as we introduce Pronouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Conjunctions and Prepositions into the Grammar.

Bangla Sentence Structure

Bangla words can be grammatically classified into similar "Parts of Speech" as their conterpart English words.

To form a Sentence, all the Rules specified above will apply, especially the Subject-Object-Verb sentence construct. We just have to use the Bangla words to form the Bangla Sentence. We will continue with the sentence "The boy wrote a letter".

First, we will find the Bangla words.
The » -টি suffix to boy (-Ti)
boy » ছেলে (chhele)
wrote » লিখেছে (likhechhe)
a » একটা (ekoTa)
letter » চিঠি (chiThi)

The English (Head-First,SVO) sentence would be constructed in the following way:

SubjectVerbObject
The boy wrote a letter

The Bangla (Head-Final,SOV) sentence would be:

SubjectObjectVerb
ছেলেটি একটা চিঠি লিখেছে
chheleTi ekoTa chiThi likhechhe

So the English
The boy wrote a letter
is
ছেলেটি একটা চিঠি লিখেছে (chheleTi ekoTa chiThi likhechhe) in Bangla.

In this example, we created a grammatically correct Bangla sentence by applying the Subject-Object-Verb structure rule to the vocabulary of the equivalent Bangla words.

The Significance of Universal Grammar Rules

The significance of Chomsky's1 linguistic tradition is that the universal rules apply to all languages. However, languages have some "switches" that can cause the sequence of the words to differ. These switches are consistently applied to that language's phrase structure.

This means that the language learner does not have to memorize the sequence of words in every language they learn. If they understand the universal grammar syntax, and they understand the "switches" set for the language, then the learner will be able to construct grammatically correct syntax.

All that we now need is an adequate vocabulary of Bangla words that lets us express our thoughts.

In subsequent chapters, we will set up rules for the different Parts of Speech that will make up the sentences that will best express our thoughts. We will then give you a starter set of words for each of the different Parts of Speech that you will encounter.


Notes:(1) In the 1950s, Noam Chomsky, a linguist and philosopher at MIT began developing his theory of Grammar. His approach to the study of language emphasizes "an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans" known as the Universal Grammar. Chomsky's theories were popularized by another MIT linguist Steven Pinker, whose book The Language Instinct explored an Universal Grammar that applies to all 6000+ languages known today.