Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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English 2810a: English Grammar (Spring 2014)

Posted: Dec 25, 2013 16:12;
Last Modified: Aug 23, 2014 19:08


Note: This is a draft syllabus and is subject to revision before the last day of the add/drop period.

English 2810 Grammar is a technical course in the form and structure of the English language. Our focus will be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Students will learn how the language works in actual practice rather than how people think it ought to be spoken or written.

In addition to its intrinsic interest, the study of descriptive grammar can be useful for anybody interested in working with the English language, as it provides a framework and set of terms for understanding how the language works.


Times and location

Office and Office Hours

My office is room B810B. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information is available on my Contact page.

My office hours are TBA. In the meantime, feel free to set an appointment

Detailed description

This course is described in the calendar as follows.

The basic structures of English: word classes, sentence elements and basic aspects of syntax and morphology. Primary emphasis on descriptive grammar, though some attention will be paid to prescriptive approaches (Course description, University Calendar).

In other words, this is a course on how English is spoken and written in a variety of contemporary contexts (descriptive grammar), rather than, primarily, a course on how we are expected to write in, for example, university essays (prescriptive grammar). We will be looking at how words are formed (morphology), and how they are used in phrases, clauses, and sentences (syntax). We will be considering examples of standard, formal, “correct” English (though we will also be learning why this term is something of a misnomer), but also informal, regional, and slang variants. The goal is to learn how the language is put together.

This is a technical course that will require weekly exercises and regular attendance. The textbook is very difficult and complex. Regular attendance in class will be required. Students often report that the course is difficult but very rewarding to those who put in the requisite effort.

Learning goals

By the end of the course students should have a broad understanding of English syntax and morphology. The should be able to identify various types of linguistic structures including word classes, morphological affixes, and various types of phrases, clauses, and sentences. They should also be able to explain various common features of English grammar.

While teaching “correct” style (i.e. the standard way of writing or speaking in formal situations) is not a primary goal of the course, students who take this class will study some instances of such style and be able to explain such rules in linguistic terms.

Some attention will also be paid to linguistics in education.



These texts will be supplemented with required readings from the Internet.


The following assessment is tentatively planned for this course:

Category Percentage
Weekly blog 20%
Discussion leadership 5%
First essay 10%
Second essay 20%
Two content reviews 25%
Final exam 20%


Student will be expected to keep a weekly blog.

A discussion of how blogs are used in my classes, with information on how they are graded and what is expected from you can be found here.

For this course, the blogs should be predominantly about English or language more generally (e.g. its structure, use, history), the course, or the exercises, lecture, and textbooks. While an occasional entry on something else is permitted, most entries should be arguably have something to do with language or this course. As always, we will alert students who are straying from this topic regularly should any problems arise.


There are two essays in this course:

All essays are to be handed in via Turnitin (instructions for how to sign up).

See the schedule below for due dates.

Content Reviews and Final Exam.

There will be two content reviews and one final exam. Each review will be cumulative.

All content reviews are to be written on Moodle in the Testing Centre. Here are instructions on how to sign up for Moodle


The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of these policies may result in your grade being lowered.

Grade scale

The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the University Calendar). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or record mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a Grade Point Average or GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students’ final letter grade.

In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest whole percent. The only exceptions are A+ (which is converted to 100%), and F (which is converted to an arbitrary percentage between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work’s quality). These scores can be found in the conventional value row of the above table.

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

I have prepared rubrics for most types of qualitative assignments (assignments that do not expect the student simply to provide a correct factual answer). These can be found in my Academic Policies section:

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s Testing Centre on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented on Moodle.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and Password) will be made available in our class space on Moodle:


This course uses plagiarism detection software. Any plagiarism will be treated very seriously: you can expect to receive a grade of 0 on the assignment as well as other penalties depending on the seriousness of the offence. In most cases, the penalty for plagiarism is an F on the course.


Week Date Topic Reading Blog
1 Mon. 6/1 No class
Wed. 8/1 Syllabus    
Fri. 10/1 What is “Grammar”
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 1
2 Mon. 13/1 Prescriptive vs. Descriptive
  • Pinker
  • Wallace
Blogs due: Last names A-G
Wed. 15/1 No class: Instructor absence Blogs due: Last names H-N
Thur. 16/1 Essay 1 (Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar) DRAFT due by midnight
Fri. 17/1 Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Draft discussion   Blogs due: Last names O-Z
3 Sun. 19/1 Essay 1 (Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Grammar) final copy due by midnight
Mon. 20/1 The Sounds of English
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 2
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 3
Blogs due: Last names A-G
Wed. 22/1     Blogs due: Last names H-N
Fri. 24/1     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
4 Mon. 27/1 Morphology
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 4
Blogs due: Last names A-G
Wed. 29/1     Blogs due: Last names H-N
Fri. 31/1     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
5 Mon. 3/2 Word Classes
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 5
Blogs due: Last names A-G
Wed. 5/2     Blogs due: Last names H-N
Fri. 7/2     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
6 Mon. 10/2     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Wed. 12/2     Blogs due: Last names A-G
Fri. 14/2     Blogs due: Last names H-N
No class: Reading week (18/2-22/2)
7 Content Review 1 (Mon. 24/2-Sun. 2/3)
Mon. 24/2

Phrase Structure and Complementation

  • What is complementation?
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 7
Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Wed. 26/2
  • Noun Phrases (NP), Adjective Phrases (AP), Adverb Phrases (AdvP)
  Blogs due: Last names A-G
Fri. 28/2     Blogs due: Last names H-N
8 Mon. 3/3
  • Preposition Phrases (PP)
  • Introduction to Verb Phrases (VP) and simple sentences
  Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Wed. 5/3
  • The Sentence
  Blogs due: Last names A-G
Fri. 7/3     Blogs due: Last names H-N
9 Mon. 10/3 Adverbials, auxiliaries, and sentence types
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 8
Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Wed. 12/3     Blogs due: Last names A-G
Fri. 14/3     Blogs due: Last names H-N
10 Mon. 17/3 No class: Family day Blogs due: Last names H-N
Wed. 19/3     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Fri. 21/3     Blogs due: Last names A-G
11 Content Review 2 (Mon. 24/3-Sun. 30/3)
Mon. 24/3 Finite and non-finite clauses
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 9
Blogs due: Last names H-N
Wed. 26/3     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Fri. 28/3     Blogs due: Last names A-G
12 Mon. 31/3     Blogs due: Last names H-N
Wed. 2/4     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Fri. 4/4     Blogs due: Last names A-G
13 Mon. 7/4 Conclusion and praxis
  • Brinton & Brinton Ch. 12
Blogs due: Last names H-N
Wed. 9/4     Blogs due: Last names O-Z
Fri. 11/4     Blogs due: Last names A-G
14 Mon. 14/4     Blogs due: Last names H-N
Essay 2 due
Wed. 16/4 Study period (no class)
Fri. 18/4 Study period (no class)
15 Final Exam Period 22/4-30/4




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