It can be difficult to know how to apply grammatical knowledge to text analysis, probably because we’re so used to using some version of “Point Evidence Explain” and that doesn’t really work with grammar: “Dream is an abstract noun because…” It’s better to work word class knowledge in with everything else: “The abstract noun ‘dream’ is used to convey a strongly positive desire, whilst also carrying connotations of the American Dream.” Because of this, it’s more useful to take a ‘meaning first’ approach to analysis*:
- first pick out the words and phrases that you feel are worthy of comment. Then see how precisely you can describe those words/phrases.
- Hint: more grammatical detail is always better. So identifying something as a ‘pronoun’ is good, but ‘first person plural subject pronoun’ is likely to get more marks. Equally, ‘perfective aspect verbs’ win over ‘verbs’ every time.
*(as opposed to first identifying all the linguistic features that you can and then trying to figure out what they mean)
Grammatical knowledge is also essential for work such as:
- describing dialect forms – how else can you precisely explain the difference between ‘we was’ and ‘we were’ or define a form like ‘hisself’?
- explaining children’s uses of language precisely, e.g. non-standard pluralisation (‘mens’, ‘sheeps’) or application of tense to both auxiliary and main verb in a question (did you eated your dinner?)