Tag Archives: grammar


13 Dec

The English Language is quite strange or even complex but when mastered is absolutely beautiful. It therefore comes as no surprise that lovers of it, and those who have gained mastery in the field, easily gets frustrated, annoyed or even angry when others are teaching them things that are contrary to what they know. This was the case with Marlene Gilling.

The Story
It was morning. Early. The goldens rays had not yet penetrated the clouds. I rose from my slumber, and through groggy eyes I checked my phone and saw a facebook notification that I was tagged in a post by the Pierrot Grenade Alcia Morgan-Bromfield. Now I was fully awake. When you get a notification like that you don’t hesitate to check it. I quickly unlocked my phone and click on the notification, and realized she made a response to a post made by Marlene Gilling.

The Cry for help!

In a desperate cry for help to clarify the prefix, suffix, or compound word debacle she was facing, Marlene reached out to the literary minds on her facebook page with this post:

“Cee Barbs and Strachan Help me out here. I was taught(although a very long time ago) that both the prefix and suffix are syllables. Am I correct? Next. Is a syllable a word? ish to child gives childish . Suffix . Pre to mature gives premature. Prefix. OK. But card to board gives cardboard and rain to coat or vice a versa gives raincoat. Tell me please. Aren’t the latter called compound words? Well I’m hearing now that a word added to a root word is also a prefix or suffix. Open my eyes to the light please”

And the lessons began!

After several responses to this problem were proffered by participants on Marlene’s page, the expert communication and linguistics specialist was called in. However, Marlene had to wait until the following day to hear from the Pierrot Grenade. I can only imagine how impatient was felt as she waited. (Yes I would know. I felt the same way when I waited for her to respond to my own desperate plea for help)

The Lesson that settled it all

The face behind the words

The following day Alcia Morgan-Bromfiled wrote:

“Good morning Cee Barbs, Marlene Gilling et al. Sorry I couldn’t help you last night. I had an early night. Now, if I may enter the discussion, and add from a linguistic perspective the following and hope it will bring (some) clarity to the discussion. Let me quickly explain in order to set the background that linguistics deals generally with syntax (grammar), semantics (meanings), morphology (word formation), phonology (pronunciation or sound pattern) lexicon (lexemes, words/vocabulary) and some linguists may add pragmatics (usage/political correctness) and orthography (spelling).

Words are the most basic units of syntax in linguistics. The process of morphology allows for the formation of words. Two of the most recognized manner to form words are through compounding and affixation. Compounding, as you have rightly stated, involves joining two (root) words (lexical items or morphemes) Now there are “free” morphemes and “bound” morphemes. Compound words such as “raincoat” comprise two free morphemes as each morpheme [rain] and [coat] can stand on its own. However a word such as [books] has one free morpheme [book] and one bound morpheme [s].

Affixation which include prefixes, affixes and the less popular infixes and circumfixes, involves a process of adding an affix to a word to form a complex stem. Affixes can be placed at the beginning or ending of a word – pre, in, un, sub (prefixes) or ion, ate, able, ness (suffixes). Infixes are placed in the middle of a word (they are usually of a derogatory nature eg [abso-blooming- lutely] and [in-phuking – credible] while a circumfix is placed around the word/stem eg [a-cook-ing].

Suffixes are also known as “derivational or inflectional morphemes”. A derivational morpheme changes the class or part of speech [er, ist, or] eg teach – verb to teach[er] – noun) whereas an inflectional morpheme retains the class or part of speech eg teach[es], [teach[ing] – both verbs although one shows simple present tense and the other show continuous tense. English is a highly inflectional language. *Jamaican Creole is not but that is for another lesson.

The error we seem to be making here is confusing PHONOLOGY with MORPHOLOGY. Remember phonology is an aspect of linguistics that deal with the pronunciation of words whereas morphology has to do with the formation of words. SYLLABICATION would fall under the former thus it involves breaking down the word into parts chiefly for pronunciation purposes. Example the word [justification] can be broken down into [jus/ti/fi/ca/tion]. The process of syllabication must be done in such a way that each break has a meaningful part as is done in the example. It would be incorrect to pronounce the word as [ju/st/if/ic/ati/on] which is sometimes done when we are unfamiliar with the language. You know like how we do when we are learning a foreign language and we pronounce all phonemes (the smallest units of a word) even when they are silent!!!!

I hope this has helped! I will charge you for the next lesson!!!!”

More than a mouthful isn’t it? Consume ye all of it. Then let it digest. You won’t regret it. I particularly enjoyed this post because on the day it was posted I had a similar encounter and had to send students to research the prefix of some words.

By the way, she won’t charge for the facebook lesson just like that. She can’t stop herself from responding to these desperate cries. But who knows, an official facebook literary class page that earns revenue may just be in the making. And why not? It would be money well spent.

In case you missed part 1, you can view it here (IF I WAS YOU…OR IF I WERE YOU…)  Coming next, the “And and Because”.
Stay tuned.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on this lesson



19 Aug

That’s the powerful woman standing right there…the lone rose among the thorns

After a heated debate with a colleague about the correct grammatical form of a statement, I took to social media to consult an exceptional education administrator, editor extra-ordinaire, prolific writer, communication and linguistic specialist. I quickly made this post and tagged her in it:

“I need to consult my editor extra-ordinaire, linguistic and communication specialist Alcia Morgan on this one…which is correct:
“If I were you…? or “If I was you…?”
Talk to me please so I can stand corrected and go apologize or say “I knew it”

She did not respond right away . All this time my mind was commenting and chastising itself in a most realistic way. It had conversations like: “Really Alcia, is where you hiding tonight?” Or, “Come man Alcia, I need my confirmation.” The logical mind didn’t miss a beat as it chastised the impatient me “Calm down. The woman have a life” or “She will respond in her own time. Go and find something to do”. I found myself laughing out loud at this internal dialogue. Talk about getting mad. Ah boy. Anyway, back to the story.

Despite my gross impatience, I was not concerned whether she would respond or not, because she just simply cannot resist the urge to share her expertise. It’s an impossible task for her. The wait for me was forever because I was twitching to get her response. However, I was not prepared for the detailed, informative, and profound elucidated response I got. Here it is:

Dorraine Reid, only you could draw me out of hibernation like this. Technically, both are correct from a descriptive linguistic perspective as both express a conditionality; You will never hear a prescriptive grammarian using “if I was’ though. Bear in mind that the prescriptivist (the ones who write the grammar books) SAYS what is correct; the descriptivist express what actually happens. The former “if I were you” expresses a situation that is possible but not real; a hypothetical situation that is contrary to the real situation and thus the use of the subjunctive. “If I was” on the other hand, is indicative and can be replaced with “whenever”. To conclude, the phrase, “if i were you” is the correct use from the “standard” English perspective. In essence, “If I were you, I’d apologize if i have to”.

This response had many facebook-ers quickly clicking away on the like button and sparked a vibrant conversation. It felt good to have been a part of it. As the discussion progressed, it further reinforced the notion that, social media is what we make it. This Educator extra-ordinaire who wears so many hats, uses her facebook page to inspire, motivate, encourage, teach. As we lamented about her brilliance, and I expressed a desire for more persons to read her response to the question, she responded with this:

Seems my page draws a lot of attention….both for those who visit it to see what literary work I’m up to, those who want a motivational moment, to have a laugh or to learn ” the word of the day” and those who just want “grist for their mills”

This is such a factual statement because I am one of them. I live for her facebook posts (and I’m sure I’m not alone) because each one I consume, I walk away with another word added to my vocabulary. It is indeed a literary class on her facebook page.

If I were you, I would get to know her…visit her page or ask Mr Google.