What More Proof Is Needed?
Tenses — The Natural English grammar versus linguistic “tales”
Modern English grammar
(a lot of people put it as the “so-called” grammar)
“Education in the modern age is a mere shadow of an authentic education…. Grammar has been reduced to a mere empty shadow of its former self as well….
Grammar today is a mimic of a sort of atomized applied linguistics….If we compare what the grammarians considered grammar in ages past with what people call grammar today, the difference may be shocking….
Grammar ought to embody the rules for the structure of language, which intend to reflect the hierarchical structure of the universe, but it no longer does….
If we are concerned with living a full life in consideration of the fullest developments of our intellects and wills, then we must begin with a recovery of the true nature of grammar. Grammar has its roots in eternity and its arrangement of categories signifies the rules of existence as well as words can. In identifying the grammar of existence, there are two primary considerations, that of space and time, which correlate to our two categories of being and doing. Being and doing are reflected by our speech categories we call nouns and verbs. In the entirety of language, we can notice that all our linguistic constructions revolve around particulars articulating general things and what they do (nouns and verbs). Just so, we understand our lives in terms of being and doing correlated to space and time. All of our considerations revolve around what we are and what we do…
Language has the twofold purpose of conveying truth in the service to the other.
It should be self-evident that the grammar of human language ought to properly reflect the grammar of existence, if not, then what are we ever talking about?”
I absolutely agree with the author of the article. The only thing is that I would add “having” to the categories of being and doing (to be, to have, to do).
And we are talking about grammar we know from the textbooks.
All of the grammar books we have today were written by linguists.
Almost all of these books are packed with terminology close to scientific and very difficult for a non-specialist to understand.
This goes especially for the term “Tenses” used in the parts where they explain how English grammar works, namely, how sentences are constructed. This term is the dumbest of all as it is completely senseless.
The term is also the most harmful for the ESL/EFL learners, as it makes the way English sentences are constructed INCOMPREHENSIBLE IN PRINCIPLE.
Nevertheless, one cannot find a single grammar book that doesn’t lecture the readers on how important Tenses are for them to study.
It looks like English grammar can’t live without Tenses. And everybody agrees.
I seem to be the only one who does not.
That is because I simply fail in my attempts to find at least a trace of any ”tense” in at least one English sentence.
It has been a long time since I stopped wondering whether it was my bad vision (so many people can see 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 16, 24 and even more of them! – is it that the better vision one has the more “tenses” he/she can find?), my extreme stupidity, or some other issue.
I wrote enough about “tenses” and the problems they cause to the ESL/EFL teachers and learners in my previous posts, so I’ll just leave it at that.
The text below is about something different.
Take a look at any random sentence in your native language and you’re sure to find something that shows you:
MOOD (whether the action or state in the sentence is conceived as fact (indicative mood) or in some other manner: command (imperative mood), possibility or wish (subjunctive mood),
VOICE (whether the subject of the sentence acts (active voice) or is acted upon (passive voice),
ASPECT (simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous),
TIME (past, present, future) in it.
You can find these four features in EVERY sentence in your native language.
I know (although I don’t know your language) you can because these four notions can be found in ALL major languages (Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Scandinavian languages, etc.) currently existing on the Earth.
This fact proves that all these languages have the same roots.
Then why are they so different?
To understand the things better, we need to know a little about
The history of languages and their grammars
“Where and when did language begin?
While it is widely understood that our ability to communicate through speech sets us apart from other animals, language experts, historians and scientists can only hypothesize how, where and when it all began.
A remarkable new study may have the answer
A recent study conducted by Quentin D. Atkinson, a biologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, suggests two very important findings: language originated only once, and the specific place of origin may be southwestern Africa.
Atkinson’s findings challenge a long-held belief by linguistics that the origin of spoken language only dates back some 10,000 years. Atkinson hints that if African populations began their dispersal from Africa to Asia and Europe 60,000 years ago, perhaps the spoken language had to exist around that time and, as Atkinson hints at, may have been the catalyst for their dispersion and subsequent migration.”
Languages are meant to provide a means of communication for people, which they have been successfully doing since the very beginning. For that they use their own natural grammars.
The Fundamental Grammar for all Natural Human Grammars, serving as a basis for languages to evolve on along with humans themselves, comprises four notions: TIME, MOOD, ASPECT, VOICE.
These notions are the most ancient and most important for any language. They represent a solid set of instructions of how to construct sentences in language. Having been acquired from mother nature itself, this set is absolutely inviolable for humans, as much as it is beyond their activities.
These four notions represent life itself (in fact, they are the names of the largest groups of situations that can occur in life) rather than being just another set of grammatical categories, as we used to think they were.
The Fundamental Grammar does not perform any work. On the contrary, it is the whole Natural Human Grammar of a language that is working on collecting all four of the features in a sentence, as there can be no sentence with at least one of them lost. Everything in a sentence is under the Fundamental Grammar’s control.
I think it is absolutely possible that MOOD, VOICE, ASPECT, TIME is a sort of a Language Genetic Code, which all of us, human beings, have in our DNA, (we’re born with it) and it is exactly what makes us capable of learning and using languages, viz., CONSTRUCTING and UNDERSTANDING sentences.
In other words, we, humans, are genetically tuned to compulsorily:
a) feature MOOD, VOICE, ASPECT, TIME when building a sentence;
b) recognize MOOD, VOICE, ASPECT, TIME when listening to or reading a sentence.
So, I can say here that LANGUAGES actually have TWO grammars:
- TIME, MOOD, ASPECT, VOICE = FUNDAMENTAL Grammar
Being of the same age as humans themselves, it is the same in all languages.
- The Natural Human (= naturally evolving, historic) Grammar.
Being many centuries of age, designed by generations of people in their large groups, it differs from language to language.
To begin their work on designing a grammar structure in the incipient language, ancient humans within an individual group must have had an idea of what to start with.
As there was nothing except for what they carried in their heads, the Fundamental Grammar, our ancestors took their original for each individual group ideas from it.
The Fundamental Grammar is exactly where we should look for the answer to the question “Why are languages so different?”.
We need to compare two sentences with the same meaning in any two languages, and, of course, it must be VERB to pay special attention to.
My native language is Russian (anyone can do the same in their native languages).
A few minutes is enough to see that:
ENGLISH infinitive contains TWO features out of the four in the Fundamental Grammar.
They are VOICE and ASPECT.
(see the previous posts)
RUSSIAN infinitive contains ONE feature out of the four in the Fundamental Grammar.
This is ASPECT.
(English) VOICE + ASPECT vs. ASPECT (Russian)
It is the answer to our question, and this is exactly what makes the English and Russian languages so different.
In other words, many centuries ago ancient Brits planted VOICE + ASPECT in the base verb form of their incipient language.
Ancient Russians’ idea of their language was somewhat different, and they only planted ASPECT in their infinitive.
What it means
English grammar has a more powerful infinitive compared to the infinitive in Russian grammar.
In fact, there are eight forms of the infinitive in English, each containing
VOICE + ASPECT:
1. to do | Active Simple Infinitive
2. to be doing | Active Continuous Infinitive
3. to have done | Active Perfect Infinitive
4. to have been doing | Active Perfect Continuous Infinitive
5. to be done | Passive Simple Infinitive
6. to be being done | Passive Continuous Infinitive
7. to have been done | Passive Perfect Infinitive
8. to have been being done | Passive Perfect Continuous Infinitive
(see the previous posts)
Due to this, the inner strength of the English verb is twice as big as that of the Russian and needs much less help from the rest of the grammar to make each sentence a complete one.
Russian verb needs much more help, and that is why Russians had to design the system of cases and endings in their language.
ENGLISH infinitive contains HALF of the Fundamental Grammar features needed to make a complete sentence.
RUSSIAN infinitive only contains ONE-FOURTH of the Fundamental Grammar features needed to make a complete sentence.
How it looks in sentences
drink (to drink (drink, drinks, drank, drunk), to be drinking, to have drunk, to have been drinking, to be drunk, to be being drunk, to have been drunk, to have been being drunk)
the action in this sentence is expressed as a fact (Indicative MOOD), the subject of the verb is acting (Active VOICE), Simple ASPECT, Present TIME
пью (пить, пью, пьёшь, пьёт, пьём, пьёте, пьют, пил, пила, пили, буду пить, будет пить, будешь пить, будем пить, будете пить, будут пить) Indicative MOOD, Active VOICE, Simple ASPECT, Present TIME
Adding more words to the sentences:
I drink tea.
Я пью чай.
чай (чая, чаю, чае, чаи, чаёв, чаям, чаями, чаях)
— — —
I drink tea with friends.
tea (teas)//with//friends (friend)
Я пью чай с друзьями.
чай (чая, чаю, чае, чаи, чаёв, чаям, чаями, чаях)//с//друзьями(друг, друга, другу, другом, друге, друзья, друзей, друзьям, друзьями, друзьях)
— — —
I drink tea with friends in a bar.
tea (teas)//with//friends (friend)//in//a(a(an), the, no article)//bar(bars)
Я пью чай с друзьями в баре.
чай (чая, чаю, чае, чаи, чаёв, чаям, чаями, чаях)//с//друзьями(друг, друга, другу, другом, друге, друзья, друзей, друзьям, друзьями, друзьях)//в//баре (бар, бара, бару, баром, баре, бары, баров, барами, барах)
— — —
I drink tea with friends in a bar near the beach.
tea (teas)//with//friends (friend)//in//a(a(an), the, no article) // bar (bars)//near//the (a(an), the, no article)//beach (beaches)
Я пью чай с друзьями в баре возле пляжа.
чай (чая, чаю, чае, чаи, чаёв, чаям, чаями, чаях)//с//друзьями(друг, друга, другу, другом, друге, друзья, друзей, друзьям, друзьями, друзьях)//в//баре (бар, бара, бару, баром, баре, бары, баров, барами, барах)//возле//пляжа (пляж, пляжа, пляжу, пляже, пляжем, пляжи, пляжей, пляжам, пляжами, пляжах)
— — —
I drink tea with friends in a bar near the beach every weekend.
tea (teas)//with//friends (friend)//in//a(a(an), the, no article) // bar(bars)//near//the (a(an), the, no article)//beach (beaches) // every//weekend (weekends).
Я пью чай с друзьями в баре возле пляжа каждые выходные.
чай (чая, чаю, чае, чаи, чаёв, чаям, чаями, чаях)//с//друзьями(друг, друга, другу, другом, друге, друзья, друзей, друзьям, друзьями, друзьях)//в//баре (бар, бара, бару, баром, баре, бары, баров, барами, барах)//возле//пляжа (пляж, пляжа, пляжу, пляже, пляжем, пляжи, пляжей, пляжам, пляжами, пляжах)//каждые (каждый, каждая, каждого, каждому, каждым, каждом, каждые, каждых, каждым, каждыми) //выходные (выходной, выходная, выходного, выходному, выходным, выходные, выходных, выходными)
From the example sentences, it can be clearly seen that with each new word added in the Russian version, the scope of work for the sentence to keep its original meaning is growing like a snowball (endings, endings, endings…) whereas in English everything looks very much more simple.
Above is an example of how the NATURAL HUMAN Grammars work.
Native speakers of a language keep both the Fundamental and the Natural Human Grammars in their heads.
They learn the language from one another in their environment.
Native speakers do not need any grammar textbooks or any linguistic terms to speak and understand their language.
Regretfully, written grammars have little to do with the REAL, Natural Human Grammar of the English language, the one which “has its roots in eternity”.
The grammar we really use to construct sentences is INSIDE the language.
The grammar we, non-native speakers of English, have to learn is ON PAPER only.
The Natural and written grammars differ in that the former does the job and the latter only (supposedly) describes how the job is being done.
To our misfortune, the process and its description do not coincide.
For example, if we had had to compare our example sentences the traditional way (turn to the written texts for help), we would have been offered something like this:
“Most of us know about verb tenses, but we tend to forget that the tenses are formed from the four verb forms. Learning the four basic forms of verbs can help us figure out the various tenses. The four forms of verbs are the base form, the infinitive form, the past form, the present participle, and the past participle.”
“… self-appointed guardians of the language just made up grammar rules for English, and put them in books that they sold…
They took their newly concocted rules from Latin…”
“I suspect the origins of this stem from attempts to model English after Latin as if Latin was somehow a better language.”
“The reference grammar book currently fashionable amongst linguists is The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, by Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey K. Pullum and others, published in 2002.
A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar, Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum
…quite frankly I find them very difficult for a non-specialist (like me) to understand…
As far as I’m concerned, this is just EFL writers being trendy, like the fashion for calling Phrasal verbs Multiword verbs. It doesn’t help the students one jot, unless they’re going to go on to study linguistics at an English-speaking university.
The needs of linguistics and language teaching are very different: linguistics is mainly to do with analysis, not teaching.”
All of the linguistic “tense” tales are full of delusions, contradictions, and lies.
Be it “English Verbs: Tense, Aspect, Mood, and Voice”, or “Tense-Aspect System”, or “verb tenses are the most important things to master”, or whatever else, we should know it is nonsense that only leads us away from the truth.
The Natural Grammar of the English language is completely self-sufficient.
It has its own INNER well structured VERB SYSTEM for building sentences.
There is neither need nor room for the alien term “tenses” in it.
What can be easier to understand than the natural way of doing something?
The question will continue to be rhetorical unless we stop chasing the ghost.
To sum up:
What the functioning of English grammar is really based on and what we see working in absolutely all English sentences (but are unable to find in any of the man-made English grammar descriptions) is the Eight Formulas (= Infinitives) Verb Structure.
What they offer us to study and what we see in absolutely all man-made English grammar descriptions (but are unable to find in any of English sentences) are Tenses.
End of story.