Thursday, September 26, 2013

A la Noam Chomsky

T(M)(have-en)(be-ing)V is the most powerful formula Fiorella has ever encountered.  It's linguistic talk for the construction of the basic English verb form.  "T" stands for "tense," either present and past.  "M" stands for "modal," of which there are five: may, can, will, shall, and must.  "V" stands for the individual verb form, like "eat" or "love" or "sing."

The formula is very easy to apply, and Fiorella taught it to all her composition classes.  First, choose a tense.  Past tense is represented by "-ed" and present by a "-0."  Then decide if you want to use a modal and, if so, which one.  Next, decide whether or not you want to use "have-en."  Same for "be-ing"--the constructions in parentheses are optional but must stay in the same order.  The final step is to select a verb.

Let's try "eat."

Using past tense and a modal--how about "can"--and all the bells and whistles, we get [-ed+can+have-en+be-ing+eat].  Now we leap-frog [-ed,] [-en,] and [-ing] to get [can-ed+have be-en+eat-ing]. The past tense of  "can" is "could," so we end up with the string [could have been eating].  Switch out past tense for present tense and we get [0-can+have-en be-ing eat; can have been eating].  Leave out the model and we get [have been eating] or [had been eating], depending on your choice of tense.  Leave out the [have-en] and you get [can be eating] or [could be eating].  Leave out the [be-ing] and you end up with [can have eaten] or [could have eaten].  Leave out the model and the [have-en] and you get [be eating] or [was eating.]  Leave out the model and the [have-en] and the [be-ing] and you get [eat] or [ate].  Duck soup.

Try your hand with "love" and "sing," remembering that [sing-ed] becomes [sang], [sing-en] becomes [sung], and" [love-en] becomes [loved].

This simple all-encompassing formula is the reason Fiorella majored in linguistics.

Also write about my method of defining use of apostrophe for possessive.

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