From: Teaching Grammar, by Irene Philippaki-Warburton

4.The contribution of Morphology and aspects of the written language.

The knowledge of language also contains the written language. We will now consider whether or not grammar has something to offer to this expression of language. We must not forget that the term ‘grammar’ means ‘the art of writing. The Alexandrine grammarians who created this object of study considered grammatical education necessary mainly for the correction and the cultivation of the written expression.

One aspect of the written language which can be supported directly by the teaching of grammar is the orthography (spelling). From the very first lessons of writing which concern the teaching of the alphabetic symbols we begin to introduce the student to linguistic metalanguage. The teaching of the alphabet and of the correspondence between graphemes and phonemes is part of the teaching of the elements and rules of the phonological component. The word ‘phoneme’ is a linguistic term. Naturally the introduction of the student to the phonological system of his language does not stop here. For example, in order to explain that the spelling of the phonological clusters /ks, ps/, is represented by single alphabetic symbols /ξ,ψ/ we must use linguistic metalanguage again. Also to account for the distribution of the word final euphonic ‘n’ we must speak of adjacent phonemes, fricatives and stops etc ‘/ton – pira/ >, [tombira] ‘I took him’ vs /ton- spiro/ > [tospiro] as well as grammatical categories such as clitic pronound vs determiners /ton kalesa/- [ton galesa] ‘I invited him’ vs /ton stelio/ – [tostelio], Also consider the verb phrases below: [ο φίλοz mas] ‘our friend’ but [mas kalesane]’they invited us’ etc. For the student to learn that if he must put stress on a clitic pronoun he mut understand the difference between possessive pronouns vs. object clitic pronouns.

Even more important is the contribution of the grammatical categories and the morphology to the orthography of the endings of the declinable words, nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, as also seen in the following examples

1a. Το βάζο /to vazo/ ‘the vaz’

b. Το βάζω /to vazo/ ‘I‘put it’

2a. Το ράφι  /to rafi/ ‘the shelf ‘

b Το ράβει /to ravi/ ‘she is sewing it’

3a.. Αυτό πίνεται πολύ  /afto pinete poli/ ‘this is drunk a great  deal’

b. Δεν πρέπει να πίνετε πολύ  /den prepi na pinete poli/ ‘you must not drink a lot’.

4a. Φάγανε πολύ /fagane poli/ ‘they ate a lot’

b.Φαγανε πολλοι /fagane poli/ ‘a lot of  people ate’

The differences in the spelling of the endings in the above examples, indicates their inflectional properties which are associated with different meaning on the basis of the following rules.

·          The neuter nouns and the masculines and feminines which end in the phoneme /o/, and the masculines and feminines which end in the phoneme/ o/ or /os/ are spelled with ‘ο’ (omikron)

·                     The neuters which end in /i/ are written with ‘ι’ ‘jiota’

·          The verbs which end in /o/ are written with ‘ω’.’omega’

·          The endings of the verbs of the singular and of the 3rd person plural of mediopassive are written with ‘αι’’alpha jiota’

·          The endings of 1st and 2nd person of the plural of the active are written with ‘ε’ ‘’epsilon

·          The adverb /poli/ ‘much’ is written with ‘υ’.(ιpsilon)

·          The numeral /poli/ ‘many’  is written with ‘οι’’omikron jiota’ κ.ο.κ.

It is clear that the Greek orthography is very difficult especially for the vowels because each of the five phonemes / i, e, a, o, u/ can correspond to more than one grapheme. Passing from the spelling to the pronunciation is not so difficult but passing from the pronunciation to the spelling there are no rules based on the phonology, i.e., on the way the segments sound. However, we can use rules which determine the orthography of the grammatical endings as we saw above. But for the formulation of such rules we must appeal to grammatical categories. Therefore, we must teach the students the appropriate metaglossa, i.e., the right terminology in order to be able next to formulate the rules which reveal the connection between the grammatical structure and the spelling. The student armed with such rules will check his writing against them until the correct orthography becomes automatic.

It is possible that one can express reservations about the above suggestions claiming that the student will have to learn the spelling of the other morphemes of the language, i.e. of the stems of words for example, by memorisation since there are no correspondences between them and either the pronunciation (phonology) or the grammar. So why don’t we encourage the student to learn the spelling of the grammatical endings in the same way. If we accept this view the student will be relieved from having to know grammar with all its complex metalanguage.

The answer is rather simple. The memorisation of the spelling of every word separately requires a lot of time and strong visual memory which is not possessed by everybody. Therefore, whatever rules and patterns exist they will make the learning easier. After all it is a fact that the grammatical and the graphemic system of Greek are very closely related as we showed with the few examples above. Since this relationship is a reality why should we refuse to present it to our students? Why not make them share this characteristic of our language, especially since the students from the age of 6 or 7 ask for rules and explanations. To those who perhaps propose that spelling is secondary and that we should not burden the student with rules we reply that an arbitrary orthography obstructs the quick recognition of the word and its meaning. Thus misspelled words slow down the understanding of a text. Furthermore a stable orthography and one connected to the grammar will help the constantly increasing use of the new technologies.

 

 

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