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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

As Dense as a Rock (part 2): The Technical Terms for Language Students

The study of languages is often seen as dense and scary, and one of the greatest contributors to that are the use of terms few use outside the linguistic(study of languages, if you didn't know) circle. I know the first time I heard the word 'Agent' in the context coming up, my mind went near instantly to the Men in Black, and certainly nothing about someone who does something. Like I said before, once the series is done, the entries will be placed in a section on the blog and each one linked back to my Tumblr for individual consumption(and perhaps further analysis?). Nonetheless, here are a set of more technical entries to help you better identify parts of a sentence and improve your ability to seeking the intent of a statement and translate on the fly(which you'll want to improve as soon as possible not just for Japanese, but also for when you chat with friends and need to break down who did what quickly)

One who initiates and /or completes an action or an event.
What Does That Mean?
It’s whoever or whatever does something in a sentence, like when a rock (agent) smashes a window or when your friend (agent) pays for dinner

An element of a sentence which indicates an agent of an action
What Does That Mean?
It points out whom or whatever is doing something, like when you see your friend about to buy a $200 flannel shirt and say “You’re being an idiot! You can buy the exact same thing at Goodwill for $5!” (You being the subject pointed out here). This can be one thing/person, a group of 'em, an action, among many others, and is often mixed in with the concept of an Agent, the defining traits of each you could argue about at lengths for hours on end(and has been a topic of dispute among Linguists, or folks who study language, for generations)

Direct Object
The direct object of a verb is the direct recipient of an action represented by the verb.
What Does That Mean?
It’s who or whatever’s on the business end of an action, like when you see your irate classmate take their keys to the side of your history teacher’s car (the car here getting the brunt of the classmate’s rage)

Transitive Verb
A verb that requires a direct object.
What Does That Mean?
It’s a verb that needs something to act on, the lack of it leading to confusion. It’s like when you and a friend are hanging out at your house and you say “Cook.” as you glance at the frozen pizza on the table. Your friend, not seeing this glance, asks “Cook what?” unaware of what you want to them to cook, because you didn’t say what, exactly, you want them to cook

Intransitive Verb
A verb which does not require a direct object
What Does That Mean?
It talks about whatever the subject at hand was doing, in this case discussing it in a more detached and observant tone, like when your workmate asks you about what happened to your roommate last night and you say “Oh, Steve? Nothing much, he just worked overtime to cover for some girl he likes. When I got home and chatted with him, he fell asleep watching SportsCenter.”

A verb that takes the place of a noun in a sentence
What Does That Mean?
It can used the same way you use a noun, the word’s exact appearance depending on language standards (English using verbs ending with ‘–ing’ as its Gerund). You’ll hear its use when someone says something like “Training is hard work” after practicing their 3 point shot at the gym or “Editing gets kinda lonely, sometimes” after they get off of a long day of working on transcripts and talk to their friend. When a verb is used as an adjective or adverb-like in ‘The Running Man’ or ‘A Broken Education System’- it’s called a Participle, and when it appears in its plain form-like when someone’s called ‘The One to Beat’ it’s called an Infinitive.

Indicates action performed or existence expressed by the subject
What Does That Mean?
It points out what a subject does or what a subject is, like when someone sees a rusty van and says “Man, that car is old” or you see a sign at a protest that says “Corporations lie!”(Old and lie being the predicates here) It’s the presence of this and a subject together which makes a sentence a complete thought, in terms of proper grammar.

A verb/adjective which precedes a noun and modifies it
What Does That Mean?
It gives more detail to whatever you’re talking about, like when your friend tell you they managed to cook an edible chicken soup or a workmate calls your plan to try Skydiving sex a horrible idea. 

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