English Grammar 4300 – 01

Summer 2011 Syllabus / Session 2


Class Meeting Times and Location: T/Th 2:00 – 4:30 pm / Pafford 109


Mitzi McFarland
Office: Pafford 317
678-839-4859 (voicemail)
mmcfar@westga.edu (email)


Office Hours:

T/Th 12-1:45, and by appointment

Course Description: In this course we will explore the structure or grammar of the English language and work toward understanding the principles or rules that make it work.  This course is primarily designed for English majors who seek to improve the grammatical proficiency of their writing and for future teachers at the secondary and college level. However, this course also has applications for students entering business and industry, science and medical fields, law and politics, media and public relations, or anyone who recognizes the essential human value of language and who understands how the ability to use language contributes to personal and professional success in life.  After all, when you are talking to friends, asking someone out on a date, debating sports or politics, buying clothes at the mall, or writing a paper, you are using the structures and principles of English grammar, even when your sentences are not grammatical! However, knowing a language and knowing about the language are different kinds of knowledge. Even the ability to speak grammatically correct sentences in no way guarantees that a speaker knows enough about English to explain what makes those sentences grammatical. This course is designed to help you achieve that knowledge. We will refer frequently to Standard English, and, certainly, one of the benefits of this course is that it will help you refine your written and verbal language skills. However, this is not simply a course about grammatical correctness; instead, this course is designed to help you understand how the English language functions, what structures and rules are behind the sentence constructions that you and others create every day.  To accomplish this task, we will learn some basic linguistic and grammatical concepts, and we will learn how to analyze (and diagram) different sentence constructions.  We will also learn how elements of the language (verbs, nouns, sentence structure, pronouns, etc.) emerged and changed over time to create the language we use today. 

Learning Outcomes: 1) Students will understand the general principles of comparative linguistics; 2) Students will appreciate the most significant historical causes of change in the English language; 3) Students will understand the fundamental difference between the grammar of the English language and its usage and be able to apply such linguistic and grammatical concepts as phonetics, phonology, morphology, grammatical relations, syntax and semantics to “real-world” situations; 4) Students will be able to identify some of the most significant theories and methods that shape the contemporary study of grammar, including traditional grammar, phrase-structure grammar, transformational-generative grammar and cognitive grammar; 5) Students will develop the ability to understand and articulate the concept of dialect or variety in English; 6) Students will apply the tools of language analysis to “real-world” situations of teaching students in composition and literature classes; 7) Students will demonstrate in both oral and written work a discipline-specific critical facility through convincing and well supported analysis of course-related material; 8) Students will learn to use discipline-specific computer technologies related to the study of language such as listservs, word processing, and internet research.


Relationship of Course to Program Goals: 1) This course fulfills one of the departmental requirements for the completion of the English major; 2) This course is required for secondary certification in English; 3) Students will develop the analytical and oral communication skills required to pursue graduate study or careers in teaching, writing, business and a variety of other fields; 4) Students will be able to define and pursue independent research agendas; 5) This course contributes to the program goal of equipping students with a foundation in the history and development of the English language and the issues surrounding language study in contemporary culture; 6) This course broadens students' desire and ability to understand, appreciate, and utilize the English language in its historical contexts.


Required Texts:

Vitto, Cindy. Grammar by Diagram, 2nd ed. Broadview Press, 2006.


The final grade will be a composite of three differently weighted tests:

30%     Examination I

30%     Examination II

40%     Examination III (Final)


Attendance Requirements: Grammar is a challenging subject, and it requires different critical and analytical skills than those you have developed in other English courses. Furthermore, because this class is an eight-week session, we will be covering material at an accelerated pace. In essence, each (roughly) three-hour class meeting is equivalent to a week of class during the regular 15-week semester. We will be covering approximately one—and sometimes two—chapters per class meeting. Consequently, careful preparation and active participation are crucial to your success in this course. I expect you to be present and on time for all class meetings. Reading assignments from the textbook and homework exercises should be completed in advance of each class. You should be prepared to participate actively in class by answering questions, volunteering to complete exercises, OR simply asking questions. Remember: if you do not understand something presented in this class, ask!


If you find it unavoidable to miss class, be aware of the following guidelines: 1) TWO (2) absences are allowed. Every absence thereafter will result in a three point grade reduction of your final grade in the course, regardless of the nature of the absence. I do not make distinctions between excused and unexcused absences, so you should use your allotted absences wisely. Unplanned or unexpected occurrences are likely, so be prepared to use absences for these events only; 2) Class roll will be taken at the beginning of every class. If you arrive late, it is your responsibility to let me know immediately after class or you will be counted absent. It is your responsibility to keep up with your absences and tardies; 3) Entering class late and leaving class before it is over will count as an unexcused absence, unless you have a legitimate medical excuse for doing so. Reasons related to outside employment or work in other classes are not legitimate excuses for habitually leaving class early or arriving late; 4) Excessive absences or tardiness from class may result in your administrative withdrawal from this course; 5) It you are going to be absent, I prefer that you notify me in advance of the class to let me know.


NOTE: Please turn off all cell phones and pagers before entering class.


Homework and Classroom Assignments: Throughout the course, you will be expected to complete reading assignments from the textbook and homework assignments in preparation for our work in class. Other assignments will be distributed and completed during class. Most of these assignments will come from exercises in your textbook. These will not be graded; however, they will form the basis of the three major examinations, so mastery of these assignments and exercises will be essential to your success. I reserve the right to give unannounced quizzes if it becomes apparent that students are not coming to class prepared.


Examinations: There will be three (3) examinations in this class (listed on the course syllabus).  Any changes to these dates will be announced in advance in class and posted on the course website.  Each exam will cover the following: 1) information from the course textbook, including key terms, concepts, and methods; 2) exercises from the course textbook and other exercises assigned in class; and 3) supplemental lectures and other materials presented in class. I will provide you with a study guide prior to each exam. Late exams will be marked down one letter grade for each day they are late unless you make arrangements with me in advance and you have a legitimate medical reason for completing the exam after the deadline.


Special Needs: If you have a registered disability that requires accommodation, see me at the beginning of the semester. If you have a disability that is not registered through the Disabled Student Services Office, contact Dr. Ann Phillips in 137 Parker Hall at 678)839-6428.


Academic Honesty: Students who cheat or who otherwise receive outside assistance on any examination will fail the course automatically and be referred to the University of West Georgia Academic Discipline Council.


Conferences and Outside Assistance: I will be glad to meet with you outside of class to discuss your work in this course. If you are having trouble with the material or have questions and/or concerns you would like to discuss, please set up a time a meet with me.