Rafael Benitez is unhappy with his title. In a speech after Chelsea had beaten Middlesbrough 2-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup, Benitez objected to being called “interim manager”. So why is “interim manager” linguistically and semantically so different from “manager”?
In structure, both are noun phrases, but the pre-modifying adjective “interim” alters our response to the head noun. This is the power of pre-modification – it affects the way we interpret the noun that follows.
The meaning of the adjective appears to undermine the authoritative connotations of “manager” in this context. For Benitez, it makes his role seem less important because it suggests that he is only transitional, temporary – a stand-in until someone else (someone better or more suitable?) can be appointed.
This is where we start … you first need to be able to RECOGNISE and then DESCRIBE words according to their class.
The first two sections are short and straightforward. They introduce you to open class words and closed class words. These are two very broad categories and all words fit into one group or the other.
Follow the links to read about word classes. Then use the exercises to test your knowledge. Can you spot which words belong to the open class and which to the closed?
Open class words
Closed class words
On Radio 4’s The Archers, one of the characters was expecting a baby … Someone described her baby as ‘a Down’s Syndrome baby’ and she insisted she was having ‘a baby with Down’s Syndrome’. Can you see the semantic difference?
At a level of language, we can describe the two structures very differently. The first is a pre-modified noun phrase: the head word ‘baby’ is at the end of the phrase and we therefore first register the condition. The second is a post-modified noun phrase: the noun ‘baby’ comes first with the condition as a qualifier (in the form of a prepositional phrase).
The order of information in a phrase is important because it affects the way we respond. In this case, the character was drawing attention to the fact that her baby would not be defined by her condition – that she was a baby first and that her condition was just one element of who she would be.
How many people noticed the end of Cromarty, a fisherfolk dialect? Fortunately, a researcher collected examples of Cromarty dialect words and recordings were made of the language before the death of its last native speaker in October 2012.
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Should we make concerted efforts to ensure the survival of minority languages? Or should they be left as charming relics of a by-gone age in a world where language is increasingly homogenised by our use of electronic media?
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