Correct English

I. Lexical Variation

      English has different words for the same objects. What word do you use for each of the following:


      a. soft drink                                               f. baby carriage

      b. gym shoe                                              g. faucet

      c. thumb drive                                           h. frying pan

      d. cobweb                                                 i. paper bag

      e. griddle cake                                          j. thumbtack

II. Phonetic Variation

      English speakers vary in their pronunciation of many words. What differences are you aware of in the pronunciation of each of the following words:


      a. butter                                                     f. bag

      b. farm                                                      g. cot

      c. bird                                                       h. caught

      d. root                                                       i. Cuba

      e. oil                                                          j. with

III. Morphological Variation

      English speakers do not agree on the past tense forms of some verbs. What past tense and perfect participle forms have you heard for each of the following verbs:


      a. bring                                                     f. sing

      b. drink                                                     g. get

      c. sink                                                       h. lie

      d. dive                                                       i. lay

      e. light                                                       j. see

IV. Syntactic Variation

      Linguists insist upon making a distinction between “grammatical” and “ungrammatical” usage, but in many cases there is quite a bit of disagreement between speakers about the “correct” sentence form. Tag questions create one context for such disagreements. To understand what some of the difficulties that tag questions create, complete the following sentences with the tag question that you use. I filled in the first example for you.

1. He’s ready, isn’t he? ______________________________

2. I have a penny in my purse, _________________________

3. I may see you next week, ___________________________

4. I’m going right now, _______________________________

5. The girl saw no one, _______________________________

6. No one goes there anymore, _________________________

7. Everyone hates one another here, _____________________

8. Few people know that, _____________________________

9. The baby cried, ___________________________________

10. Either John or Mary did it, _________________________

11. Each of us is going to go, __________________________

      What kind of difficulties did you find in completing these sentences? Compare your responses with the answers given by other students. Which sentences elicited the most variation in your responses? Did the variation occur for the sentences that you, individually, found troublesome?

      Linguists use “rules” to describe the forms of sentences. Devise a set of rules that describe the tags that you used for these sentences. Try to make your rules as general as possible.