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MAKS BELA INTERNATIONAL ENGLISH GRAMMAR

Grammar

Modern English grammar is the result of a gradual change from a typical Indo-European dependent marking pattern with a rich inflectional morphology and relatively free word order, to a mostly analytic pattern with little inflection, a fairly fixed SVO word order and a complex syntax. Some traits typical of Germanic languages persist in English, such as the distinction between irregularly inflected strong stems inflected through ablaut (i.e. changing the vowel of the stem, as in the pairs speak/spoke and foot/feet) and weak stems inflected through affixation (such as love/loved, hand/hands). Vestiges of the case and gender system are found in the pronoun system (he/him, who/whom) and in the inflection of the copula verb to be. Typically for an Indo-European language, English follows accusative morph syntactic alignment. English distinguishes at least seven major word classes: verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, determiners (i.e. articles), prepositions, and conjunctions. Some analyses add pronouns as a class separate from nouns, and subdivide conjunctions into subordinators and coordinators, and add the class of interjections. English also has a rich set of auxiliary verbs, such as have and do, expressing the categories of mood and aspect. Questions are marked by do-support, wh-movement (fronting of question words beginning with wh-) and word order inversion with some verbs.

The seven word classes are exemplified in this sample sentence:

The chairman of the committee and the loquacious politician clashed violently when the meeting started

Det. Noun Prep. Det. Noun Conj. Det. Adj. Noun Verb Advb. Conj. Det. Noun Verb

Nouns and noun phrases


English nouns are only inflected for number and possession. New nouns can be formed through derivation or compounding. They are semantically divided into proper nouns(names) and common nouns. Common nouns are in turn divided into concrete and abstract nouns, and grammatically into count nouns and mass nouns.

Most count nouns are inflected for plural number through the use of the plural suffix -s, but a few nouns have irregular plural forms. Mass nouns can only be pluralised through the use of a count noun classifier, e.g. one loaf of bread, two loaves of bread.

Regular Plural formation:

Singular: cat, dog

Plural: cats, dogs

Irregular plural formation:

Singular: man, woman, foot, fish, ox, knife, mouse

Plural: men, women, feet, fish, oxen, knives, mice

Possession can be expressed either by the possessive enclitic -s (also traditionally called a genitive suffix), or by the preposition of. Historically the -s possessive has been used for animate nouns, whereas the of possessive has been reserved for inanimate nouns. Today this distinction is less clear, and many speakers use -s also with in animates. Orthographically the possessive -s is separated from the noun root with an apostrophe.

Possessive constructions :

With -s: The woman's husband's child

With of: The child of the husband of the woman

Nouns can form noun phrases (NPs) where they are the syntactic head of the words that depend on them such as determiners, quantifiers, conjunctions or adjectives.Noun phrases can be short, such as the man, composed only of a determiner and a noun. They can also include modifiers such as adjectives (e.g. red, tall, all) and specifiers such as determiners (e.g. the, that). But they can also tie together several nouns into a single long NP, using conjunctions such as and, or prepositions such as with, e.g. the tall man with the long red trousers and his skinny wife with the spectacles (this NP uses conjunctions, prepositions, specifiers and modifiers). Regardless of length, an NP functions as a syntactic unit. For example, the possessive enclitic can, in cases which do not lead to ambiguity, follow the entire noun phrase, as in The President of India's wife, where the enclitic follows India and not President.

The class of determiners is used to specify the noun they precede in terms of definiteness, where the marks a definite noun and a or an an indefinite one. A definite noun is assumed by the speaker to be already known by the interlocutor, whereas an indefinite noun is not specified as being previously known. Quantifiers, which include one, many,some and all, are used to specify the noun in terms of quantity or number. The noun must agree with the number of the determiner, e.g. one man (sg.) but all men (pl.). Determiners are the first constituents in a noun phrase.

Adjectives

Adjectives modify a noun by providing additional information about their referents. In English, adjectives come before the nouns they modify and after determiners. In Modern English, adjectives are not inflected, and they do not agree in form with the noun they modify, as adjectives in most other Indo-European languages do. For example, in the phrases the slender boy, and many slender girls, the adjective slender does not change form to agree with either the number or gender of the noun.

Some adjectives are inflected for degree of comparison, with the positive degree unmarked, the suffix -er marking the comparative, and -est marking the superlative: a small boy, the boy is smaller than the girl, that boy is the smallest. Some adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms, such as good, better, and best. Other adjectives have comparatives formed by periphrastic constructions, with the adverb more marking the comparative, and most marking the superlative: happier or more happy, the happiest or most happy. There is some variation among speakers regarding which adjectives use inflected or periphrastic comparison, and some studies have shown a tendency for the periphrastic forms to become more common at the expense of the inflected form.

Pronouns, case and person

English pronouns conserve many traits of case and gender inflection. The personal pronouns retain a difference between subjective and objective case in most persons (I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them) as well as a gender and animateness distinction in the third person singular (distinguishing he/she/it). The subjective case corresponds to the Old English nominative case, and the objective case is used both in the sense of the previous accusative case (in the role of patient, or direct object of a transitive verb), and in the sense of the Old English dative case (in the role of a recipient or indirect object of a transitive verb). Subjective case is used when the pronoun is the subject of a finite clause, and otherwise the objective case is used. While already grammarians such as Henry Sweet and Otto Jespersen noted that the English cases did not correspond to the traditional Latin based system, some contemporary grammars, for example Huddleston & Pullum (2002), retain traditional labels for the cases, calling them nominative and accusative cases respectively.

Possessive pronouns exist in dependent and independent forms; the dependent form functions as a determiner specifying a noun (as in my chair), while the independent form can stand alone as if it were a noun (e.g. the chair is mine).] The English system of grammatical person no longer has a distinction between formal and informal pronouns of address, and the forms for 2nd person plural and singular are identical except in the reflexive form. Some dialects have introduced innovative 2nd person plural pronouns such asy'all found in Southern American English and African American (Vernacular) English or youse and ye found in Irish English.

English personal pronouns

Person

Subjective case

Objective case

Dependent possessive

Independent possessive

Reflexive

1st p. sg.

I

me

my

mine

myself

2nd o. sg.

you

you

your

yours

yourself

3rd p. sg.

he/she/it

him/her/it

his/her/its

his/hers/its

himself/herself/itself

1st p. pl.

we

us

our

ours

ourselves

2nd p. pl.

you

you

your

yours

yourselves

3rd p. pl

they

them

their

theirs

themselves


Pronouns are used to refer to entities deictically or anaphoric ally. A deictic pronoun points to some person or object by identifying it relative to the speech situation — for example the pronoun I identifies the speaker, and the pronoun you, the addressee. Anaphorical pronouns such as that refer back to an entity already mentioned or assumed by the speaker to be known by the audience, for example in the sentence I already told you that. The reflexive pronouns are used when the oblique argument is identical to the subject of a phrase (e.g. "he sent it to himself" or "she braced herself for impact").

Prepositions

Prepositional phrases (PP) are phrases composed of a preposition and one or more nouns, e.g. with the dog, for my friend, to school, in England. Prepositions have a wide range of uses in English. They are used to describing movement, place, and other relations between different entities, but they also have many syntactic uses such as introducing complement clauses and oblique arguments of verbs. For example, in the phrase I gave it to him, the preposition to marks the recipient, or Indirect Object of the verb to give. Traditionally words were only considered prepositions if they governed the case of the noun they preceded, for example causing the pronouns to use the objective rather than subjective form, "with her", "to me", "for us". But some contemporary grammars such as Huddleston & Pullum (2002:598–600) no longer consider government and case to be defining for the class of prepositions, rather defining prepositions as words that can function as the heads of prepositional phrases.

Verbs and verb phrases

English verbs are inflected for tense and aspect, and marked for agreement with third person singular subject. Only the copula verb to be is still inflected for agreement with the plural and first and second person subjects. Auxiliary verbs such as have and be are paired with verbs in the infinitive, past, or progressive forms. They form complex tenses, aspects, and moods. Auxiliary verbs differ from other verbs in that they can be followed by the negation, and in that they can occur as the first constituent in a question sentence.

Most verbs have six inflectional forms. The primary forms are a plain present, a third person singular present, and a preterit (past) form. The secondary forms are a plain form used for the infinitive, a gerund–participle and a past participle. The copula verb to be s the only verb to retain some of its original conjugation, and takes different inflectional forms depending on the subject. The first person present tense form is am, the third person singular form is and the form are is used second person singular and all three plurals. The only verb past participle is been and its gerund-participle is being.

English inflectional forms

Inflection

Strong

Regular

Plain present

take

love

3rd person sg. present

takes

loves

Preterite

took

loved

Plain (infinitive)

take

love

Plain (infinitive)

take

love

Gerund–participle

taking

loving

Past participle

taken

loved


Tense, aspect and mood

English has two primary tenses, past (preterit) and non-past. The preterit is inflected by using the preterit form of the verb, which for the regular verbs includes the suffix -ed, and for the strong verbs either the suffix -t or a change in the stem vowel. The non-past form is unmarked except in the third person singular, which takes the suffix -s.

Present

Preterite

First person

I run

I ran

Third person

John runs

John ran

English does not have a morphologised future tense. Futurity of action is expressed periphrastically with one of the auxiliary verbs will or shall. Many varieties also use a near future constructed with the phrasal verb be going to.

Future

First person

I will run

Third person

John will run


Further aspectual distinctions are encoded by the use of auxiliary verbs, primarily have and be, which encode the contrast between a perfect and non-perfect past tense (I have run vs. I was running), and compound tenses such as preterite perfect (I had been running) and present perfect (I have been running).

For the expression of mood, English uses a number of modal auxiliaries, such as can, may, will, shall and the past tense forms could, might, would, should. There is also a subjunctive and an imperative mood, both based on the plain form of the verb (i.e. without the third person singular -s), and which is used in subordinate clauses (e.g. subjunctive: It is important that he run every day; imperative Run!).

An infinitive form, that uses the plain form of the verb and the preposition to, is used for verbal clauses that are syntactically subordinate to a finite verbal clause. Finite verbal clauses are those that are formed around a verb in the present or preterit form. In clauses with auxiliary verbs they are the finite verbs and the main verb is treated as a subordinate clause. For example, he has to go where only the auxiliary verb have is inflected for time and the main verb to go is in the infinitive, or in a complement clause such as I saw him leave, where the main verb is to see which is in a preterite form, and leave is in the infinitive.

Phrasal verbs

English also makes frequent use of constructions traditionally called phrasal verbs, verb phrases that are made up of a verb root and a preposition or particle which follows the verb. The phrase then functions as a single predicate. In terms of intonation the preposition is fused to the verb, but in writing it is written as a separate word. Examples of phrasal verbs are to get up, to ask out, to back up, to give up, to get together, to hang out, to put up with, etc. The phrasal verb frequently has a highly idiomatic meaning that is more specialised and restricted than what can be simply extrapolated from the combination of verb and preposition complement (e.g. lay off meaning terminate someone's employment). In spite of the idiomatic meaning, some grammarians, including Huddleston & Pullum (2002):274, do not consider this type of construction to form a syntactic constituent and hence refrain from using the term "phrasal verb". Instead they consider the construction simply to be a verb with a prepositional phrase as its syntactic complement, i.e. he woke up in the morning and he ran up in the mountains are syntactically equivalent.

Adverbs

The function of adverbs is to modify the action or event described by the verb by providing additional information about the manner in which it occurs. Many adverbs are derived from adjectives with the suffix -ly, but not all, and many speakers tend to omit the suffix in the most commonly used adverbs. For example, in the phrase the woman walked quickly the adverb quickly derived from the adjective quick describes the woman's way of walking. Some commonly used adjectives have irregular adverbial forms, such as good which has the adverbial form well.

Syntax

In the English sentence The cat sat on the mat, the subject is the cat (a NP), the verb is sat, and on the mat is a prepositional phrase (composed of an NP the mat, and headed by the preposition on). The tree describes the structure of the sentence.

Modern English syntax language is moderately analytic. It has developed features such as modal verbs and word order as resources for conveying meaning. Auxiliary verbs mark constructions such as questions, negative polarity, the passive voice and progressive aspect.

Basic constituent order

English word order has moved from the Germanic verb-second (V2) word order to being almost exclusively subject–verb–object (SVO). The combination of SVO order and use of auxiliary verbs often creates clusters of two or more verbs at the centre of the sentence, such as he had hoped to try to open it.

In most sentences English only marks grammatical relations through word order. The subject constituent precedes the verb and the object constituent follows it. The example below demonstrates how the grammatical roles of each constituent is marked only by the position relative to the verb:


The dog bites the man

S V O

The man bites the dog

S V O

An exception is found in sentences where one of the constituents is a pronoun, in which case it is doubly marked, both by word order and by case inflection, where the subject pronoun precedes the verb and takes the subjective case form, and the object pronoun follows the verb and takes the objective case form. The example below demonstrates this double marking in a sentence where both object and subject is represented with a third person singular masculine pronoun:

He hit him

S V O

Indirect objects (IO) of ditransitive verbs can be placed either as the first object in a double object construction (S V IO O), such as I gave Jane the book or in a prepositional phrase, such as I gave the book to Jane.

Clause syntax

In English a sentence may be composed of one or more clauses, that may in turn be composed of one or more phrases (e.g. Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases, and Prepositional Phrases). A clause is built around a verb, and includes its constituents, such as any NPs and PPs. Within a sentence one clause is always the main clause (or matrix clause) whereas other clauses are subordinate to it. Subordinate clauses may function as arguments of the verb in the main clause. For example, in the phrase I think (that) you are lying, the main clause is headed by the verb think, the subject is I, but the object of the phrase is the subordinate clause (that) you are lying. The subordinating conjunction thatshows that the clause that follows is a subordinate clause, but it is often omitted. Relative clauses are clauses that function as a modifier or specifier to some constituent in the main clause: For example, in the sentence I saw the letter that you received today, the relative clause that you received today specifies the meaning of the word letter, the object of the main clause. Relative clauses can be introduced by the pronouns who, whose, whom and which as well as by that (which can also be omitted.)[184] In contrast to many other Germanic languages there is no major differences between word order in main and subordinate clauses.

Auxiliary verb constructions

English syntax relies on auxiliary verbs for many functions including the expression of tense, aspect and mood. Auxiliary verbs form main clauses, and the main verbs function as heads of a subordinate clause of the auxiliary verb. For example, in the sentence the dog did not find its bone, the clause find its bone is the complement of the negated verb did not. Subject–auxiliary inversion is used in many constructions, including focus, negation, and interrogative constructions.

The verb do can be used as an auxiliary even in simple declarative sentences, where it usually serves to add emphasis, as in "I did shut the fridge." However, in the negated and inverted clauses referred to above, it is used because the rules of English syntax permit these constructions only when an auxiliary is present. Modern English does not allow the addition of the negating adverb not to an ordinary finite lexical verb, as in *I know not—it can only be added to an auxiliary (or copular) verb, hence if there is no other auxiliary present when negation is required, the auxiliary do is used, to produce a form like I do not (don't) know. The same applies in clauses requiring inversion, including most questions—inversion must involve the subject and an auxiliary verb, so it is not possible to say *Know you him?; grammatical rules require Do you know him?

Negation is done with the adverb not, which precedes the main verb and follows an auxiliary verb. A contracted form of not -n't can be used as an enclitic attaching to auxiliary verbs and to the copula verb to be. Just as with questions, many negative constructions require the negation to occur with do-support, thus in Modern English I don't know him is the correct answer to the question Do you know him?, but not *I know him not, although this construction may be found in older English.

Passive constructions also use auxiliary verbs. A passive construction rephrases an active construction in such a way that the object of the active phrase becomes the subject of the passive phrase, and the subject of the active phrase is either omitted or demoted to a role as an oblique argument introduced in a prepositional phrase. They are formed by using the past participle either with the auxiliary verb to be or to get, although not all varieties of English allow the use of passives with get. For example, putting the sentence she sees him into the passive becomes he is seen (by her), or he gets seen (by her).

Questions

In English questions can be formed either with do-support (do you know her?) or with the interrogative pronouns (e.g. what, who, where, when, why). In most constructions interrogative pronouns occur in a fronted position before the subject-verb compound, regardless of their grammatical role in the sentence. For example, in the sentence what did you see, what refers to the grammatical object of the sentence but nonetheless occurs as the sentence's first constituent. Also prepositional phrases can be fronted when they are the question's theme, e.g. to whose house did you go last night?. The personal interrogative pronoun who is the only one of the interrogative pronouns to still show inflection for case, with the variant whom serving as the objective case form, although this form is no longer in use by many speakers. For those speaker who do use it, it distinguishes between questions where the theme of the question is the grammatical subject of the verb, from those where it is the object or another grammatical role that is being questioned. E.g. who saw you?, but whom did you see?

Discourse level syntax

At the discourse level English tends to use a topic-comment structure, where the known information (topic) precedes the new information (comment). Because of the strict SVO syntax, the topic of a sentence generally has to be the grammatical subject of the sentence. In cases where the topic is not the grammatical subject of the sentence, frequently the topic is promoted to subject position through syntactic means. One way of doing this is through a passive construction, the girl was stung by the bee. Another way is through a cleft sentence where the main clause is demoted to be a complement clause of a copula sentence with a dummy subject such as it or there, e.g. it was the girl that the bee stung, there was a girl who was stung by a bee. Dummy subjects are also used in constructions where there is no grammatical subject such as with impersonal verbs (e.g., it is raining) or in existential clauses (there are many cars on the street). Through the use of these complex sentence constructions with informationally vacuous subjects, English is able to maintain both a topic comment sentence structure and a SVO syntax.

Focus constructions emphasise a particular piece of new or salient information within a sentence, generally through allocating the main sentence level stress on the focal constituent. For example, the girl was stung by a bee (emphasising it was a bee and not for example a wasp that stung her), or The girl was stung by a bee (contrasting with another possibility, for example that it was the boy). Topic and focus can also be established through syntactic dislocation, either preposing or post posing the item to be focused on relative to the main clause. For example, That girl over there, she was stung by a bee, emphasises the girl by preposition, but a similar effect could be achieved by postposition, she was stung by a bee, that girl over there, where reference to the girl is established as an "afterthought".

Cohesion between sentences is achieved through the use of deictic pronouns as anaphora (e.g. that is exactly what I mean where that refers to some fact known to both interlocutors, or then used to locate the time of a narrated event relative to the time of a previously narrated event. Discourse markers such as oh, so or well, also signal the progression of ideas between sentences and help to create cohesion. Discourse markers are often the first constituents in sentences. Discourse markers are also used for stance taking in which speakers position themselves in a specific attitude towards what is being said, for example, no way is that true! (the idiomatic marker no way! expressing disbelief), or boy! I'm hungry (the marker boy expressing emphasis). While discourse markers are particularly characteristic of informal and spoken registers of English, they are also used in written and formal registers.

Vocabulary

The vocabulary of English is vast, and counting exactly how many words English (or any language) has is impossible. The Oxford Dictionaries suggest that there are at least a quarter of a million distinct English words. Early studies of English vocabulary by lexicographers, the scholars who formally study vocabulary, compile dictionaries, or both, were impeded by a lack of comprehensive data on actual vocabulary in use from good-quality linguistic corpora, collections of actual written texts and spoken passages. Many statements published before the end of the 20th century about the growth of English vocabulary over time, the dates of first use of various words in English, and the sources of English vocabulary will have to be corrected as new computerised analysis of linguistic corpus data becomes available.

Word formation processes

English forms new words from existing words or roots in its vocabulary through a variety of processes. One of the most productive processes in English is conversion,[199] using a word with a different grammatical role, for example using a noun as a verb or a verb as a noun. Another productive word-formation process is nominal compounding, producing compound words such as babysitter or ice cream or homesick. A process more common in Old English than in Modern English, but still productive in Modern English, is the use of derivational suffixes (-hood, -ness, -ing, -ility) to derive new words from existing words (especially those of Germanic origin) or stems (especially for words of Latin or Greek origin). Formation of new words, called neologisms, based on Greek or Latin roots (for example television or optometry) is a highly productive process in English and in most modern European languages, so much so that it is often difficult to determine in which language a neologism originated. For this reason, lexicographer Philip Gove attributed many such words to the "international scientific vocabulary" (ISV) when compiling Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961). Another active word-formation process in English is acronyms, words formed by pronouncing as a single word abbreviations of longer phrases (e.g. NATO, laser).

Word origins

English, besides forming new words from existing words and their roots, also borrows words from other languages. This process of adding words from other languages is commonplace in many world languages, but English is characterised as being especially open to borrowing of foreign words throughout the last 1,000 years. The most commonly used words in English are West Germanic. The words in English learned first by children as they learn to speak, particularly the grammatical words that dominate the word count of both spoken and written texts, are the Germanic words inherited from the earliest periods of the development of Old English. But one of the consequences of long language contact between French and English in all stages of their development is that the vocabulary of English has a very high percentage of "Latinate" words (derived from French, especially, and also from Latin or from other Romance languages). French words from various periods of the development of French now make up one-third of the vocabulary of English.

English has also borrowed many words directly from Latin, the ancestor of the Romance languages, during all stages of its development. Many of the words borrowed into English from Latin were earlier borrowed into Latin from Greek. Latin or Greek are still highly productive sources of stems used to form vocabulary of subjects learned in higher education such as the sciences, philosophy, and mathematics. English continues to gain new loanwords and calques ("loan translations") from languages all over the world, and words from languages other than the ancestral Anglo-Saxon language make up about 60 percent of the vocabulary of English. English has formal and informal speech registers, and informal registers, including child directed speech, tend to be made up predominantly of words of Anglo-Saxon origin, while the percentage of vocabulary that is of Latinate origin is higher in legal, scientific, and academic texts.

English loanwords and calques in other languages

English has a strong influence on the vocabulary of other languages. The influence of English comes from such factors as opinion leaders in other countries knowing the English language, the role of English as a world lingua franca, and the large number of books and films that are translated from English into other languages. That pervasive use of English leads to a conclusion in many places that English is an especially suitable language for expressing new ideas or describing new technologies. Among varieties of English, it is especially American English that influences other languages. Some languages, such as Chinese, write words borrowed from English mostly as calques, while others, such as Japanese, readily take in English loanwords written in sound-indicating script. Dubbed films and television programmes are an especially fruitful source of English influence on languages in Europe.

Writing system

Since the ninth century, English has been written in a Latin alphabet (also called Roman alphabet). Earlier Old English texts in Anglo-Saxon runes are only short inscriptions. The great majority of literary works in Old English that survive to today are written in the Roman alphabet. The modern English alphabet contains 26 letters of the Latin script: a, b,c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z (which also have capital forms: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z).

The spelling system, or orthography, of English is multi-layered, with elements of French, Latin, and Greek spelling on top of the native Germanic system. Further complications have arisen through sound changes with which the orthography has not kept pace. Compared to European languages for which official organisations have promoted spelling reforms, English has spelling that is a less consistent indicator of pronunciation and standard spellings of words that are more difficult to guess from knowing how a word is pronounced. There are also systematic spelling differences between British and American English. These situations have prompted proposals for spelling reform in English.

Although letters and speech sounds do not have a one-to-one correspondence in standard English spelling, spelling rules that take into account syllable structure, phonetic changes in derived words, and word accent are reliable for most English words Moreover, standard English spelling shows etymological relationships between related words that would be obscured by a closer correspondence between pronunciation and spelling, for example the words photograph, photography, and photographic, or the words electricity and electrical. While few scholars agree with Chomsky and Halle (1968) that conventional English orthography is "near-optimal",there is a rationale for current English spelling patterns. The standard orthography of English is the most widely used writing system in the world. Standard English spelling is based on a graphomorphemic segmentation of words into written clues of what meaningful units make up each word.

Readers of English can generally rely on the correspondence between spelling and pronunciation to be fairly regular for letters or digraphs used to spell consonant sounds. The letters b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, y, z represent, respectively, the phonemes /b, d, f, h, dʒ, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, j, z/. The letters c and g normally represent /k/ and /ɡ/, but there is also a soft c pronounced /s/, and a soft g pronounced /dʒ/. The differences in the pronunciations of the letters c and g are often signalled by the following letters in standard English spelling. Digraphs used to represent phonemes and phoneme sequences include ch for /tʃ/, sh for /ʃ/, th for /θ/ or /ð/, ng for /ŋ/, qu for /kw/, and ph for /f/ in Greek-derived words. The single letter x is generally pronounced as /z/ in word-initial position and as /ks/ otherwise. There are exceptions to these generalisations, often the result of loanwords being spelled according to the spelling patterns of their languages of origin or proposals by pedantic scholars in the early period of Modern English to mistakenly follow the spelling patterns of Latin for English words of Germanic origin

For the vowel sounds of the English language, however, correspondences between spelling and pronunciation are more irregular. There are many more vowel phonemes in English than there are vowel letters (a, e, i, o, u, w, y). As a result of a smaller set of single letter symbols than the set of vowel phonemes, some "long vowels" are often indicated by combinations of letters (like the oa in boat, the ow in how, and the ay in stay), or the historically based silent e (as in note and cake).

The consequence of this complex orthographic history is that learning to read can be challenging in English. It can take longer for school pupils to become independently fluent readers of English than of many other languages, including Italian, Spanish, or German. Nonetheless, there is an advantage for learners of English reading in learning the specific sound-symbol regularities that occur in the standard English spellings of commonly used words. Such instruction greatly reduces the risk of children experiencing reading difficulties in English. Making primary school teachers more aware of the primacy of morpheme representation in English may help learners learn more efficiently to read and write English.

English writing also includes a system of punctuation that is similar to the system of punctuation marks used in most alphabetic languages around the world. The purpose of punctuation is to mark meaningful grammatical relationships in sentences to aid readers in understanding a text and to indicate features important for reading a text aloud.

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