THE USE OF GRAMMATICAL CONCORD AND ITS ASSOCIATED SEMANTIC EFFECTS

ABSTRACT
One of the basic grammatical rules often abused by basic school students is that regarding the use of grammatical concord. Thus, many JHS learners are challenged in the appropriate use of grammatical concord which obstructs communication. In this regard, the study explored students’ use of grammatical concord and the associated semantic effects among JHS students in the Cape Coast Metropolis. The theoretical arguments of this study are grounded in the syntactic theory, the referential theory of meaning and the attribution theory. The qualitative research approach was used in the study. In all, 18 students and six teachers participated in the study. Data collection for the study was done using in-depth interviews, classroom observations and content analysis of the essays of students. Data analysis was done using thematic analysis. The students had very poor knowledge of general basic grammar, especially in the area of agreement (concord). Tenses used were particularly chaotic. The pedagogical treatment of grammatical structures by the teachers has been ineffective. The inappropriate use of grammatical concord among the students has resulted in several semantic effects including expressions that are difficult to make meaning out of. The Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service and the Metropolitan Director of Education are advised to frequently organise workshops, seminars and refresher courses that will help enhance the professional skills and knowledge of the teachers. Teachers are advised to use a more creative and simulative approach to the teaching of grammatical concord to build students’ confidence in grammar.


CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Background to the Study
History has it that early medieval England is where English Language was first spoken; however, it is now a global Lingua Franca (Wardhaugh, 2010). Several persons globally speak English since being proficient in the Language is required in most professions and occupations. Like most sub-Saharan Africa countries, Ghana is blessed with many indigenous languages; however the English language continues to play a pivotal role in the daily communications of Ghanaians. Aside the English Language being a Lingua Franca in Ghana, it is an important means of inter-ethnic communication internally and a source for communication with the international community (Afful, 2007).

In view of the linguistic imperialism in Ghana coupled with the country’s colonial history, English has been adopted as Ghana’s official language. As such, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the 1950s instituted a policy that the English language be taught from kindergarten to the university level. It has become the language of instruction in the teaching of many subjects from primary four, while it is also a subject on its own. It is also compulsory for students to have a credit in the Basic Education Examination Certificate (BECE) in the English language before entering either the senior high school or the university.

Yeboah (2014) argues that a student’s performance in many other subjects could be closely linked to his/her command over the English language either in writing or speech. The teaching of the English language at the basic school helps students to be able to communicate effectively. Considering the position of English language in the curriculum, the teaching syllabus for the basic schools demands that teachers teach students how to speak and write English well enough for their social, economic and occupational development.

The English language is full of rules and principles. One of such rules is the use of concords where the subject and the verb have to agree grammatically. According to Woods (2010, p.125) "the verb is considered to be the heart of the sentence and it has to take the same grammatical form as its controller, the subject".

Conceptually, grammatical concord is a grammatical relationship between two syntactic constituents of a sentence where the subject must agree with the verb (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech & Svarvik, 2005). Fundamentally, the use of grammatical concord has become an important communicative concept since it provides the rules for putting words into the right order to make the meaning clear. Therefore, the pedagogy of its teaching should offer practical discussions to students. Thus, for English language to be taught and learnt properly, the basic grammatical rules should not be violated; and since concord is an aspect of English grammar, it is essential that English language teachers and students adhere to the rules governing it in order to achieve effective communication (Klu, 2014).

The use of accurate grammatical concord reflects the efficient use of semantics. In other words, contextualisation is crucial for semantic information. Conceptually, semantics relates to meanings of words.In relating semantics to grammatical concords, Chomsky (2014) indicates that the semantic component of a sentence relates a structure generated by the syntactic component. In this regard, the use of poor grammatical concord obstructs communication and therefore meaning.

Although Ghana is blessed with many indigenous languages, a dominant linguistic imperialism exists where the English language continues to play a pivotal role in the day-to-day transactions of Ghanaians. Against this background, teaching English language from kindergarten to the university level is compulsory since the language is the medium of instruction in almost all subjects (Afful, 2007). The teaching of grammatical concord in basic schools in Ghana starts from the Upper Primary to Junior High School (JHS).

In spite of the importance of the English language locally and internationally, there has generally been poor quality of the language in Ghana among basic school pupils both in terms of speech and writing. The 2013 National Education Assessment (NEA) report notes that at least 50 percent of pupils could not pronounce a single English word correctly. The poor quality of the use of the English Language has been attributed to several factors including teachers’ lack of the relevant pedagogical skills (Quagie, 2014). Nevertheless, the language is used so extensively that teachers and students ought to be appreciably competent in it.

Statement of the Problem
In accordance with the Ministry of Education, Ghana (2013), there has been improvement in enrolment indicators for 2012/2013 academic year showing that progress has been made to increase access to basic education. Current statistics from the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC (2017) shows that, a total of 468,053 students sat for the BECE this year. In 2014, there were 242,157 students while in 2013, 150,000 students sat for the exams. In 2012, there were 377,000 students while in 2011, close to 288,000 students sat for the exams. These statistics suggest an increase in enrolment of students at the basic school level in Ghana.

In spite of the tremendous increase in numbers and the recognition attached to the English language in Ghana by the Government, standards are still falling (Yeboah, 2014). The West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), the main examination body in Ghana in charge of BECE, had severally complained about the poor use of English by students. In 2016, the Chief Examiner reported that the inability of the candidates to express themselves well in the English language was evident in other subjects. Specifically, expressions of students were inconsistent with what they were describing, while there were wrong uses of sequence of tense making expressions clumsy (WAEC, 2016).

One of the basic grammatical rules often abused is that regarding the use of grammatical concord. Available statistics from the Cape Coast Metropolitan Education Office shows that less than half of the students passed in the English language in 2013 (43.9%), 2014 (47.2%) and 2015 (36.8%) respectively. Specifically, observation and experience in the teaching profession in the Metropolis shows that many Junior High School (JHS) learners are challenged in the appropriate use of grammatical concord.

Basically, students seem to have problems with subject-verb concord when they occur in different clauses, in the same clauses when the normal word order is changed, and even when there are no intervening words between the subject and the verb. These violations of the rules of concord have resulted in students communicating sentences that present different shades of meanings. In this instance, the recipient is much affected since the sentences show distinctive shades of meaning as a result of wrong tense concord.The inappropriate use of grammatical concord by students obstructs communication and therefore meaning by the recipients. Therefore, inability of the students to apply the exceptions to grammatical concord rules leads to errors in the formation of plural and the past tense pattern.

The inappropriate use of grammatical concord remains insurmountable to all stakeholders involved in the communication link. According to Quagie (2011), when teachers, students and other stakeholders are involved in the inappropriate use of grammatical concord, there is a loss of attention and concentration as well as interest from the recipients. Therefore, since grammar has become an essential communicative tool, its tutoring should give way to practical discussion on how students can use it to communicate essential information.

Johansson (2012) argues that there are several factors which could create concord-related problems for learners of English, and that such factors may be connected to inter- or intra-lingual factors. Quagie (2014) noted that generally, concord still bothers students, because some teachers do not possess the requisite qualification to teach the concept. However, the misapplication of the rules governing the use of grammatical concord often leads to intra-lingual errors.

This study seeks to explore the inter- or intra-lingual factors associated with the wrong use of grammatical concord among JHS students in the Cape Coast Metropolis. Additionally, the study seeks to explore the different types of grammatical concord errors most common among the students.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Project Material  |  Attribute: 164 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: GH50  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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