What is grammar? The popular notion is actual or presumed prescriptive notions about the correct use of a language. But linguistics define grammar differently. Grammar is the study of the internal structure of words (morphology) and the use of words in the construction of phrases, clauses, and sentences (syntax).
The Form-Function Method for teaching grammar is based on four principal tenets:
- Languages contain a finite number of grammatical forms.
- Languages contain a finite number of grammatical functions.
- Grammatical forms perform one or more grammatical functions.
- Grammatical functions can be performed by one or more grammatical forms.
A grammar tree is a pictorial representation of the grammatical structure of a construction. A tree diagram is a symbolic representation of grammatical form. An underlining diagram is a symbolic representation of grammatical function. A form-function diagram combines a tree diagram and an underlining diagram to create a symbolic representation of grammatical form and grammatical function.
Form-Function Diagram Abbreviations
- AdA: adjunct adverbial
- Adj: adjective
- AdjC: adjective clause/relative clause
- AdjP: adjective phrase
- AdjPComp: adjective phrase complement
- AdjPMod: adjective phrase modifier
- Adv: adverb
- AdvC: adverb clause
- AdvP: adverb phrase
- AdvPMod: adverb phrase modifier
- App: appositive
- Art: article
- ConA: conjunct adverbial
- Conj: conjunction
- Coor: coordinator
- Corr: correlator
- DemDet: demonstrative determiner
- Det: determiner
- Detm: determinative
- DetP: determiner phrase
- DetPMod: determiner phrase modifier
- DisA: disjunct adverbial
- DO: direct object
- I: interjection
- IO: indirect object
- IM: infinitive marker
- IntDet: interrogative determiner
- Inter: interjector
- M: modal
- N: noun
- NC: noun clause
- NCMod: noun clause modifier
- NP: noun phrase
- NPComp: noun phrase complement
- NPMod: noun phrase modifier
- Num: numeral
- OC: object complement
- Op: operator
- Part: particle
- Pass: passive
- Per: perfect
- PossDet: possessive determiner
- PossIntDet: possessive interrogative determiner
- Post: postposition
- PostComp: postpositional complement
- PostP: postpositional phrase
- PostPMod: postpositional phrase modifier
- PP: prepositional phrase
- PPMod: prepositional phrase modifier
- Pred: predicate
- Prep: preposition
- PrepComp: prepositional complement
- Prog: progressive
- Pron: pronoun
- PW: p-word
- Q: quantifier
- S: sentence
- Sub: subject
- SubComp: subject complement
- Subor: subordinator
- V: verb
- VP: verb phrase
- VPComp: verb phrase complement
- VPMod: verb phrase modifier
Diagramming a Sentence
To create a form-function diagram, begin by writing the sentence in the center of the page. Identify the forms of the words, phrases, and clauses. Take The woman bought a child some gifts as an example. The vertical lines (branches) from each word to N, Det, and V indicates that The, a, and some are determiners, woman, child, and gifts are nouns, and bought is a verb.
The branches from Det and N to NP indicate The woman, a child, and some gifts are noun phrases.
The branches from V and the final to NPs to VP indicate that the verb phrase consists of the verb bought and the noun phrases a child and some gifts.
The branches from the first NP and the VP to S indicate that the sentence consists of the noun phrase The woman and the verb phrase bought a child some gifts.
After identifying the grammatical forms, identify the functions of the words, phrases, and clauses. The horizontal lines (underlines) between each word and Detm, Sub, Pred, IO, and DO indicate that The, a, and some are determinatives, woman is the subject, bought is the predicate, child is the indirect object, and gifts is the direct object.
The underlines between Detm-Sub and Sub, Detm-IO and IO, and Detm-DO and DO indicate that The woman, a child, and some gifts are the full subject, indirect object, and direct object.
The underline between Pred-IO-DO and Pred indicates that bought a child some gifts is the full predicate.
The underline between Sub-Pred and Declaration indicates that The woman bought a child some gifts is a declaration.
Using Excel to Create Form-Function Diagrams
Using Excel to make form-function diagrams takes a bit of finagling but is easier than drawing all the branches and underlines by hand. Once you experiment with the basic configurations, you will master merging cells and adding lines pretty quickly.
Highlight two adjacent cells. Use the Merge & Center button so that each word spans two cells.
To adjust the width of the boxes, highlight the two columns that contain a word. Click Format -> Column Width and then input a number. For smaller words, 4 or 5 usually suffices.
To insert the tiny space between words, highlight the left column that contains a word. Click right click and select Insert. Highlight the new column and adjust the column width to 0.3.
To add vertical lines, highlight two cells and click Format -> Format Cells -> Border. Select the middle vertical line and click OK.
For the diagonal branches, highlight the cells between two form labels. Click Merge & Center. Highlight the merged cell. Click Format -> Format Cells -> Border. Select the desired diagonal line and click OK.
You can insert up to three branches to a single form label using the Border function. If you need more than three branches, you will have to draw the extra lines using the Insert Shapes function. Click on the Insert tab -> Shapes -> Line and then draw the line(s) on the spreadsheet. Adjust the weight of the lines by highlighting the line and then clicking Shape Outline -> Weight -> 1pt -> OK.
To add horizontal lines, highlight and merge at least two cells. Highlight the merged cells. Click Format -> Format Cells -> Border. Select the top horizontal line and click OK.
To save the diagram as an image, highlight the cells that contain the diagram. Click the dropdown Copy button in the upper left -> Copy as Picture -> As show when printed -> OK. Then open Paint and click Paste. The diagram will be pasted into paint. Save the file.