Even though it is still technically a holiday in our house, my daughter’s nose is already back to the grindstone as she works on several projects for her TEFL studies and teaching me things I didn’t know I knew.
She was putting together a grammar test to compare the awareness of grammatical rules in native and non-native English speakers (NS and NNS).
Her theory is that NS will use the rules without realising they’re doing so while NNS will be much more aware of the rules.
I’ve probably made it sound more complicated than it is, although it isn’t necessarily easy to create a questionnaire to prove the point, but I see what she means.
Until she mentioned it, it never occurred to me that there is a natural order of adjectives. Take these words for example: a beautiful, old, round, wooden Chinese table. If I said, ‘a wooden, old, Chinese, round, beautiful table’ it would be plain wrong, so I don’t and without realising it, I’m applying a grammatical rule.
On the off-chance that you haven’t hit the back button by now, the rule for adjective order is opinion first followed by fact, ie ‘beautiful’ followed by ‘old’, ‘Chinese’ etc.
Then there is a rule for the order of the factual adjectives: size, age, shape, colour, material, origin. Which is why the table is old, wooden and Chinese.
Of course, being English, these rigid rules can be broken for emphasis. For example, were I to tell a shop assistant that I wanted to buy an old, wooden table, they might ask if I wanted a round, old, wooden table or a square, old, wooden table by way of emphasising the alternative.
You can probably tell that I’m at a bit of a loose end today, but this is preferable to going to the sales.