General Characteristics of Gerund


Teaching English is a hard work. When we speak about teaching English grammar it is more difficult work for the teacher and the students. Interest in learning of English to students has been steadily growing in recent years. For correct presenting grammar teachers need special skills. Helping the children to learn and develop grammar skills becomes more important than simply teaching language.

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Grammar study is important for developing reading, writing, and speaking skills, but many teachers are unsure how best to include it in their curriculum. Providing grammar instruction through engaging literacy activities teaches basic concepts while developing students’ vocabularies and spelling proficiency. In this lesson, students review nouns, adjectives, and verbs and learn about gerunds. They then practice using them as new vocabulary words by composing structured diamante poems as a class and independently using an online interactive tool. The poems can be printed off and displayed or published as a class book or magazine.

However, teaching grammar isn’t difficult or painful if the teacher has appropriate knowledge and skills. It is impossible to speak about gerund and not to remain infinitive because they are structures which are connected very much. Gerunds and infinitives are among the most difficult topics to teach, and a continuing source of errors even among advanced learners. Treated as merely structural variants, these forms are usually grouped into a single grammar unit filled with differing syntactic specifications and long lists of verbs grouped according to their complement type. Significant grammatical distinctions between gerunds and infinitives, as well as pedagogical considerations, suggest that they should be separated and taught at different points in a grammar syllabus. The aim of this work are:

  • to make grammar description of gerund;
  • to show the difficulties in teaching gerund;
  • to express the difference between gerund and infinitive;
  • to presents a concise review of the linguistic evidence concerning important differences between gerunds and infinitives;
  • to make recommendations on the sequencing of these topics within a course of instruction;
  • to demonstrate frequency as a significant factor in second language acquisition;
  • to show the derivations of gerund;

This course paper is devoted to show the role of grammar in the language, and the role of gerund especially.

Most theorists trace the history of grammar to the ancient Greeks who made grammar part of a tritium of rhetoric, logic, and grammar because without grammar the sentence doesn’t have any meening. The Greeks, however, viewed grammar as more than a set of prescriptive rules. Cheryl Glen (1995) interprets the role of grammar in the Greek tritium as one of style more than rules of correctness. Kolln also places grammar teaching in this position. Glenn views this role of grammar, what she calls “fluid, flexible, lively, ever-changing, emotional, beautiful, stylish, graceful language performance” (10) as the goal of grammar instruction.

  1. The role of Frequency in teaching gerund

The development of constructional schemas is based on frequency of input and output. Research demonstrating frequency as a significant factor in second language acquisition, however, has been limited. Infinitive and gerund are analysed as constructions in English by native speakers because studies of gerunds and infinitives in second language acquisition are relatively rare. Furthermore, the students who are speakers of English often confuse these two constructions. Infinitives are high-frequency constructions in English. Conversely, gerund constructions are of low-frequency in English; do not generally exist in some European languages. This seemed a promising place, therefore, to test the relationship of frequency and error production in English second language students.

The theory that frequency plays a significant role in the production of language has been researched for nearly 50 years.

From these findings, it has been proposed that grammars are not a result of some sort of innate, preprogrammed set of universal rules that each human being is born with as proposed by Chomsky. Rather, functionalists claim that grammars emerge from thousands of different constructions, and these constructions are internalized and mapped onto our cognitive capacities through the frequency of input and output (Wray, 2002; Tomasello, 1998). Thus, the fundamental difference between the generativists and the functionalists is that of the source of grammatical knowledge in first language acquisition. Generativists believe that grammar is innate and that the lexicon and environment enter into cognition at a different, unrelated time. This fundamental difference continues to be hotly debated. Until very recently, though, the field of second language acquisition has not seriously considered frequency as a significant factor in learning a second language. Second language acquisition research has often avoided asking questions about language interference, variation, and pedagogy through the lens of the functionalist paradigm.

One of the primary reasons frequency effects has not received a great deal of attention in second language acquisition literature is that there is a genuine fear that evidence supporting a pedagogy based on frequency of input may lead the profession back to stimulus-response sorts of pedagogy like Lado and the audio lingual method which promotes rote memorization and practice of frequently occurring structures, divorcing structure from context (Ellis, 2002a). This is a very real concern and applied linguists, psycholinguists, and TESL practitioners have been justified in their reservations, not wanting to decontextualize language learning.

Language interference is a process in which internalized structures, or lack thereof, in the native language interfere with the learning and acquisition of structures in the target language (Ellis, R. 1994; Gass & Selinker, 2001). Language interference may result from differences between the native language and target language, or it can result from similarities between the two languages. For a discussion and a brief history of error analysis the language interference results from differences between the native language and the target language. For example, if the native language has an infinitive structure for verbs, then it can be predicted that this structure will transfer relatively easily to the target language. However, if the native language does not have the infinitive structure, this will be more difficult to learn and internalize in the target language. Language interference does not have to be restricted to grammatical structures. Learning lexical, semantic, phonological, and morphological items may also be affected by language interference. For example, Spanish makes use of two lexical items to represent the copula BE: ser and ir, whereas English only has one. Learning the contexts in which ser and ir are used is difficult for native speakers of English causing confusion and resulting in frequent errors in the early stages of learning Spanish as a second or foreign language.

It is clear that the frequency of input is not the only factor involved in learning a second language; however, we believe it plays a significant role.

  1. General properties of gerunds

Here is a large variety of ing forms. Traditional grammars of English acknowledge the existence of two homonymous ING forms: the gerund and the participle. Gerunds, in (1a), were defined as “forms that have both nominal and verbal features, both aspects of the content being (often) apparent in the same context”. (Ellis, 2002a, p 347). “Participles differ from gerunds in that they don’t have any nominal features, but verbal features exclusively” (Ellis, 2002a p 365). The picture is more complex than that for several reasons. First, participles have a verbal use, as in (1b), but also an adjectival use, illustrated in (1c) below:

(1) a. I remember Mary’s performing the concert.

  1. God willing, we shall succeed.
  2. Never flog a willing horse.

Secondly, gerunds exhibit two forms, the traditionally called full gerund, whose subject is in the Gen (active) or Possessive case, and a second form, whose subject is in the Accusative case, known as the half gerund. We shall refer to the former as the Possessive construction, and to the latter as the Accusative construction.

(2) It all depends on their helping us. (Possessive)

It all depends on them helping us. (Accusative)

Additionally, the gerund may be subjectless. The subjectless gerund is, roughly,

interpretable like the subjectless infinitive in terms of Control Theory. It is reasonable to assume that an empty pronominal then represents the gerund’s subject, namely the empty pronominal. It will refer to this construction as pronominal gerund..

(3) I avoided of meeting him.

Thirdly, there is an ing deverbal noun, a form that has only nominal properties, illustrated in (4) below. This form is traditionally known as the verbal noun or the ing-of construction.

(4) Their cruel shooting of the prisoners

Theoretically, the more interesting ones appear to be the two gerund constructions, which exhibit mixed properties, being thus different both from IPs/CPs and from DPs.

More on the properties of the -ing suffix. Among the more obvious lexical peculiarities of English is the presence of a number of apparently distinct morphemes that share the phonological shape -ing. In addition to the gerund-forming affix under discussion here, we have noted the existence of the quite productive nominalizing affix exemplified in (4) above. There is also the adjective-forming suffix found in examples like unprepossessing individual. Then, there is the verbal participial affix found in the progressive, as well as in small clauses and adjuncts (e.g., John being away, I was sad; I found her laughing). Finally there is the semiproductive mass noun forming affix, seen in the “object” or “material” senses of words like clothing, fencing, and writings. It is difficult, if not impossible, to isolate a common meaning for all the types of -ing isolated above.

Several attempts have, however, been made to give a unitary description to the -ing suffix (cf. Milsark (1988), Harley and Noyer (1998)), in morpho-syntactic terms.

If there were in fact but one -ing in English, it would appear to have the following morphological properties: it suffixes to verbs, and the resulting complex lexical item may be of any category, a rather unusual property. The lack of category specification exhibited by -ing is unique among derivational affixes, at least in English. -ing is a category-neutral affix. If one takes the major lexical categories, N, V, A, P one notices the existence of Ns, Vs, A and Ps derived from verbs using -ing: