Enhancing the English Language Ability of Postgraduate Research Students

Enhancing the English Language Ability of Postgraduate Research Students

Johnson Ocan (Busitema University, Uganda)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0264-8.ch005


The chapter discusses opinions about grammar as a prescriptive diction in academic writing. It also argues that the problem of personal pronouns can be used to analyze the language used by post-graduate students in low-resource setting and others whether in speech or writing, in non-literally discourse or literature. The chapter analyzes four maxims of good writing: Make your language easy to follow; be clear; be economical; and be effective. To successfully create knowledge, especially at postgraduate level, authors must communicate concisely to present their sense.
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A person’s native language is such an important part of his or her social existence that, like other institutions, it easily becomes a subject for argument. Language moreover is intimately connected with judgments about status and about what is good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. This is why it is so hard for people to be unbiased and rational when they express opinions about their mother tongue. This chapter presents an impartial argument on problems of usage about which many speakers of English feel quite strongly. For example, many (especially older people who have gone through a traditional education in English grammar) feel strongly that infinitives should not be split (Bolinger, 2015). For them, to separate to from the infinitive verb with which it belongs, as in to flatly refuse, is a little sort of a crime.

Cannale (2003) points out that, in actual practice, split infinitives are quite common. So one reaction is to ignore arguing about matters of taste. Another view is the one we discussing prescriptive grammar we treated received opinions as to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ usage as sociological norms like rules of etiquette, (Quirk, 2013). In some situations (particularly more formal situations such as that of writing a letter of application) we shall want to be on our best linguistic behavior, and this means steering clear of pitfalls such as the split infinitive’, if only to avoid usages which will stigmatize us in the eyes of other people. Some precepts of ‘good grammar’ come from the uneducated (Brumfit, 2018). Other precepts do have a basis of common sense, and merit serious discussion. One thing is certain: people will not give up arguing about language usage, and it is as well to be aware of their attitudes. Knowledge of grammar can help us to describe and understand the basis of these attitudes (Crystal, 1999).


Prescriptive Diction In Academic Writing

Here is a test, If you had to choose, which of the following alternatives would you use in a letter applying for a job?

  • {(1a) …the post I am applying for.

  • (1b)…the post for which I am applying.

  • {(2a) But more recently I have been attending classes in German.

  • (2b) More recently, however, I have been attending classes in German…

  • {(3a) I had to choose the least harmful of the two courses.

  • (3b) I had to choose the less harmful of the two courses.

  • {(4a) I will be able to take up the appointment after 1st June.

  • (4b) I shall be able to take up the appointment after 1st June.

If you want to increase your chances of creating a good impression in academic writing, you will prefer the (b) sentence in each case, thereby obeying the following prescriptive rules’:

  • 1.

    ‘Do not end a sentence or clause with a preposition.’

  • 2.

    ‘Do not begin a sentence with a coordinator such as and or but’.

  • 3.

    ‘When comparing two things, use a comparative construction; when comparing more than two things, use a superlative construction.’

  • 4.

    ‘After I or we as subject, use shall rather than will to express futurity.’

All these are typical prescriptive ‘rules’ in that they are assumed to work without exception. In practice, however, they are frequently broken by native speakers; this is why we enclose the word ‘rule’ in quotation marks. Moreover, if we try to apply them in every case, the result can be awkward and totally un-English .For example:

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