Grammar deals with the structure and analysis of sentences. Any discussion of grammar, therefore, must address language on two levels, which we may think of as form and function. Sentences are made up of individual words, and these words fall into certain grammatical categories. This is their form. A word like Macarena, for example, is a noun—this is its form. A word like jump is a verb, a word like red is an adjective, and so on.

The form of a word is generally independent of a sentence. Dictionaries are an exploration not only of meaning but also of form because they describe the grammatical category or categories of each entry. But language exists primarily as sentences, not individual words, and as soon as we put words into sentences they work together in various ways—this is function. For example, nouns can function as subjects, adjectives modify (supply information to) nouns, and verbs establish predicates.

Form and function are related in several ways. For example, on a simple level, the terms we use to describe grammatical form and function come from the Greco-Roman tradition. Noun comes from the Latin word, nomen, for name; verb comes from the Latin verbum, for word; predicate comes from the Latin word, praedicare, to proclaim. On a deeper level, the form of a given
word often determines its function in a sentence—and vice versa.


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