Students understanding the complexity of language

Chapter 01-15: Hanging Out


chapter 1: hanging out

Finally, we want to conclude this chapter by expanding on the concept of “analyzing in context.” This means that a key strategy for analyzing our language is to understand “who the words are hanging out with” in the context of the sentence (or passage). In future chapters, we will examine FUNCTION SLOTS to understand the ways that different words, phrases, or clauses “hang out” with each other:

In other words, pay close attention to the words that immediately precede or follow a particular word (or phrase or clause). This will tell you almost everything you need to know for analysis. And to pay close attention, you must take your time. Try not to rush through the work, and be sure to ask questions of each other (and your instructor) so that you get plenty of feedback. The more time you take to develop an effective process for analysis, and understanding who the words are hanging out with, the more natural, and easier, it will become in the future.

Learning to recognize who the words are hanging out with is a far better strategy than, especially, depending on “lists” of words because many words have the ability to serve many roles or take many different forms. For example, you can’t just assume that a word is a preposition because it is on a list in this chapter. That word might also show up on another list in this chapter as a subordinator. And the only way that you can name it correctly is to determine “who it’s hanging out with.” If the word precedes a noun or nominal phrase ONLY, then it’s a preposition; instead, if it precedes a complete clause (with NP subject and MVP), it’s a subordinator. This means that you can’t make assumptions or generalizations acontextually or identify the form or function of a word, phrase, or clause without considering the words that precede it or follow it.


On the next pages, we will look at example analyses and work on some practice exercises to make sure that you understand the contexts for this chapter. In the next chapter, we will begin the process of looking at who words are hanging out with by examining noun phrases and main verb phrases.