Hello world!

February 25th, 2010

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Types of Sentences

January 23rd, 2008

There are three main types of sentences:

  • Simple sentences
  • Conjoined sentences (also known as compound sentences)
  • Complex sentences


Simple sentences contain only one idea


  • Zubair fell.

Simple sentences comprise only one idea, clause and verb group. We say verb group (instead of verb) because a verb group itself can consist of one word (fell, assembled, cooked, won) or more than one word (will buy, had put, should have believed).

In short, simple sentences have:

  • subject and verb (and object/adjective/adverb)
  • only one idea
  • only one clause


  • He is happy. (Subject + verb + adjective)
  • She runs fast. (subject + verb + adverb)
  • They read books. (subject + verb + object)


Conjoined sentences have two (or more) clauses joined together using coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or …)


  • Zubair fell and twisted his ankle.

In short, conjoined (compound) sentences have:

  • two ideas joint by a coordinator/conjunction (e.g. and, or, so, but, yet …)
  • two clauses


  • He is happy and excited.

(= He is happy. + He is excited.)

  • She ran fast because she was scared.

(= She ran fast. She was scared.)

  • They borrowed books from the library but didn’t read them.

(=They borrowed books from the library. + They didn’t read the books.)


Complex sentences have embedded clauses. i.e. one clause is incorporated into another one

E.g. The clause

Zubair fell

can be incorporated into another clause to produce the sentence -

  • Latheef said Zubair fell.

Unlike in conjoined sentences, complex sentences contain clauses of unequal status. i.e. one clause is subordinated into another and functions as a grammatical part of it. The subordinate clause is called an embedded clause and the clause in which it is embedded is called a matrix clause.

Every subordinate clause is embedded in a matrix clause and serves a grammatical function in it.

In short, complex sentences have:

  • two (or more) clauses
  • a subordinate clause ( a clause embedded in the main/independent clause)
  • subordinate clauses begin with subordinate conjunctions (e.g. since, when, because, although, despite, as, while …)


  • She was eating when the telephone rang.
  • My teacher is angry because I didn’t do my homework.

Infinitives of Purpose

January 23rd, 2008

The infinitive with ‘to‘ is used to talk about people’s purposes, the reasons why they do things.

Sara is going to the shop to buy a new CD.
(= because she wants to buy a new CD)

I’m going to Africa to have a vacation.
(= because I want to have a vacation)

DO NOT USE “for” before the infinitive of purpose!

Sara is going to the shop for to buy a new CD. *
I’m going to Africa for to have a vacation. *

Morphological Systems

May 28th, 2007

Not all languages have inflectional morphology. Some languages have little or no morphology. Still other languages have relatively complex words with distinct parts, each representing a morpheme.

Traditionally these 3 types of languages have been identified as :

Inflectional Morphology

In such languages:

  • each word tends to be a single isolated morpheme
  • lack both derivational and inflectional morphology

Chinese is an oft-cited example of a language with isolating morphology. Chinese uses separate words to express certain content that an inflecting language can do only by inflection

English permits both inflectional possessive
the boy’s hat
and what is called an analytical possessive
hat of the boy
Chinese permits only the equivalent of hat of the boy
Isolating Morphology

Chinese also lacks tense markers and does not mark gender, number or case distinctions on pronouns:
I just will give you that one cup tea
I am about to bring you a cup of tea
Agglutinating Morphology

In these languages:

  • Words can have several prefixes and suffixes

but characteristically they are :

  • distinct and readily segmented into their parts

Greenlandic Eskimo is an example of an agglutinating language
His new kayak has been destroyed

Objective Tests

April 7th, 2007

Objective tests measure one’s ability to remember facts & figures understanding of course materials. These tests are often designed to make test-takers think independently. Good objective tests require test-takers to employ high level critical reasoning and make fine discriminations to determine the best answer
Objective Tests. ‘

The most common objective test questions are:

  • multiple-choice
  • true-false
  • matching items
  • cloze

The most common is the multiple choice question (MCQ) test where students must select the correct answer from a number of possible answers.

The incorrect answers in MCQs are termed distractors.

Distractors should cotnain:

  • misconceptions
  • partly correct answers
  • common errors of fact or reasoning (these distract students who are not well prepared for the test from giving the correct answer)

MCQs are usually used to test the test-taker’s ability to:

  • recall information
  • interpret data/diagrams
  • analyse/evaluate material

Main strengths of MCQs:

  • test a wide range of issues in a short time
  • assessment is not affected by a student’s ability to write
  • can be reliably marked as all answers are predetermined
  • can be quickly marked by computer
  • computer marking gives easy access to an item analysis of questions to pinpoint problem areas for students
  • a large bank of questions can be built up to reduce future preparation time
  • can be used for quick revision at the start or end of a class and marked by the students

Main weaknesses of MCQs:

  • do not test the student’s ability to develop and organize ideas and present these in a coherent argument
  • takes a long time to write plausible distractors (especially in cases where higher order cognitive skills are being tested)
  • restrictions are placed on the test-taker’s answers as they must select from given alternatives
  • guessing may result (but plausible distractors will result in intelligent guessing)
  • questions are often re-used which means special attention to security
  • questions need to be pre-tested and items reviewed to ensure the validity of the items

Writing MCQs is a relatively difficult task. However, the effort expended in item construction is rewarded by the ease and reliability of marking

MCQs must have:
a clear and unambiguous stem
a correct answer
several (usually 3 or 4) distractors which appear plausible to students who do not know the correct answer
coherence to the content matter to be examined


Sample MCQ

Tips for constructing MCQs:

  • use simply worded stems
  • present only one issue in the stem
  • avoid use of negative premises (may especially disadvantage ESL students)
  • ensure that the answer to one question cannot be obtained from another
  • Keep the distractors brief and as homogeneous as possible
  • ensure the distractors are plausible (i.e. common errors made by students)
  • use at least 3 distractors (reduces chance of guessing the correct answer)
  • avoid distractors that provide clues (e.g. phrases from text books)
  • group similar types of MCQs together
  • avoid using a pattern for the position of the correct response

Phrase Structure Rules

March 26th, 2007

Phrase structure rules are ‘formulae’ that describe a given language’s syntax. Phrase structure rules break a natural language sentence down into its constituent parts (also known as syntactic categories. Phrase structure rules are usually of the form:

phrase structure formula

meaning that the constituent A is separated into the two sub-constituents B and C


phrase structure for S

This means that a sentence ‘S’ is separated into the two sub-constituents NP and VP in the order shown. Sub-constituents that are optional within a constituent is indicated in brackets:


phrase structure for NP

This means that an ‘NP’ may be separated into the sub-constituents DET, AP and N; and that they would appear in that order if they do.

Table of Specifications

March 25th, 2007

A Table of Specifications is a two-way chart which describes the topics to be covered in a test and the number of items or points which will be associated with each topic. Sometimes the types of items are described as well.

The purpose of a Table of Specifications is to identify the achievement domains being measured and to ensure that a fair and representative sample of questions appear on the test.

As it is impossible, in a test, to assess every topic from every aspect, a Table of Specifications allows us to ensure that our test focuses on the most important areas and weights different areas based on their importance / time spent teaching. A Table of Specifications also gives us the proof we need to make sure our test has content validity.

Tables of Specifications are designed based on:

course objectives

topics covered in class

amount of time spent on those topics

textbook chapter topics

emphasis and space provided in the text


A Table of Specification could be designed in 3 simple steps:

1. identify the domain that is to be assessed

2. break the domain into levels (e.g. knowledge, comprehension, application …)

3. construct the table

The more detailed a table of specifications is, the easier it is to construct the test.


March 24th, 2007

A phrase is a group of words acting as a single part of speech and not containing both a subject and a verb.

It is a part of a sentence, and does not express a complete thought.

Noun Phrases

Noun phrases must have a Noun (or Pronoun) and may or may not have other modifiers


tree diagram tree diagram

Adjective phrases

An Adjective phrase must consist an adjective (A) and may or may not have an adverb phrase (AdvP)


tree diagram tree diagram

Adverb Phrases

Adverb phrases must consist an Adverb (Adv) and may or may not have a degree adverb (deg)

Adverb phrases may be dominated by either a VP, an AP or the sentence.

Adverb phrases that modifies a whole sentence can be moved to different positions in the sentence without altering the meaning or making it ungrammatical.

Sentence adverbs often express an attitude or evaluation (e.g. clearly, frankly, actually …)


tree diagram tree diagram

Preposition Phrases

Preposition Phrases must consist of a preposition (P) and may or may not include an NP


tree diagram tree diagram

Verb phrases

Verb phrases must consist a verb and may or may not have other phrases within it


tree diagram tree diagram

Formal Links

March 14th, 2007

A piece of language is said to be coherent (therefore discourse) if it has a discernible, unified meaning.

A piece of discourse is said to be cohesive if its components (ie. sentences/phrases/words) are bound together through linguistic and non-linguistic features to form a unified whole.

The linguistic features used to link one word/phrase/sentence to another are called formal links.

Some common formal links are:

Referring Expressions


Lexical chains




The most obvious example of formal link is third person pronouns

In a piece of language, cohesion is achieved by using these referring expressions that direct the hearer/reader to look elsewhere for their interpretation.

Reference expressions can be:





Endophoric references are linguistic references to something within the same text.

There are two types of endophoric references:

anaphoric references

cataphoric references

Anaphoric references refer back to another unit that was mentioned before.


Aiminaibee asked Thakuru to buy her a diamond ring.

Cataphoric references refer ahead to another unit that is mentioned later.


Waving at him happily, Thakuru saw Aiminaibee come out.

Exophoric references refer to entities outside the text, in the context of the utterance or speaker.


That is where Aiminaibee first saw the Foolhudhiguhandi.

(said while pointing to the place)

Repetition of a key term or phrase in the text helps to focus your ideas and to keep your reader/listener on track.


The problem with modern art is that it is not easily understood by most people. Modern art is deliberately abstract, and that means it often leaves the viewer wondering what she is looking at.

Lexical chains are also a form of repetition but without repeating the exact same phrase/word.

i.e. use different words that are lexically related (e.g. hypernyms)


Myths are an important part of a country’s heritage. Such traditional narratives are, in short, a set of beliefs that are a very real force in the lives of the people who tell them.

Cohesion is often achieved by substituting special words for ones that have already been used.

The most common substitutes used in English are




Each of these are used to substitute for a different type of clause

‘one’ is used to substitute for nouns / noun phrases:

I left the school and went to the one in Thuraakunu.

I left Hithadhoo secondary school and went to the Thuraakunu one.

I left the Hithadhoo secondary school with many students and went to the one with few students.

I left the Hithadhoo secondary school with few students and went to the Thuraakunu one with few students.

Verbs are substituted with ‘do’.

Since do is a verb (and an irregular one at that) is also has the forms does, did, done and doing.

I have not finished yet, when I do you can start.

I like coffee and so does he.

The word ’so‘ is often used to substitute for a whole clause:

Thakuru: “We’ll be watching you close, smart guy.”

Haadi: “I hope so. You might learn something.”


Thakuru: “I think we have got rid of him for good.”

Aiminaibee: “You really think so?”

In certain contexts it is possible to leave out a word/phrase rather than repeat it.

This device is called ellipsis.

A child learns to speak almost ‘by chance’. He imitates his parents without knowing why < >.

Students continue to wear faded jeans to class even after being told not to < >.

Connectives are words/phrases used to indicate a specific connection between different parts of a text.

Various kinds of words and phrases can function as connectives:


It posed several problems for me, but it was all worthwhile.


It posed several problems for me; nevertheless, it was all worthwhile.


In spite of the severe problems it posed for me, it was all worthwhile.

There are 4 basic types of connectives:

Addition connectives (AC)

adds on to the idea presented before (also, and)

Opposition connectives (OC)

contrasts with the idea presented before (but, nevertheless )

Cause connectives (CC)

shows a causal connection with the ideas presented before (therefore, since)

Time connectives (TC)

shows a sequence or simultaneous actions (first, finally)

Test Bias

March 13th, 2007

Test bias is the presence of some characteristics of an item in the test, that results in differential performance by individuals of the same ability but different sub-group

When important decisions are made based on test scores, it is critical to avoid bias which may unfairly influence test-takers’ scores

Fairness and bias are not the same thing.

Fairness has to do with how a test is used.

A biased test may be used fairly.


For a test biased such that males score 5 points higher on average than do females if we simply add 5 points to the observed scores of the females and use that score for making decisions, the biased test will prove to be fair in use.

An item may be biased if it contains content or language that is differentially familiar to different subgroups and/or if the item structure or format is differentially difficult to different subgroups.