GRAMMATICAL LEVELS OF ANALYSIS IN LITERARY CRITICISM

GRAMMATICAL LEVELS OF ANALYSIS

In order to use language effectively and efficiently, we have to know the grammatical structures of the language and its meaning. We also have to know what forms of the language are appropriate for a given situation. Fowler (1979) observes that the grammar of language provides the materials for its use, appropriate to a given situation.

Grammatical analyses are strategies for separating the formal properties of language from the use of language to communicate. This separation makes it possible to create metalinguistic representations of words, phrases and sentences; to communicate about them clearly and precisely with other people and to reason more effectively about how the wording of a sentence affects the meaning it communicates.

It is the concern of grammatical levels to discover and describe the patterns of language usage which differentiate Ifeoma Okoye from other writers. The analysis of Okoye’s The Fourth World is based on grammatical features, diction, figures of speech, tone, register etc.

   The Sentence

A sentence is a linguistic unit consisting of group of words that are grammatically linked. It is a set of words that in principle tells a complete though. Typically, a sentence contains a subject and predicate. These models help us to arrive at proper analysis of Okoye’s grammatical structure in The Fourth World.

The Simple Sentence

A simple sentence consists of a single independent clause with no dependent clauses. Structural grammarians like Quirk et al (1973) defined the simple sentence as consisting of only one clause and also identify clause patterns with the clause being a unit that can be analyzed into elements: subject, verb, object, complement and adverbial. Thus structural grammar has the element of the clause as SVOCA. Here are some examples of simple sentences used by Okoye in The Fourth World

  1. She shook her head (2)

S          V         O

  1. Her father did not stir (4)

S          V

  1. He is crafty (12)

S    V   C

  1. He had an operation a few days ago (30)

S     V              O               A

Your mother can’t handle Amos

S                    V             O

  1. A child was crying in the next room (74)

S                V         A

  1. Chira nodded (9)

S       V

  1. She gazed at the nurse (62)

S          V         A

  1. The woman had not hold her this part of the story

S                      V     O                 O

  1. Chira considered the yam in the pot (87)

S          V                 O      A

From the examples of simple sentences drawn from the text, it could be seen that each of them contains an idea each. The stylistic advantage of using the simple sentence in writing is that it enables one to focus attention on a particular idea raised at a time. Okoye uses this type of sentence randomly in order for her readers to have a free flow of thought.

 Compound Sentence

A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. The coordinators are as follows: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so etc. it has to do with bringing together ideas that are related. Some examples from the text are as follows:

  1. She was only thirteen at that time but she vowed to prove Miss Fasiba wrong.
  2. He opened his eyes slightly and turned back to lie on his back (5)
  • She scanned the beds again and noticed a rust mottled Themoflask on the locker beside bed 5(3)
  1. He was now sitting up in bed and a bald man was talking to him through the low window (6)
  2. She sent money to her parents every month and was planning to get them away from Kasanga Avenue (25)
  3. Chira gave her mother supper and opened a tin of sardine for herself (51)
  • Chira threw her head back and reared with laughter (53)
  • She looked at Chira for confirmation and Chira nodded slowly (61)
  1. Jude left the men he was talking to and crossed over the gutter to speak to Chira (60)
  2. She heard Onowu talking on the phone but his words were indistinct (70)
  3. An arrow of guilt hit her hard in the chest and she quickly suppressed the ungrateful thought. (71)
  4. “She was only thirteen at that time but she vowed to prove Miss Fasiba wrong” (23). Okoye uses compound sentence here to relate two distinct idea to show their relationship. Miss Fasiba is Chira’s teacher who enjoyed thrashing her pupils and she would deny the poor traumatized ones the comfort of crying. She discourages Chira from dreaming to be educated because the poor don’t dream of rice dishes. This sentence shows the young age of Chira and her perseverance to prove Miss Fasiba (who feels that those types of schools that Chira wants to go is not for the children of labourers and petty traders and artisans and barrow pushers) wrong and she did.
  5. “She sent money to her parents every month and was planning to get them away from Kasanga Avenue” (25). Okoye describes Josephine who was now a university graduate and was working with a bank in Kano and how she carters for her parents’ financial needs and anticipates to soon get them a house away from Kasanga Avenue. Okoye uses this sentence to show how education has helped Josephine to achieve self-reliance and self-fulfillment.
  • “An arrow of guilt hit her hard in the chest and she quickly suppressed the ungrateful thought” (71).



This is the use of two independent sentences that have the same grammatical status. The above extract indicates how Chira felt when Onowu told her that her father was not a financial member of their union because he did not pay his due for the past five years. Chira felt that she is the cause of this extreme deprivation and she felt guilty but she was able to suppress the thought knowing very well that this is a case of indigence not miserliness.

Compound sentences have the stylistic effect of offering readers two distinct ideas in one package. The stylistic value of this kind of sentence is that related ideas or unit of actions are brought together to make a greater impact on the reader for easy understanding. The coordinating conjunctions ‘and’ and ‘but’ are the main linking elements. The use of compound sentences enables Okoye to link words or group of words which have the same grammatical status. In this way, two or more sentences which would have been written separately are brought together to show their relationship.

  Complex Sentence

A complex sentence consists of one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. In a complex sentence one idea and even several ideas may be subordinated to the principal idea. In complex sentence, there is scope for intricacies of thought and nuances of meaning that cannot be better expressed in simple or compound sentence. The major devices for linking ideas together into a complex sentence are coordination and subordination. Coordination gives clauses (and other units) equal syntactic status, whereas subordination places clause in a dependent status as part of the main clause.

Okoye uses many subordinate clauses since the effect of making a clause subordinate is to background it: to demote the phenomenon it describes into a ‘subservient circumstance ‘which cannot be understood except in terms of its part in the main clause. Often a subordinate clause is less salient in the sense of expressing information which is at least partially known or presupposed in advance. For instance “she wished it was another matron who was on duty not this insensitive and discriminative one.

Quirk et al describe complex sentence as… ‘A non-symmetrical relation holding between two clauses in such a way that one is a constituent or part of the other’. (321). Here are some examples of complex sentences in the text under investigation:

  1. She had not been home from school since the end of the Easter holiday in April. (4)
  2. She remembered how she had failed to show her appreciation for what he had done for her (10)
  • When Chira was told by a student that her father was waiting in the hall, she had not wanted to see him. (10)
  1. When Chira turned away from the patient, she saw the matron standing dangerously close. (15)
  2. One man who was brought to the hospital at the same time as your father died before his wife could raise the money (42)
  3. She has been about to surprise her mother when the nurse had come yelling (45)
  • He was wearing a tattered pair of trousers that had been crudely, turned into a pair of shorts. (73)
  • Akalaka was buried after a heavy downpour that was typical of July (76)
  1. Although life had treated her badly it had not succeeded in destroying her large heart (101)
  2. Before the landlord’s visit, she had discovered some old rent receipts in her father’s box (127)
  3. The late morning sun was gently making its heat felt when Chira arrived at Mak’s house in Independence Layout (297)
  • She was surprised that there was not a sheet of reading matter anywhere in the living room (305)
  1. She remembered how she had failed to show her appreciation for what he had done for her (10). The underlined expression is a noun clause and the grammatical function is object of the verb ‘remembered’. How she had failed show her appreciation tends to add more meaning to the remaining part of the sentence. If it is omitted from the whole sentence, one will have: she remembered what he had done for her. This will allow a reader to have an impaired knowledge but the presence of the subordinate clause gives a clear description of what Chira remembered and at the same time gives the readers an insight of Chira’s failure to appreciate her father’s effort but always complains of his inability to meet up with her basic needs in school.
  2. She wished it was another matron who was on duty not this insensitive and discriminative one. The underlined expression is an adjectival clause and its function is: it qualifies the noun ‘matron’. ‘Who was on duty’. This adjectival clause tries to give a vivid description of the matron being talked about. This makes the reader to grasp that it was not just any matron but the one on duty the day Chira returned from school to visit her sick father in the hospital. If ‘who was on duty’ is removed from the sentence the remaining part will still embody complete thought but may not be specific.
  3. Although life had treated her badly, it had not succeeded in destroying her large heart (101). The underlined expression is adverbial clause. The grammatical function is that it modifies the verb ‘had not succeeded’. ‘Although life had treated her badly’. This gives the readers a clue of what Chira has passed through in life and how her challenges has not destroyed her large heart even though some people have treated her badly especially her uncle Amos, the priest etc. she does not reflect her challenges in her relationship with others.
  4. One man who was brought to the hospital at the same time as your father died before his wife could raise the money. The underlined expression is an adjectival clause and it qualifies the noun ‘man’. ‘Who was brought to the hospital at this same time as your father’. This is an example of an adjectival clause. Its absence from the sentence will have a complete thought but there will be definite description of the man that died before his wife could raise the money. This clause used by Okoye to give a vivid description of the actual man that died.
  5. One man who was brought to the hospital at the same time as your father died before his wife could raise the money (42). The underlined expression is an adverbial clause of time and the grammatical function is that it qualifies the verb ‘died’. ‘before his wife could raise the money’. This indicates time. Okoye uses this clause in this complex sentence to actually indicate the time the man died i.e. he actually died before his spouse could raise the money demanded by the hospital before his treatment commences.

Okoye in The Fourth World uses a variety of complex sentences to make her writing interesting and lively. Too many simple sentences for example will sound choppy and immature. The Fourth World is a good piece of writing which involves a harmonious arrangement of these elements to create a smooth, natural flow. Readers tend to associate long, convoluted sentence structure with “old-fashioned” writers- the flowery prose of 19th century poets and novelists but complex and lengthy sentences can be very powerful; in modern writing. Okoye in the Fourth World uses lengthier sentences to investigate an idea or incident more thoroughly, give vivid description and develop tension than the structure of the simple sentence permits.

Compound Complex Sentence

A compound complex sentence is a type of sentence that contains two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. The compound-complex sentence is so named because it shares the characteristics of both compound and complex sentences. Like the compound sentence the compound-complex sentence has two main clauses like the complex sentence, it has at least one subordinate clause. The subordinate clause can be part of an independent clause. Here are some examples in Okoye’s The Fourth World

  1. Kodili lost her mother before she was a year old and was taken care of by her aunt even though her father remarried soon after her mother’s death (16)
  2. She left the women and went in search of a peaceful spot from where should be able to see her mother when she returned (23)
  • She rose from her concrete seat and shook her head violently as if to shake away the negative thoughts. (25)
  1. Ogom had come into her life when Chira was feeling low because certain students continually snubbed and ridiculed her (31)
  2. She sat down on a back chair near the door and tried to figure out what questions Amos was going to ask her so she could think of answers in advance (81)
  3. She could not stop herself from hating Kasanga Avenue and had become so ashamed of living there that she rarely told people where her home was (104)
  • The bus was notorious for being extremely slow and also for stopping at the whims of the passengers because it had no designated bus stops. (107)
  • Chira wished she could reach Miss K whenever she needed good advice and she needed some for Ogom right now (114)
  1. Mama Egodi sneaked another glance at Kodili, who was still busy eating and was paying no attention to anyone, as if she was the only one in the room. (125)
  2. She increased her pace as if to underscore what she had just said and Ogom trotted behind her (143)

The use of compound complex sentences requires great skill. When expression of ideas becomes very complex and there is need to demonstrate internal structural dependences, they are useful tools for harnessing such ideas. This type of sentence depends heavily on the subordination of structure whose embedding helps to expand it for the accommodation of extra information.

Okoye’s ability to use compound complex sentences elevates her credibility. It demonstrates that she can bring together in a single sentence a range of different pieces of information and order them in relationship to each other. This is not to say that the compound complex sentence invites confusion, on the contrary; when handled carefully, it has the opposite effect. It clarifies the complexity and enables readers to see clearly.

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