The short version:
The grammatical structure of the sentence is the most important thing to focus on, even more important than the words. If you don't understand the grammatical structure, you won't understand the sentence. You don't know what a text means until you have grasped the grammatical structure.
Of course, beginners have not yet mastered the grammatical structure, that's what it means to be a beginner. But one of the major tasks of the beginner's forum is helping people who have not yet mastered this structure to take steps in that direction. So in "What does this text mean?", that is a major focus.
A longer version:
For a somewhat longer version, well worth reading, check out the chapter in Funk's Grammar.003. It is commonly supposed that the major task in learning a new language is learning the lexical meanings of words. This is not in fact the case. The more important as well as the more difficult task is learning the grammatical structures and structure signals (Gleason: 98).
The basic significance of grammatical structures and structure signals in relation to major vocabulary is illustrated by the following text, which has been stripped of all major vocabulary.
The structure of sentences and word groups is clearly discernible, although the major lexical items have been omitted, with the exception of the subject of the paragraph, Socrates. For example, the sentence beginning in line 4 He ________-ed the _________ is evidently composed of the “subject” he, a verb in the past tense (indicated by the morpheme -ed), and an “object” (the ______); the object is then expanded by a relative clause, with whom …. Similarly, the native speaker of English knows that the sentence beginning in line 6 is that type of sentence in which the “subject” is identified.
Code: Select all
In his _____ _____, [Socrates] was _____-ed in the _____________ ____________ of his _______ and was ___________-ed with ___________ the _________._________ he __________-ed the ________ ___________ _________ of ___________ and ________-ing. He ____-ed the _______ with whom he _______ in _____ about the _____ _____ of ___. He was a ___ of _____ ____ and _____ _____ of ________. He was ______ _______ to ________ and _____. In ________ he was ____-ed by a ______ _____ on the ________ of ________-ing _______ ______ and of _______-ing the ____. He was ______-ed ____ to _____. He _____-ed to _____. _____ _____ after his _____ he _____ the _____.