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:
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.
- 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 _____.
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.
For a somewhat longer version, well worth reading, check out the chapter in Funk's Grammar.