Изображения страниц





THIS book is designed to serve as an introduction to the systematic study of grammar. It is intended for pupils who are making, for the first time or in review, a connected study of the elements of grammar. The author has assumed the privilege of defining his subject according to this purpose. It seems more sensible to define grammar as the study of the structure of the sentence, since in its elements it is that and nothing more, than to give it any of the vague and broad definitions, such as the science of language, or a systematic description of language, so commonly found in elementary grammars. Grammar as the science of language is an impossible subject for elementary study, and to define it so is either meaningless or positively misleading. On the other hand the structure and analysis of the sentence is a clearly limited and realizable subject, one also which offers a sufficiently large field of study.

From the nature of the case pupils who take up the study of formal grammar are already able, in speech and also in writing, to use sentences of considerable length and complexity. They should not be allowed, therefore, to labor under the misapprehension that grammar means something new and strange, a different kind of English from that which they have been using. On the contrary,

[ocr errors]

they should be encouraged to see in grammar merely the definite statement of their own natural practice. By bringing into clear consciousness mental activities which the pupil performs in obscure consciousness, the study of grammar should increase the pupil's effectiveness and certainty in the use of language. It can never create, but merely strengthen, the ability to use language.

A few words may be said concerning the extent to which the analytical study of language should be carried. If it is granted that the main purpose in the study of grammar should be increased effectiveness in the practical use of language, it follows that there are limits beyond which the study of grammatical analysis ceases to be profitable. The purpose of elementary grammar should not be to provide the student with a complete scientific system whereby he can parse every word that may occur in any piece of English writing. There are many words in certain constructions which even the ripest and sanest scientific linguist finds difficulty in disposing of to his complete satisfaction; and it is the easiest thing in the world for a grammarian to entangle himself in a net of finely woven distinctions, logical, subtle, and perhaps true, yet without any bearing on the practical use of the language. This danger of oversubtilizing the present volume has endeavored to avoid. The aim has been to look at the language as it exists in the use of good speakers and writers to-day, and then to describe it in such a way as to bring out the main structural principles of it, trusting that when these main principles are clearly realized, that native sense of idiom without which any real command over language is impossible, will be strong enough and certain enough to lead the student

safely where an attempt at exhaustive logical analysis might merely land him in confusion and doubt.

The author wishes to enter a plea for a certain amount of liberty in the interpretations which students may make of various grammatical constructions. The instances in which legitimate difference of opinion may exist are, it is true, relatively infrequent; yet such instances actually do occur. The student, for example, who analyzes the sentence We asked for bread as consisting of the subject We, the verb asked for, and the object bread, should not be utterly condemned, since his logic after all is perfectly sound. The preposition for, which is a relational or link word, indicating the relation between asked and bread, is certainly as closely united to one word as to the other, and therefore may as appropriately be grouped with one as with the other. The student who is capable of such a logical analysis should be given due credit and encouragement for it. The question as to how much independence of judgment pupils in general should be allowed and to what extent uniformity of terminology in class-room work is necessary must be left for every teacher to decide according to the special circumstances of each case. Complete uniformity, however, at the expense of an inquiring and independent attitude of mind on the part of the students, is certainly too dearly bought to justify itself. The author is personally of the opinion that nothing is lost and a good deal is gained by a frank confession that our system of grammatical classification and terminology is to a considerable extent arbitrary and conventional, and that in many instances other classification and terminology would be just as reasonable as those which we follow.

The exercises of the book are designed to furnish material for the three kinds of work, written, oral, and memory. At least the definitions given in the summaries of definitions should be committed to memory. A set form and order in parsing should also be insisted on, and systematic drill in parsing should be kept up until the pupils can go through the forms with facility. There is no better way of fixing in their minds the number and the nature of the details which they are to observe with respect to the various functions of words in context than parsing. It is the multiplication table of grammar, and it may profitably be carried to the verge of a routine exercise. Attention should also be given to the pronouncing of sentences with the proper pauses and intonations of the voice. Mere oral delivery, the mere cadence of it, will often convey the structural principle of a sentence when logical analysis fails. Don't be afraid, therefore, to put a good deal of dependence at first on the feeling for language. Afterward reason may be called in to draw out what the pupil has already felt, thus giving him the certainty which comes through the ability to examine his own constructive processes. It is perhaps not necessary to urge that the work in grammar be applied as much as possible to the pupils' own work, both oral and written. Examples of bad grammar, both in the written work and the conversation of the class-room, may be held up for general criticism; and as such examples will always be found in sufficient abundance, none have been inserted in this volume.

A system of sentence diagraming has been included in the volume because the author believes that it may be made a helpful way of studying the structure of sentences.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »