History

18 Oct 2015

Before Diagrams

Submitted by Karl Hagen
The earliest work to feature sentence diagrams is normally conceded to be S. W. Clark's Practical Grammar (1847). A decade before Clark, however, Frederick A. P. Barnard, who would go on to become president of Columbia College, and for whom Barnard College was named, wrote a very interesting work that is the earliest significant use of graphical symbols to annotate grammatical analysis that I'm aware of.
Andrews, E. A. & Stoddard, S. (1839 [1836]). A Grammar of the Latin Language (Sixth ed.). Boston: Crocker and Brewster.

Barnard, F. A. P. (1836). Analytic Grammar; With Symbolic Illustration. New York: E. French.

Brittain, R. C. (1973). A Critical History of Systems of Sentence Diagramming in English. PhD thesis, University of Texas at Austin.

Brown, G. (1845 [1823]). The Institutes of English Grammar, Methodically Arranged (stereotype ed.). New York: Samuel and William Wood.

Brown was so caught up with revising the technical aspects of English grammar that he paid little attention to pedagogy. His methods are generally traditional, even if the scheme he taught was entirely new. Altogether more innovative in his use of new pedagogical techniques was another writer from the 1830s: Frederick A. P. Barnard, the tenth president of Columbia College (now Columbia University) and the person for whom Barnard College was named.
The earliest, and certainly the most innovative, of these experimenters was James Brown, whose system of "American grammar," attempted a complete break with the terminology of English grammar—or indeed with that of any other system ever devised. A cursory glance at the pages of Brown's works provide the reader with definitions like the following:

II. THE CLAD ORDER,

In the decades before the first full system of diagrams, a number of authors experimented with various ways to visualize grammatical relationships. None of these systems were particularly influential, but they all show early instances of teachers grappling with the same problems that would later give rise to true diagrams.

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(This page was last updated October 17, 2015.)

4 Mar 2015

Lord Reginald and Proper Grammar

Submitted by Karl Hagen
In "honor" of grammar day (an event which profoundly annoys me because it always brings out people's pet peeves about grammar, I present the following Punch cartoon (cited in Richard Bailey's Nineteenth-Century English, showing that middle-class insecurity about language has been around for a long time. It's the governess, not the rich kid, who cares about "proper" speech. She's the one who is socially insecure, after all.
2 Oct 2014
Over the last few weeks, there has been a spate of news items about various conservatives bashing the College Board's framework for the AP U.S. History test, culminating in the Colorado students who have been protesting their school board's attempts to change the AP curriculum.
26 Jan 2011

Is being evolved

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I was watching an old PBS documentary, Life Beyond Earth, with my son tonight when the narrator quoted the famous ending of Darwin's The Origin of Species:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

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