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:


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.

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

4 Jan 2015

A Real Grammar Quiz

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I hate Internet grammar quizzes. Most of them are heavy on matters of punctuation (e.g., its vs. it's), spelling (e.g., there vs. their), and word choice (e.g., less vs. fewer) but light on measuring one's explicit knowledge of grammatical structure. And what grammatical assertions they do make are often wrong, or at least highly debatable. Their primary function seems to be to stroke the egos of those who want to be assured that they are part of the educated elite.
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