To be able to explain how any word chunks to another, eventually chunking back to a main subject, finite verb, or complement, students need seven additional constructions. (The eighth is a short-cut.) Most of these are discussed in traditional grammars, but in some cases the traditional definitions need to be slightly modified.
"Interjection" comes from the Latin words for "throw" ("ject") and "among" ("inter"). An interjection is thus a word or construction that is "thrown among" the words in a sentence. Unlike all the other words, interjections DO NOT chunk to the rest of the sentence. (That's why they are considered to be "thrown among" the other words.) Instead, they usually indicate an attitude about the entire sentence. (Modern grammars thus often refer to them as "Sentence Modifiers.") In speech, short interjections are common:
Subordinate Clauses as Interjections
The clauses in the following can be considered as interjections:
2. Direct Address
Direct address is similar to an interjection except that it indicates the intended audience, rather than a speakerís comment: "Mary, Jane called."
3. Nouns Used as Adverbs
Some nouns function as adverbs, usually to indicate a spatial or temporal orientation: "The plane crashed five miles from here." The construction is close to the prepositional phrase:
Most definitions of "appositive" limit the concept to nouns, i.e., two nouns joined by their referring to the same thing with no preposition or conjunction joining them.
In Gandhiís case the questions one feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity--by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power--and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud?Is there a better, simpler way of explaining "by the consciousness" and the phrases dependent on it than to say that the phrase is an appositive to "by vanity"?
Heavy feet followed me on up the attic stairs -- treasure-filled attic, hiding place for Motherís Day cards, carefully printed on pasty colored paper, yellowed packets of letters, saved since World War II.The identity here is not of meaning, but of the word itself: the adjective "attic" turns into the noun. But is there an easier way of explaining this than as an appositive? In the following sentence, also written by a student, the apposition is between a quoted infinitive phrase and a noun:
Left alone, and needled by that nagging sense of guilt, she busies herself cleaning house and lets the "coffee pot boil over," an effective image to describe her anger, which is short lived, as night softens her memory of the harsh morning light and she falls prey to her lust again.
5. Retained Complements (of Passive Verbs)
Students do not need
to be able to recognize passive verbs in order to explain how every word
in every sentence chunks to a main pattern, but we should probably do a
better job of teaching the recognition of passives than we currently do.
I have heard, from very reliable students, of college instructors who tell
their students "Never use passive voice." In effect, this dictate is usually
meaningless because most students cannot recognize passive voice in the
first place. It would make much more sense if we taught students
how to recognize passive voice, gave them some of the arguments for and
against using it, and then let the students decide for themselves.
According to many grammar books, the complements that appear after passive verbs, whether finite or verbals are considered "retained":
"Murray was considered foolish" is the passive form of the active: "Someone considered Murray foolish." "Murray" is the subject, and "foolish" is the predicate adjective of the ellipsed infinitive "to be," which functions as the direct object of "considered." In the passive version, the ellipsed infinitive is the retained object and "foolish" is a predicate adjective after it.Rather than force students to go through this cumbersome technical explanation, I simply accept "retained predicate adjective" or "retained predicate noun."
6. Noun Absolutes
Most texts define the noun absolute as a noun plus gerundive construction that usually functions as an adverb but which may function as a noun:
The car was smashed. It lay sideways in the road like a dying dragon, its hood reared skyward, a pool of shimmering glass scales around it, weak puffs of smoke rising from its broken front grille into the crisp night air.At the risk of being repetitious, perhaps I should describe how students should go about identifying noun absolutes. This example is interesting because it is particularly difficult. By the time students get to noun absolutes, they will have been analyzing prepositional phrases, clauses, and even verbals for some time. When they first meet this sentence, therefore, their first task is to analyze everything they can. They might want to underline "reared" as a finite, active verb, but if they do so, they then must note that it is preceded by a comma-splice. Even if they do this, they are still left with three unanalyzed words: "pool," "puffs," and "rising." Their task is to shift through their list of "other constructions" to see if they can use one to explain these words. "Puffs ... rising" is then fairly easily identified as a noun absolute. If they are intelligent, and they are, they should also see that "hood reared" is one likewise. This leaves "pool." How can they explain this noun construction sitting between two noun absolutes? If they use their brain, the pattern is simple: itís a noun absolute: "a pool of shimmering glass scales *being* around it."
Noun Absolutes that Function as Nouns
It was a student who first made me pay attention to the noun function of noun absolutes. The class was discussing the sentence:
He wears a top hat in that fine portrait of him sitting in his garden, immensely corpulent, but still full of energy and animation, of benignity and genius.You could, of course, explain "him" as the object of the preposition "of" and "sitting" as a gerundive modifying it. But such an explanation, although allowable, deflates the nexal connection of "him" and "sitting," a connection that can be seen if we rephrase it to be "portrait in which he is sitting." Some students, in other words, may prefer to chunk "Him" and "sitting" together first, and then explain the noun absolute as the object of the preposition.
7. Delayed (or Postponed) Subjects
The traditional focus on individual words has almost totally obscured what I call the "delayed subject." I took the liberty of naming it because I couldnít find it in the grammar books. Having named it and prepared materials about it for my students, I found it in Christensen: he calls it a "postponed subject." It is a modification of the basic sentence pattern in which the subject position is filled by an anticipatory "it" and the true, delayed subject appears later in the sentence:
Gerund: It is difficult, waiting for your wife to have a baby.In delayed subjects, the idea to which the pronoun refers comes after the pronoun. If that idea is not supplied, the pronoun remains meaningless. As with all the constructions, delayed subjects can be embedded in other subordinate constructions. The following sentence was written by a seventh grade student:
Noun Absolute: It was foolish, people of their age trying to climb a mountain.
Noun: It was fortunate, the trip he took.
The old man thought it funny that the trees, now strong and stable as he once was, still grew and became mightier, while he grew weaker and less sure-footed, swaying in the wind.The sentence is remarkable for the level of its embeddings, and especially for the reduction of "*which were* now strong and stable" to the simpler "now strong and stable." Everything after the "that" is easily analyzed in terms of clauses and the single gerundive "swaying," but what is the function of the "that" clause? It is a delayed subject to "it" in the infinitive construction "it *to be* funny," "funny" thus functioning as a predicate adjective after the ellipsed infinitive, and the infinitive, with, of course, everything that "goes to" it, functioning as the direct object of "thought." (I explain the ellipsed word as the infinitive "to be" by analogy with the "They made him captain" construction. You could justifiably say that the ellipsed word is "was.")
There wasn't any woods to go in when I got hot, no places to go sleigh riding, and that is boring not to be able to do any of these things.Modern grammars often refer to this construction as "cleft" sentences, but for students, "dealyed" or "postponed" subject is probably a better term since it helps students remember the relationship in meaning between the postponed element and the subject.
8. "Post-Positioned Adjectives" (The Short-Cut)
The Post-Positioned Adjective is not a category that is required in order to explain how every word in every sentence relates to the main S/V/C pattern, but it can save time and explanation. Suppose, for example, that we were analyzing the sentence:
He was watching his son, [*who was* soundly asleep,And we could explain "asleep, quiet, and peaceful" as: "predicate adjectives to the ellipsed "who was." The "*who*" through "play" is an adjectival clause that modifies "son." To avoid the lengthy explanation, it is easier simply to consider such words as "post-positioned adjectives."
quiet and peaceful after a hard day of play.]
Of the eight additional constructions
(including the short-cut), six of them have been discussed as possibly
being taught earlier in an ideal KISS sequence. Simple interjections, direct
address, and nouns used as adverbs could all be introduced as early as
third grade without causing much confusion. Students who spend grades four
five, and six studying S/V/C patterns could certainly learn to recognize
retained complements and some delayed subjects. If they are then give three
additional years to master clauses, they could expand their concept of
delayed subjects and add post-positioned adjectives.
This would leave only two constructions noun absolutes and appositives. Because noun absolutes consist of a noun plus a gerundive, they are certainly best left until after students have mastered gerundives. Theoretically, appositives are reductions of clauses, which suggests that they could be taught simultaneously with verbals. The research, however, suggests that they are later blooming constructions, and there is no need to rush. Noun absolutes and appositives are the last constructions that students need to learn in order to be able to explain how every word in any sentence chunks to a main S/V/C pattern. No matter how often we poke a caterpillar in attempting to rush its change into a butterfly, we will not succeed. On the other hand, we may kill it.
Here we need to make another
distinction. Although the constructions in Level Five do have an effect
on style, they cause few, if any, errors in students' writing (unlike the
subordinate clause and the gerundive). In essence, Level Five is
a "mop-up" level which provides the means to fulfill the promise to students
that they will be able to explain every word in every sentence. I'm not
totally convinced that most students are worried about that. We might,
therefore, say that there is no required objective at Level Five -- for
students. But for student teachers, the situation is different.
In what is sure to be a controversial EJ article, Janet McClaskey mentions two of her colleagues who believed that "because" is a coordinating, not a subordinating, conjunction. "That evening, one of those colleagues searched out because and discovered to her horror that she had been teaching it incorrectly these past twenty years." (89) Shortly thereafter, McClaskey notes that ". . . all three of us in that because discussion have been adequately schooled in grammar . . . ." (90) Although I find much to admire in the article, I have to ask if teachers who considered "because" to be a coordinating conjunction were "adequately schooled in grammar." (And note that at least one of these teachers mistaught her students for twenty years!) I do not, however, blame the teachers; I disagree, on this point, with McClaskey. These teachers were not "adequately schooled." The fault lies with the profession as a whole, not with the teachers. "Teaching" someone that "because" is a subordinate conjunction does not mean that the student will remember it, or be able to use and apply what was learned. If those teachers had had to analyze a few dozen short real texts over the course of their education, always putting an opening bracket before "because," they would not have thought that it is a coordinating conjunction.
The point, as I have stated often before, is that good instruction in grammar should be focused around a limited number of concepts with students studying those same concepts in a variety of texts and, ideally, from a variety of perspectives (errors, style, logic). The concepts should become tools which teachers and students can occasionally use to discuss a particularly interesting sentence from a story, a poem, or from the students' own writing. It would also be nice, of course, if we had a standard approach to analysis, such that a tenth-grade teacher could put a sentence on an overhead and have the students analyze it without, for example, having to explain why and how brackets are used to indicate subordinate clauses. If this were our method of teaching grammar, rare would be the teacher who did not know that "because" functions as a subordinate conjunction. (In some linguistic grammars, by the way, it does not.)
In addition to clauses, however, teachers should be able to recognize all the constructions of KISS Level Five. Simple interjections, direct address, and nouns used as adverbs are very common in the writing of fourth graders. And, as noted above, teachers may mistake noun absolutes for comma-splices. It was, in fact, two teachers who were taking a grammar course with me who noted that they had been doing so, and who pushed me to publish information about the KISS Approach. As for the other constructions at Level Five, once a person masters verbals at Level Four, it takes very little practice to master the remaining constructions. Having done so will both add to teachers' confidence and enable teachers to refer to and, explain them to students who ask.
Although many schools will probably decide to move many of these constructions into earlier grade levels, the following notes are for those situations in which they are all left for Level Five, as they might be in a grammar course for future teachers.
None. Students will need to study the relevant instructional material (given above), but they need not memorize it.
Suggested Approaches to Instruction:
The typical KISS Approach of using randomly selected short passages does not work very well because many of these constructions are not used that frequently. For exercises, therefore, teachers will probably want to use specifically selected sentences.
Short quizzes will do, but for most students, I'm not sure that any assessment is needed. Rarely, if ever, are any of these constructions used incorrectly, and, although they have an affect on style, their affect is much less than that of clauses and verbals. We don't need to test everything.
Class Time Required:
This would depend on the approach taken and the number of constructions that had been studied previously.
Teachers may want to have students do a few sentence-combining exercises, preferably like those in the two preceding chapters, to increase their control of appositives and noun absolutes. The same objective, of course, can be met simply by asking students to compose such sentences.
The final level of the KISS Approach enables students to understand how any word in any sentence "fits." As a result, they can evaluate the syntax of their own writing without having to rely on the often subjective judgments of others. No one can convince them that their writing is flawed because "The plane crashed two miles from here, its tail pointed toward the sky" contains a comma-splice
The definitions given at
the beginning of this chapter are my instructional handouts. (They should
be easy to adapt, probably by adding a few more examples, by teachers who
want to introduce some of the constructions at earlier grade levels.) When
I taught a grammar course for teachers, I would hand them out in about
the thirteenth week of the semester. The really strong students easily
mastered these constructions before the end of the semester. Weaker students,
however, were still struggling with verbals, and a few were still trying
to get clauses. Because sentences were always analyzed in class in the
same way, beginning with prepositional phrases and working through each
level, the students who were having problems were, in essence, getting
more help on their own problems, but they were overwhelmed. One semester,
even one year, is not enough time for students to gain a conscious understanding
of grammatical concepts that will enable them to explain any word in any