The Printable KISS Grammar Workbooks The KISS Workbooks Anthology

A Study in Left-, Right-, and Mid-Branching
The Sheep and the Pig
from The ÆSOP for Children
Analysis Key

    Remember, there are no "right answers" here. The object of the assignment is to have the students discuss their impressions of the effects of the different branching options. Some of the students may also want to discuss moving some of the other constructions -- including subordinate clauses that they have not yet studied.


 
     One day a shepherd discovered a fat Pig in the meadow (1) where his Sheep were pastured.
 
R One day a shepherd discovered a fat Pig in the meadow where his Sheep were pastured. 10
L One day  in a meadow a shepherd discovered a fat Pig where his Sheep were pastured.
or
One day  in the meadow where his Sheep were pastured, a shepherd discovered a fat Pig.
9
 

7

M One day a shepherd in a meadow discovered a fat Pig where his Sheep were pastured.
or
One day a shepherd, in the meadow where his Sheep were pastured, discovered a fat Pig.
8

5

     The first thing we need to note is that in the right-branching version "meadow" is modified by the adjectival "where" clause. This defines the meadow, so we get "the meadow" instead of "a meadow," as we can in both the left- and mid-branching versions. When the "where" clause is separated from "meadow," it becomes an adverbial clause that modifies "discovered." [Note, by the way, that the original could easily have been "in a meadow where his Sheep were pastured." But  "One day a shepherd discovered a fat Pig in the meadow." (without the "where" clause) would raise the question "What meadow?"]
     The first left-branching version moves only "in the meadow," and left-branching adverbial phrases of time and place are less common than right-branching, but not enough to draw a major emphasis.
     The second versions of both the left- and mid-branching options carry the "where" clause with the prepositional phrase. This leaves the final position in the sentence, which itself can be emphatic, with the word "Pig." Thus "Pig" gets slightly more attention.
    In the first mid-branching version "in a meadow" becomes adjectival to "shepherd." Theoretically, it could be set off in commas. That would be unusual --attracting more attention, but also making in more likely to be read as adverbial to "discovered." The second mid-branching option raises the question of a relatively long separation of the subject and verb.

He very quickly captured the porker, which squealed at the top (2) of its voice the moment the Shepherd laid his hands on it. 
 

R He very quickly captured the porker, which squealed at the top of its voice the moment the Shepherd laid his hands on it. 10
L  -  0
M He very quickly captured the porker, which, at the top of its voice, squealed the moment the Shepherd laid his hands on it. As usual, the mid-branching is less common and in this case tends to put more focus on "at the top of its voice." 7
     Left branching simply does not work in this case because the subject is also the conjunction "which," which refers to "porker."
 
You would have thought, to hear the loud squealing, that the Pig was being cruelly hurt. But in spite (3) of its squeals and struggles to escape, the Shepherd tucked his prize under his arm (4) and started off to the butcher's in the market place.
 
L But in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, the Shepherd tucked his prize under his arm and started off to the butcher's in the market place. 10
R But the Shepherd tucked his prize under his arm in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, and started off to the butcher's in the market place. 8
M But the Shepherd, in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, tucked his prize under his arm and started off to the butcher's in the market place. 7
     Left-branching works best here because putting the phrase at the beginning makes a clearer and smoother transition from the "squealing" and from the idea of the Pig being cruelly hurt expressed in the preceding sentence. Right-branching creates a long string of phrases that awkwardly separates the compound verbs "tucked" and "started." Mid-branching" makes a closer connection between the Shepherd and his "spite," but, in addition to the separation of subject and verb, it also places the noun "Shepherd" between the "its" and its antecedent in the preceding sentence.
R But in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, the Shepherd tucked his prize under his arm and started off to the butcher's in the market place. 10
L But in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, under his arm the Shepherd tucked his prize and started off to the butcher's in the market place. 6
M But in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, the Shepherd, under his arm, tucked his prize and started off to the butcher's in the market place. 2
     If there were a reason to emphasize "under his arm," the mid-branching would do it most forcefully simply because it is the least used branching position. The same is true for the left-branching, but to a lesser degree.
 
     The Sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused at the Pig's behavior (5), and followed the Shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate (6).
 
R The Sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused at the Pig's behavior, and followed the Shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate. 9
L At the Pig's behavior, the Sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused, and they followed the Shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate. 10
M The Sheep in the pasture, at the Pig's behavior, were much astonished and amused, and they followed the Shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate. 5
     Moving "at the Pig's behavior" creates a sequence of three finite verbs -- were much astonished and amused and followed. The first two of these verbs are in passive voice. The third is in active, but with the prepositional phrase moved, it can too easily be processed as another passive. Thus I have given it its own subject.
     I like the left-branching better here because it forms a better transition from the preceding sentence. The Sheep have been out of the picture since the first sentence, so beginning the sentence with the Sheep is somewhat of a disconnect. The mid-branching, although acceptable, puts too much focus on the prepositional phrase, a phrase whose purpose is mainly to serve as a transition.
 
R The Sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused at the Pig's behavior, and followed the Shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate. 10
L  -  0
M The Sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused at the Pig's behavior, and  to the pasture gate followed the Shepherd and his charge. 1
     Left-branching simply will not work here because the phrase modifies the third of three compounded verbs. Mid-branching would work, if there were some reason for emphasizing "to the pasture gate."
 
     "What makes you squeal like that?" asked one of the Sheep. "The Shepherd often catches and carries off one of us. But we should feel very much ashamed to make such a terrible fuss about it like you do."
     "That is all very well," replied the Pig, with a squeal and a frantic kick (7)
 
R "That is all very well," replied the Pig, with a squeal and a frantic kick. 10
L "That is all very well," with a squeal and a frantic kick, replied the Pig. 1
M "That is all very well," replied, with a squeal and a frantic kick, the Pig. 3
     Both the left- and mid-branching versions would be very unusual. In this case, the mid- is probably more normal because it keeps "replied" immediately after the quotation.
 
"When he catches you he is only after your wool. But he wants my bacon! gree-ee-ee!"
     It is easy to be brave when there is no danger.