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KISS Grammar
Lewis Thomas - Selection # 1a
From "Alchemy" in Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony,
Toronto: Bantam Books, 1983, p. 31-32.
Analysis Key
     This is the first part of the paragraph. For the second part, see Selection # 1b. The paragraph caught my attention because of the second part, which is about the meaning of "grammar." In looking at the paragraph, however, I noted that the first part contains some very interesting syntactic constructions -- a fragment, and numerous appositives, including two clauses that can alternatively be explained either as main clauses or as subordinate (noun) clauses that function as appositives.

     The association {of alchemy} {with black magic} has persisted {in the public

mind} {throughout the long history} {of the endeavor}, partly [#1] [Adv. (cause) to "has 

persisted" because the objective the transmutation [#2] {of one sort} {of 

substance} {to another} seemed magical (PA) {by definition}]. | [#3] Partly also

{because of the hybrid term}: | al was simply the Arabic article (PN), | but chemy 

came {from a word} meaning "the black land," [#4] Khemia, [#5] the Greek name [#5]

{for Egypt}. | Another, similar-sounding word, khumeia, [#6] meant an infusion 

(PN) [#4] or elixir (PN) [#4], and thus was also incorporated (P) {as part} {of the

meaning}. | The Egyptian origin is very old (PA), extending [#7] back {to Thoth}

the god [#8] {of magic} [ [#9] (who later reappeared {as Hermes Trismegistus}, master

[#10] {of the hermetic seal} required [#11] {by alchemists} {for the vacuums} [Adj. to

"vacuums" *that* [ [#12] they believed] were needed (P) {in their work})]]. |

1. Note that the adverb "partly" modifies the following adverbial clause. (This is rarely explained in grammar textbooks.)
2. "Transmutation" is an appositive to "objective."
3. The following unusual fragment is interesting. It logically -- and syntactically -- belongs with the preceding 37-word main clause where it would be parallel to the "because" clause. Thomas keeps the connection clear by the repetition in  "Partly also because ...." Note also that, although I have marked the following two clauses as main clauses, they could also be explained as appositives to "hybrid term," Each clause explains one part of the hybrid: "Partly also because of the hybrid term: [Appositive to "term"al was simply the Arabic article], but [Appositive to "term" chemy came from a word meaning "the black land," Khemia, the Greek name for Egypt].
4. "[T]he black land" is the complement of "meaning," which is a gerundive to the preceding "word." Grammarians will probably disagree as to whether "the black land" is the direct object of "meaning," or a predicate noun after it. In this context, "meaning" clearly means "equals," so the KISS preference would be to explain it as a predicate noun. I would not, however, tell a student who considers it to be a direct object that he or she is wrong. At this KISS level, it would be an interesting little research project to have students explore other grammar reference and textbooks to see what they might have to say.
5. "Khemia" is an appositive to "word," and the following "name" is an appositive to "Khemia."
6. "[K]humeia" is an appositive to "word."
7. Gerundive to "origin."
8. Appositive to "Thoth."
9. Syntactically, this clause functions as an adjective to "god," and thus to "Thoth." The parentheses make it what rhetoricians call a "parenthetical expression" -- in effect, an interjection by the writer of additional information. Thus we could say that the adjectival clause slides into an interjection. Thomas could have, of course, put a period after "magic" and started a new sentence -- "Thoth later reappeared ...." By using the parenthetical expression, Thomas creates one long main clause, thereby interconnecting the syntactic structure to underlined the interconnectedness of the original Thoth and the later Hermes Trismegistus.
10. Appositive to "Hermes Trismegistus."
11. Gerundive to "seal."
12. This is another construction that you will have a difficult time finding explained in most grammar books. KISS considers this clause to be functioning as an interjection. See the discussion of subordinate clauses as direct objects or interjections.