KISS Level 3.2.3 - Interjection?
Or Direct Object?
Most grammar textbooks deal with the definitions
of constructions rather than with the analysis of real sentences. As a
result, they never address some questions that you and your students will
run into as you analyze real texts. The following sentence, from Andrew
Lang’s “Thumbelina,” is a relatively simple example of a clause that can
be explained either as a direct object, or, reversing the subordination,
“That will be splendid!” said she, clapping her little hands.
Most grammar textbooks would explain “That will be splendid!” as a subordinate
clause that functions as the direct object of “said.” Within the KISS framework,
that is an acceptable explanation. But these sentences can be more complicated.
The following example is from Sherwood Anderson’s “The Egg”:
We must have been a sad looking lot, not, I fancy,
unlike refugees fleeing from a battlefield.
In sentences like this, the “main” subject and verb are thrown (interjected)
into the middle of what traditional grammars consider to be the subordinate
clause that functions as a direct object. Because of sentences like this
(and they are fairly numerous), KISS allows, indeed prefers, to consider
the “said she” and “I fancy” clauses as subordinate clauses that function
be splendid (PA)!” [Inj
clapping her little hands].
have been a sad looking lot (PN),
not, [Inj Ifancy],
unlike refugees fleeing from a battlefield. |
In some cases, these clauses slide into what many grammar texts consider
to be adverbial clauses. Consider the following, from A Dog of Flanders
It is folly, as I say, and evil waste of time: nevertheless,
it is like Alois, and will please the house-mother.
You can, of course, have your students explain the preceding “as I say”
as an adverbial clause, and the other examples as direct objects, but you
will probably find that the KISS Approach (considering these clauses as
interjections) has the following advantages:
1.) It saves time and paper. In a sentence
such as “It was, I think, a big mistake.” you could have students rewrite
the sentence as “I think it was a big mistake.” But that is a big waste
2.) Viewing these clauses as interjections
highlights an important stylistic distinction. Even many college students
write sentences such as “I think this is a good idea.” Indeed the frequency
of such sentences leads many teachers to tell students not to use “I.”
Many professional writers, however, would write this as “This is, I think,
a good idea.” In other words, instead of making themselves the subject
of the main clause, mature writers make the subject they are talking about
the subject of the main clause — and then interject the fact that they
are not totally certain of the statement.
3.) If we put brackets around each part of
the clause [It was,] I think, [a big mistake.] it appears that there are
two subordinate clauses, when there are not. This can be very confusing
for students when they are attempting to determine how many subordinate
clauses they use per main clause in a statistical analysis of their own
writing. Having students do at least one statistical exercise each year,
is strongly encouraged, since it enables students not only to apply what
they have learned to their own writing, but also to evaluate the syntax
of their writing in the context of that of their peers. The easiest way
to do such an exercise is to have the students count the vertical lines
(for the number of main clauses) and the opening brackets (for the number
of subordinate clauses) in their analyzed paper. If the students have to
watch for two sets of brackets for one subordinate clause, they will find
such an analysis more difficult to do.
4.) The KISS
psycholinguistic model of how the mind processes language justifies
viewing these clauses as interjections. Having dumped a main clause to
long-term memory, short-term memory is cleared and the brain will take
whatever it finds that can be a main S/V pattern as a main S/V pattern.
(This is why subordinate clauses at the beginning of a sentence must have
a subordinate conjunction). In our example, the brain would take “It was”
as a main S/V pattern. It must then handle the “I think” (or “he said”)
as a subordinate clause.
5.) In some cases, viewing these clauses as
interjections clarifies their similarity to adverbs that, in effect, function
Sentence (a) means that Paul is hopeful, but in sentence (b) it is the
writer (or speaker) who is hopeful and thus “hopefully” functions as an
interjection. If it functions as an interjection, then why can we not see
the “I hope” in (c) as also functioning as an interjection?
a.) Paul is hopefully going to the hospital.
b.) Paul is, hopefully, going to the hospital.
c.) Paul is, I hope, going to the hospital.
Main Clause or Subordinate?
If you spend a fair amount of time analyzing
randomly selected sentences, you will find that the distinction between
main and subordinate clauses is not always clear. How many main clauses,
for example, are in the following sentence from Hans Christian Andersen's
"The Snow Queen":
You see that all our men folks are away, but mother is still
here, and she will stay.
"[T]hat all our men folks are away" is clearly the direct object of "You
see," but what about "mother is still here" and "she will stay"? Are they
also direct objects, or are they separate main clauses? Either explanation
makes sense, even though the different analyses imply different meanings.
If we consider the last two clauses as subordinate, the sentence means
that "You" already know this; if we explain them as main clauses, then
the speaker is telling "You" things that they do not know.
But when we start looking at quotations, the
balance shifts, I would suggest, toward the explanation using the interjection.
Consider the following from Vredenburg's "Prince Cheri":
"I am not mocking you," he heard in reply to his thoughts;
"you have been bad tempered, and you have behaved unkindly to a poor animal
who did not deserve such treatment. I know you are higher than a dog, but
the advantage of being ruler of a great empire is not in doing all the
harm one wishes, but in doing all the good one can."
In terms of meaning, all the words in quotation marks are direct object
of "heard." But those words are divided among two sentences and can easily
be seen as five main clauses.
"I am not mocking you," he heard in reply to his thoughts;
"you have been bad tempered, | and
you have behaved unkindly to a poor animal who did not deserve such treatment.
I know you are higher than a dog,
but the advantage of being ruler of a great empire is not in doing all
the harm one wishes, but in doing all the good one can." |
The preferred KISS explanation is simply to consider the "he heard in reply
to his thoughts" as an interjection.
Because most grammar textbooks do not even
deal with this question, you can, of course, explain it however you wish.
I should note, however, that this is the explanation used in KISS statistical
studies. If you consider everything in quotation marks to be the direct
object of "heard," then you would have one 67-word main clause. Analyzed
from the KISS perspective, the passage has five main clauses, or 13.4 words
per main clause.
The Sequence of Exercises in this Section
The first section is a single exercise
that explores sentences in which clauses can be considered either main
or subordinate, with or without quotation marks. The second exercise
focuses on subordinate clauses that function as interjections. Some of
these sentences would fit in section three and, but others are what rhetoricians
call "parenthetical expressions." These tend to be set off by dashes or
parentheses, as in "That island -- wherever it is -- is a tropical paradise."
exercises) deals directly with the interjection vs. direct object explanations.
The exercise from Smollett’s
Humphry Clinker, although outdated,
clearly lends support to the KISS view of this construction because Smollett
used parentheses to set off what traditional grammars would probably consider
the main subject and verb:
"This poor Turk, (said he) notwithstanding his grey beard,
is a green-horn -- He has been several years resident in London, and still
is ignorant of our political revolutions."
Section four (two exercises) gives students sentences from which
the punctuation has been deleted and asks them to supply it. It is important
to discuss these in class and then share the original because not every
writer would punctuate them in the same way. Section Five is a single
passage for analysis, and the sixth is a Treasure Hunt/Recipe Roster.
Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
For review, add:
5. Label each interjection (“Inj”), each noun used as an adverb (“NuA”),
and each example of direct address (“DirA”).
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline verbs twice, their subjects once, and label complements
(“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
3. Place brackets [ ] around each subordinate clause. If the clause
functions as a noun, label its function. If it functions as an adjective
or adverb, draw an arrow from the opening bracket to the word that the
clause modifies. If it functions as an interjection, label it “Inj.”
4. Place a vertical line after each main clause.
- Main Clause or Subordinate?
(a & b) - Exercises on Punctuation
- A Passage for Analysis
# 6 - Treasure Hunt (and/or Recipe Roster)
| Treasure Hunt (and/or Recipe Roster):
Find and bring to class (and/or write) a sentence that can be described
as having a subordinate clause that functions as an interjection.
Creating an Exercise: In a story or
book that you like, find three sentences that can be described as having
subordinate clause that function as interjections. For your classmates,
make an exercise with them; for your teacher, make an analysis key. (Remember
that your teacher may use your exercise in future years.)