February 4, 2011
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KISS Level 5.6 - Delayed Subjects and Sentences

Notes for Teachers
Instructional Material
Delayed Subjects
Ex # 1 - Infinitives as Delayed Subjects
Ex # 2 - Subordinate Clauses as Delayed Subjects
Ex # 3 - Delayed Sentences
Ex # 4 - Mixed Exercises
Ex # 5 - A Passage for Analysis
Ex # 6 - Treasure Hunt/Creating an Exercise
Unusual Cases
Notes for Teachers

     "Delayed Subjects and Sentences" simply denote sentences that have a placebo subject (almost always "it") with the meaningful subject delayed until later in the sentence. For example,

It is true that he was late.
means
That he was late is true.
Sometimes it may make more sense to consider the sentence, rather than the subject to be delayed, as in 
It was Bob who was playing baseball in his back yard,
means
Bob was playing baseball in his back yard.
In cases like this, delaying the sentence puts more emphasis on the question of who was playing.
     Ultimately, however, the delayed subject slides into the delayed sentence such that either explanation can be considered acceptable. Consider:
It was in the seventh year of these hopeless peregrinations, in the dawn of a similar springtime to that in which his wife had died, [that he came at last one night to the vicinity of this self-same patch that crowned the rise to the Red Cliff]
Whether one considers the "that" clause a delayed subject or a delayed sentence is really a question of terminology, so that either label can be accepted.
     Because most delayed subjects are formed by infinitives or by subordinate clauses, the first two exercises in the "complete" books focus on each of these separately. You might want to skip these two, and start with  the third exercise, which includes sentences that could be considered delayed sentences. The fourth exercise is for additional practice, if needed. The fifth is a passage for analysis, and the sixth asks students to write or find sentences and, at the teacher's option, create an exercise.
     Students who have a solid command of subordinate clauses, and a minimal command of infinitives should find delayed subjects relatively easy to master.

     The origin and stylistic purpose(s) of this delaying construction might be an interesting topic for a Master's thesis. As noted above, it can be used to shift the meaningful focus.
     David Crystal, a famous British linguist, offers another suggestion and illustrates it with the following two sentences:

It was nice having John and Mary come and see us the other day.

Having John and Mary come and see us the other day was nice.

He then claims that "I have put this choice before thousands of people, over the years, and they always opt for the first." He suggests that "We do not like long subjects." Thus we delay them. . (The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot, and left. Oxford University Press, 2006. 128-129.)

Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
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.
4. Place a vertical line after each main clause. 
5. Label each delayed subject “DS.”

Probable Time Required: Two exercises?
 
Delayed Subjects

Ex # 1 - Infinitives as Delayed Subjects
"Learn a Second Language" (Humor)  AK ToC G5
Infinitives - From Heidi, by Johanna Spyri AK ToC G6
Tongue Twisters "A tooter who tooted the flute"  AK ToC G8
From The Master of Ballantrae, by R. L. Stevenson AK ToC G9
Dreiser, "Phoebe," Ex # 1 (Infinitives)  AK ToC IG 8
Dreiser, "Phoebe," Ex # 2 (Infinitives)  AK " -
From A Dog of Flanders by Ouida  AK ToC G10
Ex # 2 - Subordinate Clauses as Delayed Subjects
From 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, by Jules Verne AK ToC G6; IG7
Sherwood Anderson's "The Egg" Text AK ToC G8
From The Master of Ballantrae, by R. L. Stevenson AK ToC G9
Dreiser, "Phoebe," Ex # 3  AK ToC G10
Ex # 3 - Delayed Sentences
From 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, by Jules Verne AK ToC G6; IG7
From The Master of Ballantrae, by R. L. Stevenson AK ToC G9; IG 8
Dreiser, "Phoebe," Ex # 4  AK ToC G10
From A Dog of Flanders by Ouida Ex # 1 AK ToC  -
Ex # 4 - Mixed Exercises
From Vredenburg's My Favorite Fairy Tales AK ToC G5
From Vredenburg's My Favorite Fairy Tales AK ToC G6
From The Master of Ballantrae, by R. L. Stevenson AK ToC G9; 1YM
From A Dog of Flanders by Ouida Ex # 2 AK ToC  -
Ex # 5 - A Passage for Analysis
From "Spotty the Turtle Wins a Race," by T. W. Burgess AK ToC G5
Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (2.2.32-37)  This selection includes a level three embedding, all in a delayed subject. AK ToC G6
The Opening Paragraph From The Declaration of Independence [Two infinitives used as delayed subjects.]  AK ToC G9
From A Dog of Flanders by Ouida Ex # 3 AK ToC -
Ex # 6 - Treasure Hunt/Creating an Exercise
     Treasure Hunt (and/or Recipe Roster): Find and bring to class (and/or write) a sentence that has a delayed subject or sentence.
     Creating an Exercise: In a story or book that you like, find five sentences that have delayed subjects or sentences. For your classmates, make an exercise (infinitives, subordinate clauses, or mixed). For your teacher, make an analysis key. (Remember that your teacher may use your exercise in future years.)
Unusual Cases
Dreiser, "Phoebe"- Ex # 5 (Unusual Cases) Text AK ToC -