Last Updated: August 1, 1999
Dr. Ed Vavra's KISS Approach to Sentence Structure
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de Lempicka
# 6: Random Observations 
on the Teaching of Grammar
     This "essay" is not an essay; rather it is a repository of notes and short observations that may eventually be worked into other essays or instructional material.

     Perhaps the main problem with both the teachers of grammar and the grammar textbooks is that they attempt to feed every grammatical concept, and every grammatical rule into students' heads -- there to be registered, remembered, and left in unused dust. Consider, for example, the word "save" in the following sentence from Isaiah Berlin's The Sense of Reality:
The concept of vocation --Beruf -- which is central to Lutheran social teaching, is retained and exalted in the romantic philosophy, save that the source of authority is now not God or nature, but the individual's concern for his freedom to choose his end, the end which alone fulfils the demands of his moral, or aesthetic, or phiolosphical, or political, nature. (183)
I know of no grammarian or grammar textbook which will help students unravel the syntax of such a complicated sentence. Within the KISS Approach, because of the two appositives ("Beruf" and "end"), a full understanding of the syntax requires that the student be proficient at Level Five. But even at Level Three (Clauses), the student will be presented with a problem. "[T]at the source of authority is now not God or nature" is clearly a subordinate clause, but how does it function? In front of this clause, the student finds "save." What is "save"? It is not listed among the prepositions in the KISS Instructional Material. But any student who has been taught to think (instead of simply remember) should easily see that "save" here means "except." It thus functions as a preposition with the clause as its object. The following "but," however, does not function as a preposition for the simple reason that it does not mean "except." Instead, this "but" joins two subordinate clauses, both of which function as objects of the preposition "save," and the second of which is partially ellipsed: "save [that the source of authority is now not God or nature,] but [*it is* the individual's concern for his freedom ...."