July 8, 2013
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KISS Level 2.1.4 Palimpsest Patterns

Notes for Teachers

     To my knowledge, the concept of the “palimpsest” pattern is unique to KISS Grammar. Once one has spent a little time analyzing randomly selected texts, however, the concept becomes somewhat obvious. As noted elsewhere in KISS, the traditional “transitive,” “intransitive,” and “linking” verbs are not very helpful, especially because “linking” verbs are usually presented in a short, incomplete list that students are expected to memorize and then forget. They can't use the list effectively because it is incomplete.
     In analyzing real texts, however, one will run across a sentence such as the following, 

The moonlight flooded that great, silent land. 
The reaped field lay yellow in it.
“Lay” is rarely, if ever, included in that useless list of “linking” verbs. The KISS question (“Lay what?”) does not make sense here, but that leaves the question of how to explain “yellow.” One could, I suppose, call it an adverb, but it functions more as an adjective to “field.” Thus, the palimpsest pattern—“lay” is “written over” “was.” You will not find a lot of such patterns, but, as the exercises in this section illustrate, there are enough to make the concept helpful. In most cases, they are fairly obvious. I doubt that students will have many problems with them, once they have a name for them.
     It might be interesting to study the stylistic implications of palimpsests, especially against the context of post-positioned adjectives. (See KISS Level 5.5) Conrad, for example, uses a number of palimpsests (or perhaps I was just looking for them in his story), but compare Conrad’s palimpsest
It flowed cold and gray in the darkness.
to a version with commas added—
It flowed, cold and gray, in the darkness.
The commas cut “cold and gray” from the verb, thereby making them function more like post-positioned adjectives.
     The two exercises from Maxwell’s Intermediate Grammar raise interesting questions of usage and meaning. For example, in the sentence “Bessie felt bad because she missed her lesson,” the use of “bad” means that Bessie felt that she had been bad, but suppose the sentence were “Bessie felt badly because her friend was hurt in an accident.” Traditional prescriptive grammars insisted that in cases like this, "felt badly" should be used in both sentences, but such prescriptiveness runs against common usage. It also hides a distinction in meaning.
     In most cases, palimpsest patterns involve a verb written over an S/V/PA pattern, but sometimes the pattern has a predicate noun. The following example is from The Dark Frigate by Charles Boardman Hawes:
The other ship, in which he now sat a prisoner, was like some great tiger.
I have no idea of how most grammar textbooks would explain “prisoner” In KISS, however, this can easily be explained as a palimpsest pattern with “sat” written over “was.” Note, however, that "prisoner" can alternatively be explained as a noun used as an adverb.
[Instructional Material]
Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline every finite verb twice, its subject(s) once, and label any complements (“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
Probable Time Required
     One exercise ought to give students the concept. After that you will run into cases, but if you want to be sure, you might do one short exercise that focuses on palimpsests yearly.
From Vredenburg's My Book of Favorite Fairy Tales AK ToC G4; IB 2
Based on G. MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind AK ToC G3; IB 2
Based on Pinocchio, The Tale of a Puppet, by C. Collodi  AK ToC G3; IG4
From Little Red Riding Hood (Lang) Text AK ToC G4
Palimpsests (Robin Hood by Henrietta Marshall) AK ToC G5
From Lassie, Come Home, by Eric Knight AK ToC G6
From Heidi by Johanna Spyri AK ToC G6
From The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett AK ToC G7
From The Call of the Wild, by Jack London AK ToC G8
From Stephen Crane's "The Blue Hotel" AK ToC G9
From Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans AK ToC G9
Ex # 1 from "The Lagoon," by Joseph Conrad Text AK ToC G10
Ex #2 from "The Lagoon," by Joseph Conrad Text AK ToC G10
From The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton AK ToC G11