February 14,  2013
To the Master Collection ToC The KISS Grammar Home Page

KISS Level  3.2.4 - "Tag" and Other Questions about Clauses

Notes for Teachers
Ex # 1 - Tag Questions
Ex 2 a and b - The Witch in "Which" (and "Who")
Some Uncommon Clause Constructions
Background Material for Teachers
Notes for Teachers

    This is the last of the identification sections on clauses. In essence, it is a collection point for relatively unusual cases. The instructional material for “Tag” questions (Exercise # 1) is included in the exercises. Tag Questions involve primarily spoken questions such as “Dad did order a pizza, didn’t he?” Linguists call the final part a “tag question,” but within KISS we can simply consider them to be interjections. Students will primarily meet them in dialogue in plays and stories. As you'll see, some of the sentences in these exercises do not end in questions. The exercise based on Heidi, for example, includes the sentence:

I want the goats to give me splendid milk, remember.

This sentence resembles those in Level 3.2.3 -- "Interjection? Or Direct Object?" But is it functionally that different from:

I want the goats to give me splendid milk, remember?

Level 3.2.3 suggests that "remember," in the first example can be considered a subordinate clause that functions as an interjection. And in this section, KISS suggests that "remember?" in the second example can also be considered as a clause that functions as an interjection. Students who have mastered Level 3.2.3 should have few, if any, problems with tag questions.

     “The Witch in ‘Which’ (and ‘Who’)?” involves several questions. (My apology to Wiccans, but I couldn't resist the pun -- there is something magical about "which."). Unlike other pronouns, "which" can have an entire clause as its antecedent. Consider the following, from "The Mowing of a Field" by Hilaire Belloc:

He drags up earth with the grass, which is like making the meadow bleed.

If we restate this without using the "which," we get, "His dragging up earth with the grass is like making the meadows bleed." In essence, the verb in the main S/V/C pattern is the antecedent of "which."

     A second "magical" property of "which" (shared with "whom") is the ability to function as a subordinating conjunction without being the first word in the subordinate clause. The following example is from The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson:

And in the meanwhile I would put up those weapons, [ one{of which}might very easily go off and blow away your hopes of treasure]
Two exercises in the "grade-level" books are devoted to the just discussed qualities of "which" (and "who"). They are preceded by short, but separate instructional material  because it is too long to include within the exercises.

     This part of the web site also includes material for which there are no exercises. These are "Unusual Cases" and other questions. Many of these also deal with "which." Many teachers, for example, are familiar with the "in which" problem: "That is the book in which he keeps his notes in." That question is discussed in the "Background Materials for Teachers," as is the "Which" fragment. Many well-recognized writers use it, as in the following example from Daniel J. Boorstin's The Creators:

Often called the first Christian philosopher, Philo was a Jew. Which of course is not surprising, since the Christian Messiah was also a Jew. (46-47) 
Because many people consider this an error, there is no reason for the KISS site to make exercises about it, but this part of the site is a collection-point for examples.

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. If a clause functions as a “tag” question, label it “tag” or “Inj.”
4. Place a vertical line after each main clause.

Note the Special Directions in the “Which” exercises.

Probable Time Required: One exercise on tag questions and one or two on “which”?
Exercise # 1 a and b - Tag Questions
Instructional Material

1a (This is a relatively simple exercise that is in every grade level.)
From Agatha Christie's Postern of Fate (#1) AK ToC G5-11
From The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett AK ToC G5
Tag Questions - From Heidi, by Johanna Spyri AK ToC G6
From Agatha Christie's Postern of Fate (#2) AK ToC G9
From Agatha Christie's Postern of Fate (#3) AK ToC G10
Exercises 2 a and b - The Witch in "Which" (and "Who")
Instructional Material
From Vredenburg's My Favorite Fairy Tales AK ToC G5
"Which" - From Heidi, by Johanna Spyri AK ToC G6
From 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, by Jules Verne AK ToC G6
  From Modern Essays,  Selected by Christopher Morley ToC
A Study in "Which" and "Who" 
As a norm, the five exercises on "unusual clauses" include a slide, a verb as antecedent, a "who" slide, a restrictive clause, a non-restrictive clause, and a parenthetical clause.
Unusual Antecedents AK G7
Unusual Clauses with "Which" and "Who" # 1 AK G7
Unusual Clauses with "Which" and "Who" # 2 AK G8
Unusual Clauses with "Which" and "Who" # 3 AK G9
Unusual Clauses with "Which" and "Who" # 4 AK G10
Unusual Clauses with "Which" and "Who" # 5 AK G11
From Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle AK ToC G9
From The Master of Ballantrae, by R. L. Stevenson AK ToC G10
Some Uncommon Clause Constructions

 This section is a point of collection for clauses that are unusual.

     Somewhat related to one of the "which" questions, sometimes part of a subordinate clause appears before the subordinating conjunction, as in the following sentence from Black Beauty:
Fearful as it was, no one stopped, no one turned back. 
These are fairly rare. Indeed they are far apart and difficult to find if you are looking for them. Thus KISS does not have an exercised specifically devoted to them.
Efficiency Up-to-date [A subordinate clause without a subordinating conjunction]  AK ToC -
     On page 34 of  Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced I found:
Naturally, seeing as he worked as receptionist here, I thought he was  all right.
This use of "as" as a conjunction for a noun clause that functions as a direct object is, as far as I know, British slang. 
The Witch in "Which" (and "Who")
Background Material for Teachers

     There is a witch in “which”—the word has some magical powers. Some students are already aware of this—they spell “which” as “witch.” The students’ spelling problem results from the fact that they spell what they hear, and they have not been taught enough grammar to be able to distinguish the noun from the pronoun/subordinate conjunction. But perhaps their lack of control of “which” points to the unusual powers of the word.

The Clause as Antecedent

     Pronouns that simultaneously function as subordinate conjunctions (“who,” “which,” “that”) usually have a specific, one-word antecedent. “Which,” however, sometimes grabs the entire preceding clause, or a large part of it.

George’s health was improving, which made his wife happy.
What made his wife happy was not his “health,” for that is currently poor. It is the “health improving” that made her happy, and thus the “which” here refers to the entire preceding clause.
     It may be that “who” and/or “that” occasionally also gain this power to claim a clause as antecedent, but if you analyze real texts for any amount of time, you are certain to run into one of these powerful “whiches.” Checking the antecedent of every such word in everything one reads is, of course, preposterous, but the “find” function in word processors provide a good tool for studies of this question. The KISS web site actually includes such a study. I collected all the sentences that contain “which” in Modern Essays, Selected by Christopher Morley, which is available on line at Bartleby.com. The word appears 422 times, only nine of which can be considered as having an antecedent that is not a single noun or pronoun. Nine out of 422 is 2.1%, so we are looking at a fairly rare construction. 

Subjects that Precede the Subordinating Conjunction

     Subordinating conjunctions normally appear as the first word in their respective clauses. “Which,” however, occasionally does a trick and follows the subject of its clause:

He loved beefsteak and fried potatoes, the latter of which was his absolute favorite food.
This could, of course, be written as 
He loved beefsteak and fried potatoes, of which the latter was his absolute favorite food.
The first version, however, is generally accepted as also correct. If we examine it in the light of our psycholinguistic model, the first part is simple. The reader, with short-term memory cleared, processes a subject, a finite verb, and two direct objects. Then, of course, it encounters “the latter,” which it probably chunks as an appositive—in this case all readers know that “the latter” renames “fried potatoes.” And it could be an appositive, as in “He loved beefsteak and fried potatoes, the latter especially on Sundays.” As the mental chunking continues, however, it turns out that “the latter” is not really an appositive, it slides into being the subject of “was” in the “of which” clause. But an appositive is not always involved in the trick. In some cases, the subject of the subordinate clause simply appears before the subordinating conjunction:
“I know of no material [the spoiling {of which} givesso much artistic pleasure]—except perhaps snow.” (From “On Drawing” by A. P. Herbert)
“Then quick puffs of dusky smoke, [the volley {of which} does not reach my ear till the train has stuck its black head out of fairyland and become a prosaic reminder of dinner.] (From “Winter Mist,” by Robert Palfrey Utter
It would be interesting to know if this type of construction reading problems for some students.
     It was also interesting to find one case in which “which” refers to a word in the preceding sentence: 
The conditions seem to be present even under the most unlikely externals. Some of the greatest students this country has produced have come from small villages and country places. It is impossible to predict from a study of the environment, which a “strong propensity of nature,” to quote Milton’s phrase again, will easily bend or break. (“The Student Life,” by William Osler)
Within its clause, “which” functions as the answer to the question “Propensity will easily bend or break what?” If we ask what the “which” means, the answer is “students,” in the preceding sentence. 
     Four examples of parenthetical expressions with “which” appeared, and they raised the question of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Could it be that parenthetical clauses are clauses that are less restrictive than non-restrictive? This would change the “restrictive/non-restrictive” continuum to “restrictive / non-restrictive / parenthetical (interjections). 
     The witch of “which” has also imparted this special power to “whom,” as in the following from Ogden Nash’s “A Definition of Marriage.”
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of 
     two people, one of whom never
     remembers birthdays, and the other
     never forgetsam,
In this example, “one” functions as a part/whole appositive to “two,” but it is also the subject of “remembers.” The data for the study of Modern Essays, Selected by Christopher Morley is on the web site.

The “in which” Problem

     Having worked hard to give “which” three additional, and useful, powers, the witch of “which” may have felt like playing a prank. She sprinkled some students’ writing with “in which”:

That is the game in which I made my best plays in.
Two causes have been suggested for the superfluous preposition (almost always “in”), that infects some students’ writing. One is that it is the result of transference from a foreign language (Dutch and German are usually suggested) that affected the immigrants’ English. This is quite possible, but to verify it, we would need sociolinguistic studies. (These would be excellent topics for a Master’s Thesis or a Ph.D. Dissertation).
     The second suggested cause is that the superfluous “in” results from undigested instruction in grammar. Proponents of this view note that students have been taught not to end a sentence with a preposition (a stupid rule). The students have been taught to move the preposition to an earlier position in the sentence. Thus the students who would have written
That is the game which I made my best plays in.
Digests half of the “instruction” and writes 
That is the game in which I made my best plays in.
It’s an interesting theory to explain the cause of the problem. 
     From the KISS perspective, the solution to the problem is to have students analyze real sentences, including those from their own writing. In so doing, students can probably understand that in 
That is the game which I made my best plays in.
“which” functions as both subordinating conjunction and as the object of the final “in.” A second “in” is not needed. I have personal problems in giving students exercises based on incorrect sentences, so for now the KISS site does not include exercises that focus on “in which.” If users of the KISS Approach would like some, we can, of course, add them, just by collecting examples from students’ writing.

The “Which” Fragment [Click here.]