Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Diagramming and hamming

Postmodern Papist defends the diagramming of sentences:
Why is the study of grammar so important? It is because the rules of grammar, if not absolute and eternal, are nevertheless based upon the framework of reality--at least in so far as we understand reality. To be correct grammatically does not necessitate flawless understanding of reality, but real ignorance of and errors in grammar (not simply careless typos) will affect our understanding of reality. Grammar errors can mean errors in understanding.

...How does actual diagramming help? It trains the mind the recognize the parts of speech and other structures of language, making explicit and visual what is implicit and mental, and thus familiarizing the diagrammer with the structures of grammar, with the structures by which we understand reality. Knowing those structures well will help readers, especially in our hyper-visual age, to understand the meaning that is being expressed through language. It helps particularly with sentences written in less-than-familiar construction, such as "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York," a sentence a proficient diagrammer will see immediately as "The winter of our discontent is now made glorious summer by this sun of York."


Apropos of nothing, I was flipping through a cookbook this evening and came across the entry discussing a style of ham from Spain: jamon serrano, or mountain ham. In Spanish the adjective follows the noun, and I wondered idly if jamon serrano and serrano jamon had such disparate meanings as the corresponding English phrases. There's quite a difference between "mountain ham" and "ham mountain".

7 comments:

Daddio said...

I'd like to see someone diagram THAT sentence!...

"It trains the mind the recognize the parts of speech and other structures of language, making explicit and visual what is implicit and mental, and thus familiarizing the diagrammer with the structures of grammar, with the structures by which we understand reality."

1990bluejay said...

Oh yes, the inversion of the noun adjective order is quite a difference, but not like in English. For instance, coche rojo (red car) and rojo coche (RED car) shifts the syntax by emphasizing the quality conveyed by the adjective, in this case red, rather than merely describing or modifying the noun. Better still - cañon grande - meh, a hole in the ground; gran cañon - whoa, look at all those strata and how do we get to the bottom!

Kyle R. Cupp said...

Daddio,

It would probably help had I not typed the article “the” when I meant the preposition “to.” Yikes! There is nothing like grammatical errors to undercut one’s argument about grammar. I really should stop drinking Bushmills while I blog. :)

Mrs. Darwin,

Thanks for the link!

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Mary Daly of Hedgeschool has self-published a bestseller(among Catholic homeschoolers anwyay) diagramming workbook--she diagrams a poem of Hopkins, and at our dinner table she said by diagramming something like that you finally figure out what is going on.
On the otehr hand, my husband, a scientist and academic, encourages me to ignore diagramming in the homeschool. He learned nothing from diagramming, says he. He is an outstanding writer. Go figure. As with most things, it depends on the kid!

Daddio said...

Just teasing, Kyle!

jackjoe FRANK said...

Grammar is descriptive not proscriptive. I thought every one knew that. Jack

Kyle R. Cupp said...

I know, Daddio. :-)

Ana,

I think you're right that it depends on the kid. Diagramming is a tool, a fine one in my opinion, but what matters more is that grammar is learned well, not that diagramming was the route taken.

Did your husband really learn nothing from diagramming?