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Thread: Grammar Hounds

  1. #1
    Senior Member Maeve_Mari's Avatar
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    Grammar Hounds

    My son just got home from school, having spent the morning taking his English Final today. He said he did okay, except that "identifying the parts of sentences took me a whole hour!" He followed up by repeating to me the words he think he missed, "is prettiness an adjective or a pronoun?" "is 'really' an adjective or a adverb?" "are both big and green adjectives in the sentance, the big, green tree is over there?"

    We talked about these questions in the car, then he asked me, "How come we need to know the sentence parts? Why does it matter if a word is an adverb or an adjective or a pronoun or a conjunction or an anything? Why do they teach it and why do I need to know/memorize it?"

    Does anyone here know why kids are still tortured to have to learn the parts of a sentence? What is the purpose of knowing this in modern education?
    Last edited by Maeve_Mari; 06-03-2005 at 01:37 PM. Reason: I do believe ZZ is correct. So I fixed it!

  2. #2
    Posting Hound Zilverzmurfen's Avatar
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    Uuuh...isn't it spelled "sentence"..?
    Fencing is my only PvP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maeve_Mari
    Does anyone here know why kids are still tortured to have to learn the parts of a sentance? What is the purpose of knowing this in modern education?
    well if your son ever wishes to learn a foreign language and its grammar rules, then it is useful to know these things.

    (I was to polite to point out the sentance thing ).
    Last edited by keith; 06-03-2005 at 01:48 PM. Reason: to satisfy the queen

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    Senior Member Pauli's Avatar
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    It may not make sense while learning the grammar of your own language. But once he starts studying a language such as French or Spanish, he'll be happy having heard of these words and knowing what they stand for and where to place them.

    But else.......
    Beat it...Jab it...Stab it...FENCE IT!!!

    ***little t***Fiskebäckskil!***
    Take me 2 YVR!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Maeve_Mari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith
    well if your son ever wishes to learn a foreign language and its grammar rules, then it is useful to know these things.

    That was the answer I told him. That it was necessary for learning a foreign language. At least for learning a foreign language in the classroom. And that wasn't a great reason for him, since he is taking Spanish and hating it anyways.

    But besides that. Why do they need to know this? Why does it have to be memorized?
    Last edited by Maeve_Mari; 06-03-2005 at 01:51 PM.

  6. #6
    Din Älskling esskreemr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maeve_Mari
    Does anyone here know why kids are still tortured to have to learn the parts of a sentence? What is the purpose of knowing this in modern education?


    Because learning the sentence part is an integral part of learning the language. It provides a base for advanced learning of your language. It will provide them with the tools to expand beyond Jimmie plays ball. In addition, it helps to know how your language is formed when you are learning other languages.
    "Since when does being a patriot in America mean shutting your mouth?"
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    zz,zz,zz,zz,zz,zz!

  7. #7
    Posting Hound Zilverzmurfen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith
    (I was to polite to point out the sentance thing).
    I wasn't trying to be cheeky, it really was an honest question since that's how I was taught it was spelled.

    I think that needed to be clarified.
    Fencing is my only PvP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maeve_Mari
    But besides that. Why do they need to know this? Why does it have to be memorized?
    because when you start having to worry about how you write and pronounce the past perfect vs imperfect it helps to know which is which. You cannot hope to learn a foreign langauge as an adult without some grasp of this.

    Of course if you speak as native you 'know' all this anyway, and unless your son wishes a career as an editor or proof reader he is likely to spend his days stalking internet boards pointing out the grammatical errors of other posters.

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    Senior Member latenight's Avatar
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    Because it keeps English teachers employed.........
    Whatever doesn't kill you, is gonna leave a scar...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zilverzmurfen
    I wasn't trying to be cheeky, it really was an honest question since that's how I was taught it was spelled.

    I think that needed to be clarified.
    sorry their ( ) should have been a winky (now added sorry).

  11. #11
    Posting Hound Zilverzmurfen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keith
    ...pointing out the grammatical errors of other posters.
    Umm, thanks a lot.
    Fencing is my only PvP.

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    Senior Member swordwench's Avatar
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    But... I really like diagramming sentences! Honestly!

    As everybody has pointed out, it's very useful in learning a foreign language. Oddly, there are things I never knew existing in English till I learned them in Spanish and French. (When's the last time somebody taught you that the subjunctive even exists in English, huh? I didn't have a clue till I learned it in another language!)

    But also, I honestly believe that understanding the rules to something - be it grammar, or a sport (like fencing!), or a board game - makes in infinitely easier to participate and excel. If you truly understand the construction of your language and its proper usage, not only will you be able to use it correctly (and not look like a yahoo), but you will be infinitely more employable.

    Yes, I've weeded out seemingly-acceptable job applicants just because they couldn't put their sentences together correctly. (Worst sin possible: on a resume!!!) The ability to communicate effectively takes more than a silver tongue.

    Tell your son to stop whining and pick up his grammar book again. It's going to be a loooong summer.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Maeve_Mari's Avatar
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    I understand the furtherment of language... and I do see where it is necessary for foreign language education, but... When I was trying to answer it for him I couldn't find other examples of activities, events, professions, or studies where grammatical sentence composition would be necessary.

    I thought maybe, for poetry... but no, because you can write poetry using any combination of words or sounds and knowing that the word "without" is a preposition.

    I then thought, to be an author or novelist... but no, he might want to use improper language to simulate a hillbilly or illiterate as part of the story.

    I wondered if it would be required for engineering, but laughed and left that thought alone.

    I even noted that if I ever were in a situation where I needed to know if a word was a conjunction or a interjection, I could just Google it and ask!


    To swordwench's note, I did think that it made sentences more readable and intelligible. But then I thought, okay, so I write this sentence, "The boy go home fast." and then thought, okay, so the sentence is constructed incorrectly, but how would knowing the parts of speech help me correct this sentence? Would I say to myself, "the sentence should have been constructed with the adverb 'quickly' and add the past tense verb 'should' to the verb 'go' in order to properly clarify this sentence?" No, I would just fix the sentence, not knowing if I was adding an adverb or a preposition or whatever! I still don't understand how memorizing the parts of speech would help me correct my sentences.
    Last edited by Maeve_Mari; 06-03-2005 at 02:10 PM.

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    Senior Member swordwench's Avatar
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    Incidentally, tell him that "prettiness" is neither an adjective nor a pronoun. It's a noun.

    And, but and or... will get you pretty far... conjuction junction, what's your function?

  15. #15
    Gav
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    Maeve,

    I find it hard to believe that you found it hard to answer him. You've srtuck me as being generally lucid and educated. I'll attempt to give you an answer.

    Clarity.

    If you understand how a sentence is contructed, if you know what all the 'parts' do, if you know when to use some words and when to avoid using others ... when you know how to express your thoughts; then you will have clarity and know how to write.

    A bit zen-like, but there you go.

    Try reading:

    Eats, shoots and leaves; by Lynne Truss.
    Lost for Words; by John Humphrys.

    Both of those books put it far better than I could.
    I am The Hairy King of the Scots. You may kiss my Royal Seal.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Maeve_Mari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gav
    Maeve,

    I find it hard to believe that you found it hard to answer him. You've srtuck me as being generally lucid and educated. I'll attempt to give you an answer.

    Clarity.

    If you understand how a sentence is contructed, if you know what all the 'parts' do, if you know when to use some words and when to avoid using others ... when you know how to express your thoughts; then you will have clarity and know how to write.

    A bit zen-like, but there you go.

    Try reading:

    Eats, shoots and leaves; by Lynne Truss.
    Lost for Words; by John Humphrys.

    Both of those books put it far better than I could.
    See, that's the part that really struck me odd. I am intellectually driven and as such know many of the correct parts of speech and can diagram a sentence with the best of them... but it occured to me that I didn't know why I had to know that. Truly, when I write a sentence, I dont say to myself, hmm, I need to include a prepositional phrase in there in order to make my sentence clearer or stronger. I do say, hmmm, that sentence doesn't sound right, let me reword it and try again.

    Driving him home it occurred to me that I have been helping him understand and memorize these parts or speech since he was in first grade. He doesn't really get it, but I don't see it as a deficiency later in his life. I just don't understand the emphasis the school places on the topic. In my opinion the kids could use much more help with analogies, comprehension, and identifying the major objective and purpose in written material, than to be able to correctly identify an adverb as an adverb.

    And I did read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves last summer. Really a hoot, but at the same time, a work of language snootiness over language function.

    P.S. ROFL! Thanks for the observation on being generally lucid. I've always strived to be generally lucid in my encounters on the board here, at the very least! I'm glad you noticed! ROFL!
    Last edited by Maeve_Mari; 06-03-2005 at 02:47 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Dan H's Avatar
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    Even we techies need good grammar. After a certain point, most of the daily grind of being a scientist or engineer is communicating results to others. Often this takes the form of submitting research proposals. Those proposals ought to be free of grammatical and other errors. Poor grammar just looks bad.

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    Senior Member Peach's Avatar
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    As an English teacher myself, I am under considerable pressure from the language teachers to teach the students how to diagram a sentence, conjugate a verb, and name the parts of speech and the function of a word in a sentence. This is because the language teachers are trying to teach language starting too late, when they must begin with the structure of the language rather than immerse their students in the tongue. I am getting a mite sulky with those teachers because I would rather spend my limited classroom time discussing poetry, reading literature, and writing intensively.

    I do, however, teach grammar (though not as much as they would like) because it is useful for figuring out the convoluted sentences written in poetry, literature, and philosophy (it does no good with reading manuals, which are written in multiple passes of Babelfish). It helps to understand what pronouns are if you want to make them agree with their antecedents; dangling modifiers are easier to identify and so are fragments and run-ons if you know how a sentence is supposed to work. If you don't know that possessive pronouns are not formed with apostrophes, then "it's" and "its" become interchangeable, and so do "who's" and "whose." Students tend to shift the tenses of their verbs randomly in their narratives, to wobble between first and third person erratically, and to leave out fripperies such as verbs. It's very hard for me to talk to them about correcting this if we don't have a common language with which to talk about their language.

    The trick is to make the study functional, to integrate grammar into their writing and reading, and it's something I wrestle with constantly. CONSTANTLY.

    You must understand that there is an atavistic compulsion in the general public for subjecting their children to what they vaguely remember was a "real education," and isolated grammar instruction was a big part of that "real education." I still shudder when I remember Mrs. Quinn in her saddle shoes teaching us to diagram sentences, but the same kind of memory spurs others to think, "There must have been a good reason why I was forced to do that." It's rather like a fondness for spanking, cold baths, and other initiation rituals.

    However, there is also a good reason for teaching children to think about language and to understand some of its underlying order, particularly if you give them a good reason (such as writing clearly and reading with understanding) to do so. Grammar is a tool kit, an architect's drawing, or a skeleton. It is worthwhile, but only in relation to the construction of something useful or beautiful.
    “The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
    Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

  19. #19
    Senior Member Moonitic's Avatar
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    Kids need to know how to form proper sentences because THEY SUCK AT IT! Sorry, but as wonderful as the internet is, it has damaged people's ability to function within the English language. English is incredibly important if you want to go anywhere in life.

    That said, only when you know the rules, can you break them.
    "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

    -- Rudyard Kipling

  20. #20
    Senior Member telkanuru's Avatar
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    Comprehension be not people problem use if did grammar, would.

    Or, If people did not use grammar, comprehension would be a problem. In English, you can tell what's going on by word order only, due to irregular endings. Those who have studied Latin will tell you that their grammar is much more obvious, as it manifests itself in case endings rather than order. Thus, the sentance

    Puella dabat rosas ad puerum. (The girl gave roses to the boy) in english word-order would/could be written
    Puella ad puerum rosas dabat, or Rosas ad puerum puella dabat, etc. due to the nature of the endings.
    I'm a bit rusty, so I may have screwed up spellings. I'm not particularly good at spelling in any language.
    Also, due to its structure, learning Latin taught me English grammar.
    Last edited by telkanuru; 06-03-2005 at 03:34 PM.
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

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