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The difference between Parts I and II of “Our Language” does not correspond to the difference between classes of higher and of lower grade, for the two parts are meant to accompany and supplement each other. Part I, therefore, is not an introduction to Part II, but is designed to provide for children such training in the ready use of good English as they can never get by the study of grammar alone.
Part II is really an elementary text-book in grammar. Beginning with the Sentence, the essentials of form and structure are so presented as to be thoroughly intelligible to children, for whom, of course, the whole book has been made.
Abrupt transitions are avoided, and with a view to educating the reason as well as the understanding, an effort has been made to have each part naturally and logically connected with what precedes and what follows it. Each subject, moreover, is fully explained and illustrated, often by inductive exercises ; so that no one will call the book a mere skeleton to be filled out with great labor and varying success by teachers. Thoughtful study of the sections in large type and of the illustrative examples will enable the learner without much further help to apprehend the most important principles and to apply them intelligently in the practical exercises which make up more than half the body of the book.
No chapter is entitled Syntax; but the construction of sentences is developed from the beginning as fast and as fully as practicable, so
that a child's acquaintance with verbs, for instance, is by no means deferred until he reaches the chapter so headed. Without intentionally omitting any essential principle, much that has been engrafted upon English grammar from other languages is left out as false or burdensome. The invariable basis of classification for the parts of speech is use, and for inflection it is form. Cases, for example, are always treated as forms, of which the noun has two, and a few pronouns three, the many constructions of these parts of speech being considered separately. In the direction of simplicity verb-phrases are distinguished from simple verbs.
For presenting the analysis of sentences to the eye, a new and simple method is followed. Its value has been thoroughly tested both in illustrative blackboard work and in the preparation of lessons by classes. It is easily applied to all ordinary sentences without rewriting them, or writing them in an extended form.
For long or involved sentences other methods are substituted.
The infinitive and the participle receive fuller treatment than is customary, because, being as common and as important as other elements of the sentence, they ought to be equally well understood : and their construction has been developed with a view to making even children see that it is generally the same as that of nouns and adjectives. Without saying that the subjunctive should be abandoned or that it should be preserved, the fact is recognized that in a certain class of expressions nothing else can be used.
The sections that treat of derivation contain only the most elementary statements, but they are inserted with the hope that teachers will give their pupils the pleasure of using this key to the making and meaning of words.
Very little is said of idioms or of elliptical expressions. Such of them as are not too difficult for any but well-advanced students, can be readily explained by one who is familiar with the regular construction.