February 28, 2011

Stanley Fish’s Structure of a Sentence

Anyone who’s tried to teach sentence diagramming knows the horrors of figuring out the parts of a sentence. It also effectively points out that (most) teachers of English are not linguists and that the English language is ubercomplex. We can’t do it; how can we expect students to?

I’m reading How to Write a Sentence, by Stanley Fish. I’m only partway through, but he gives us such a fabulous way to look at sentences! He points out that, instead of trying to figure out the parts of speech or whatever, there is a basic sentence structure: “doer-doing-done to.” For example, “Bob collected coins” or “John hit the ball.” You can also shorten it to “doer-doing” such as “Bob collected” or “Joyce jumped.” But all the other added clauses or complexity fits or adds to this basic structure.

Isn’t this brilliant? It really is a great way to look at a sentence. Much easier than parts of speech.

Questions of the Day:  Have you tried to diagram sentences recently?  Were you successful?

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