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child's sentences. Great men often compose involved and intricate sentences; and to read great literature requires the ability to straighten out tangled threads of thought. This power the student is constantly acquiring in the analysis of sentences. And right at the beginning the word should be spoken, that analysis is the important part of grammar. Parsing is of much less value. To give the person, number, and gender of a noun requires but little thought; even case may be correctly guessed half the time. Indeed, parsing seems little more than a knack; while analysis demands thought. And this analytic thought develops intellectual strength and acumen, invaluable in the study of literature.
This brings us to the third and most important consideration in favor of the study of grammar. There is no subject a child in the grades pursues that makes such demands upon his reason. Arithmetic may at times approach it; but spelling, geography, and history are chiefly exercises of the memory. Grammar is par excellence the study for developing the reasoning faculty. From a group of sentences the pupil is set to discover some common characteristic; possibly he is put upon the track of an objective complement. From many examples he finds out that this new element always names an attribute of the object complement; and next that this element always names the result of the action asserted by the verb. These are the characteristics of this new element; and the pupil has arrived at them in exactly the same way that a classification is made in botany or chemistry. The process is the inductive method of modern science. After the classification has been made, and the characteristics of the class have been accurately stated in a definition, the pupil fixes his knowledge by the application of his definition to a large number of cases found in
the material for practice. Here he is unconsciously acquiring skill in methods of deductive reasoning. So that it may truly be said that grammar is the elementary school of logic, the first study of the laws of thought.
This text-book has been constructed with these three principles in view. A grammar must give guides for the correction of errors in speech and composition ; it should give to students the ability to unravel the intricate web of thought found in literature, and it fails when it does not yield strong scientific thinking power. The illustrative sentences, the development questions, and the exercises are arranged with this threefold purpose.
There are some questions that are very difficult for pupils in the grammar grades. Indeed, the commonest idioms of every day speech are the most difficult problems the student has to contend with. If these idioms were not so common, they might well be omitted from any elementary text-book; but because they are so common, because they form such an important part of our language, they demand classification and explanation. These difficulties are found principally in the chapters upon “ Some Common Verbs” and “The Subjunctive Mode.” Authorities do not agree upon all these matters ; but the author of this book has followed those who are acknowledged masters, and who seem to him to have a thorough and intimate understanding of the history and development of our language, and of its present usage. It has not been the intention to find easy solutions that do not solve, or to make statements that are but half-truths. These matters are extremely difficult in themselves ; they require of the student the most careful discrimination ; and no method of treatment can make the inherent difficulties easy. Whether a pupil entirely conquers these problems or not, if he learns what they are, and solves some of
them, he has, by these exercises, made great gains in his ability to do close, accurate thinking.
This book contains many sentences, — possibly too many ; but it is easier for a teacher to omit what are unnecessary than to find time in a crowded day to collect more. Any exercise is useful until its lesson is learned, no longer. It would be as sensible to continue submitting tanagers to a student of birds for their classification, or trilliums to a student of flowers, after both were thoroughly known, as to continue giving a student of language adverbial nouns when adverbial nouns were perfectly familiar. Use only as many sentences as are needed.
Moreover, it is worse than a waste of precious time to continue detailed analysis when it has become familiar rote work. Such repetition induces thoughtless, slovenly inaccuracy. A prepositional phrase is generally composed of a preposition and a modified noun ; and it is a positive injury to a class to go on separating all prepositional phrases into their component parts. The same principle holds with many of the subordinate processes necessary to the complete analysis of sentences, as well as with much of the parsing. Stale, unprofitable matters should be dropped ; fresh, inviting problems should be set for study. Grammar can be made one of the most valuable studies in the curriculum ; but it should be made a fascinating subject as well. It is a branch of study that yields bountiful returns by cultivating greater purity of speech, by giving an understanding and appreciation of our rich, beautiful literature, and by training and developing the reasoning faculty, — the chief glory of educated man.
W. F. WEBSTER. MINNEAPOLIS, May 23, 1904.