Showing posts with label class. Show all posts
Showing posts with label class. Show all posts

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Use of Connectives and Transitions in Composition

Connected Brain Zones

§ 371. IV. The use of connectives. The words of connection and transition between clauses, members, and sentences, may be made, according to the skill or the awkwardness of the writer, sources of strength or of weakness.

It is always a source of weakness for two prepositions, having different antecedents, to be co-ordinated in connection with a common subsequent.

This mode of expression has been called "the splitting of particles;" a name not very applicable to it as it occurs in English construction. The proper name for it is the one implied in the italicized words above. The following is an example.

"Though personally unknown to, I have always been an admirer of, Mr. Calhoun."

The way to correct it is to complete the first clause, and let the last, if either, be elliptic; thus:

"Though personally unknown to Mr. Calhoun, I have always admired him," or "been an admirer of him."

It is proper to remark that the very construction here condemned, enjoys a kind of toleration in legal and formal documents. The object in such compositions is not strength but clearness. Perhaps a good deal may be conceded to the usages of a profession proverbial for its attachment to what is old and of long standing; but in all compositions that have any pretension to literary merit, this construction must be disallowed.

§ 372. The most enfeebling of all practices in writing is the constant repetition of the conjunction and, whether as a contextual or a member-joining particle. It is a fault into which young persons are peculiarly apt to fall. Sometimes in writing a narrative, when their minds are eagerly carrying on the thread of the story, they will indite a series of sentences, each commencing with the formula "and then," or "and so;" altogether unaware of the slovenly manner in which they are using language. To avoid this, let the pupil avail himself of all the expedients in his power for varying the expression, and avoid the necessity of using this one conjunction so often.

§ 373. With regard to the use of co-ordinating conjunctions in a series of terms or short clauses, there are two different figures of syntax, directly the opposite of each other, each of which may be so used as to contribute to Strength. They are called Asyndeton and Polysyndeton. In the one, the connecting conjunction is entirely omitted from a series of co-ordinates; in the other it is carefully repeated, either before every member of the series, or else between each pair. In the former, the object is to present a succession of spirited images; in the latter, the writer desires to make the mind of the reader dwell upon each successive thought, not passing from it until its full force is felt. But they both possess what is called tho cumulative power; heaping up before the mind a combination of thoughts that are intended powerfully to affect it. Witness the following examples, in which these figures are combined with the balanced construction, showing that St. Paul evidently delighted in such rhetorical devices.

"There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all." (Observe how the asyndeton and the polysyndeton are combined in the foregoing extract.)

"Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

"It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body."

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

"For all things are yours; whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas; or the world or life or death; or things present, or things to come;—all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

§ 374. No single feature of style more plainly marks the mature mind, conversant with literature, than the judicious use of contextual connectives. These include Sot merely the conjunctions, but all those adverbs and adverbial phrases that indicate the relation of the sentences which they severally introduce, to the preceding context. All of them, including the conjunctions, have been subjected to a searching classification, which, however, is of no great practical value. To base upon such a classification a system of rules, would be to invest with difficulty a matter which would be more economically learned from extensive and varied reading.

SOURCE: John Mitchell Bonnell, A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867).

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Bonnell's list of topics for debate in class (1867)

In A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867), John Mitchell Bonnell explained the value of Extemporaneous Composition;  Debating by the Class; and proposed a list of topics for debate. This is an extract from his book.

The following list presents a few of the questions that afford good fields for debate.

Does wealth exert more influence than intelligence?

Should a criminal be capitally condemned on circumstantial evidence?

Are banks more beneficial than injurious?

Ought military schools to be encouraged?

Should colleges be endowed?

Did the French revolution advance the cause of liberty in Europe?

Is there any real danger of the over-population of the globe?

Is country life more favourable to the cultivation of virtue than life in a city?

Is history a more useful study than biography?

Is ambition more destructive of personal happiness than avarice?

Is it the duty of good men to discountenance the theatre?

Is the Bible more essential to the spread of Christianity than the living ministry?

Does poetry demand a higher order of genius than oratory?

Does military life tend to qualify men to become good civil governors?

Has Mohammedanism produced more evil than good?

Is it ever right to deceive a rational man?

Should the chief end of civil punishment be the reformation of criminals, or the prevention of crime?

Ought the state to provide for the free education of all children within its borders?

Is it expedient to form colonies of convicts?

Would a congress of nations be practical or beneficial?

Was the field of eloquence in ancient Greece or Rome superior to that in our own country?

Are novels more injurious than beneficial?

Is it expedient to unite manual with mental labour in an educational establishment?

Which exerts the greater influence on society, the teacher or the preacher?

Which controls public opinion more extensively, the ministry or the newspaper press?

Does a natural proclivity to crime diminish the guilt of the act?

Should a member of the American House of Representatives be bound by the will of his constituents?

Do savage nations possess an exclusive right to the soil?

Should the right of suffrage be co-extensive with resident manhood?

Is a lawyer justifiable in defending a cause that he believes to be bad?

Ought the Protective Policy or the Free Trade principles to prevail?

Ought gambling to be suppressed by law?

Which is the better for the development of good character, poverty or riches?

Ought the liberty of the press to be restricted?

Ought imprisonment for debt to be abolished?

Should corporal punishment be allowed in schools?

Ought religious institutions to be supported by law?

Should infidel publications be suppressed by law?

Should atheists be eligible to office?

Has government a right to suppress Mormon or Mohammedan polygamy?

Are all mankind descended from one pair?

Is man responsible for his belief?

Can any of the moral attributes of God be proved from the light of nature?

Is a scholastic education preferable to a private one?

Are the principles of the Peace society practicable?

Should the course of study in college be the same for all pupils?

Are monastic orders favourable to the cultivation of true piety?

Are inequalities of rank in society favourable to social progress?

Was the influence of Jefferson upon his age and country beneficial?

Was Bonaparte greater in the field than in the cabinet?

Have the United States the right to forbid European interference with other American governments?

Does morality keep pace with civilization?

Which has done the greater service to the cause of truth, philosophy or poetry?

Is the cultivation of the Fine Arts conducive to virtue?

Has sectarianism done more to advance or retard the interests of Christianity?

Is a "little learning" more dangerous than ignorance?

Further Reading

On Extemporaneous Composition and Debating by the Class... here.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Finding your authentic academic voice

Are you still sharpening your use of academic language, or are you loosening the reins?

The title of this blog points to the tensions involved in professional educational writing. In one sense the purely personal, original, pre-academic voice is a fiction. By joining the ranks of academe your voice has already begun to switch from a personal to a public voice. Taking the micky becomes parody or satire, for instance. Academic writing loses colloquial speech-like qualities and takes on the jargon of professional authenticity. And speech also tends to lose the accent and dialect of your class roots. Sadly, standard academic English is a rather middle-class business proposition. There is a gain but there is also a loss.

But academic voice in the arts and the social sciences need not be the bleak accent of dry neutrality and emotionless abstraction. Surely there's an error in losing the individual idiosyncrasy of the human pulse in this domain of work?

While it is true that the lexis of academic disputation is often overused it is clearly helpful if you want to signal degrees or shades of difference in your interpretation. In that regard arts and social sciences judgements are not derived from logical positivism, and evidence and interpretation have shades of gray. All writers also deploy a variety and range of connectives to link ideas and signpost the flow of thoughts. The trick is not to use them too much, or too little, because you will end up sounding like a robot, rather than a sentient and sensitive human creature! In summary ...

Language is your tool, not your master.

Is it worth pointing our that grammarians are divided between those who describe actual living usage, and those who try to enforce, regulate and prescribe based on tradtion? Our greatest writers, such as Shakespeare, were often ungrammatical by modern standards.

Have we become too prescriptive and normative in our deployment of academic writing skills? Academic composition has certainly spawned an academic sub-industry of poorly and well-paid tutors who will offer you the keys to success. They will help you to pay lip-service to the discourse of acdemia.

Academic discourse is a specialist use of English which is still evolving. I suspect that it’s becoming less stiff and stylised nowadays. An example of the current informaility is the tendency to use the first person pronoun “I” instead of the neutral objectivity of the third person. Even abbreviations and speech like contractions are now common, as I’VE noticed in recently published academic books. By claiming to be a common language of transparency academic discourse pretends to show us the ideas, rather than the person speaking them. Eventually by playing them game you lose your consciousness of the rules by which it operates.

At its worst academic discourse serves as a defensive armour or shield; at its best it supports the elegant deployment of necessary subtleties.

Any thoughts? Have you been sharpening or loosening your academic style?

Useful Sites

Academic Phrasebank. Created by the University of Manchester.

Using English for Academic Purposes. A Guide for Students in Higher Education

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)