Essentials in English Grammar - For the Use of Schools

Front Cover
Read Books, 2008 - 292 pages
PREFACE. IN preparing the present work, my intention has been to make it fulfil strictly the promise of its title. I have endeavored to put before the learner those matters which are of most essential consequence to him, those which will best serve him as preparation for further and deeper knowledge of his own language, for the study of other languages, and for that of language in general. That the leading object of the study of English grammar is to teach the correct use of English is, in my view, ail error, and one which is gradually becoming removed, giving way to the sounder opinion that grammar is the reflective study of language, for a variety of purposes, of which correctness in writing is only one, and a secondary or subordinate one -by no means unimportant, but best attained when sought indirectly. It shoilld be a pervading element in the whole school and home training of the young, to make them use their own tongue with accuracy and force and, along with any special drilling directed to this grid, some of the rudimentary distinctions and rules of grammar are conveniently taught but that is not the study of grammar, and it will not bear the intrusion of much formal grammar without being spoiled for its own ends. It is constant use and practice, under never-failing watch and correction, that makes good writers and speakers the application of direct authority is the most efficient corrective. Grammar has its part to contribute, but rather in the higher than in the lower stages of the work. One must be a somewhat reflective user of language to amend even here and there a point by grammatical reasons and no one ever changed from a bad speaker to a good one by applying the rules of grammar to what he said. To teach English grammar to an Euglish speaker is, as it seems to me, to take advantage of the fact that the pupil knows the facts of the language, in order to turn his atten- tion to the underlying principles and relations, to the philosophy of language as illustrated in his own use of it, in a more effective manner than is otherwise possible. Foreign languages are generally acquired in an artificial way, the facts coming ticketed with certain granlmatical labels which the scholar learns as if they were part of the facts themselves and the grammar part is apt to remain long a wholly artificial system to him. Almost every one can remember the time when it first began to dawn upon his mind that the familiar terms and distinctions of grammar really meant something. But this is partly because chil- dren are and with good reason set to learning foreign languages before their reflective powers are enough developed to make such things intelligible to them. If the pupil is bright enough, his Latin grammar comes by degrees to be to him something more than a heap of dry bones 6nd then he gets the benefit, in its application by analogy to other languages, his own included, of the hard work he has done upon it. A real understanding of grammar, however, he can get sooner and more surely in con- nection with his own tongue than anywhere else, if his attention is first directed to that which most needs to be learned, unencumbered with burdensome detail, and if a clear method is followed, with abundance of illustration.English grammar can in this way be made to pay back, with interest, the debt which it owes to Latin. It must be for practical use to show how far the endeavor to reach these ends is successful, in the work here put forth...

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About the author (2008)

The late William Dwight Whitney was Professor of Sanskrit in Yale University, Knight of the Prussian Order Pour le Merite, Corresponding Member of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres of the Institute of France, etc., and Editor-in-Chief of The Century Dictionary, an Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language.

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