The Politics of Grammar and the Importance of UsingEdited Standard Written English inAcademic and Professional Writing
What isgrammar? Who cares? (We’ll get back to this.)
Definition of GRAMMAR1a : the study of the classes of words, their inflections, and theirfunctions and relations in the sentenceb : a study of what is to be preferred and what avoided in inflectionand syntax2a : the characteristic system of inflections and syntax of a languageb : a system of rules that defines the grammaticalstructure of a language Source: merriam-webster.com
Definition of INFLECTION1: the act or result of curving or bending : bend Source:2 merriam-webster.com: change in pitch or loudness of the voice3a : the change of form that words undergo to mark such distinctions as those of case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, or voiceb : a form, suffix, or element involved in such variation
Definition of SYNTAX Source:1 merriam-webster.coma : the way in which linguistic elements (as words) are puttogether to form constituents (as phrases or clauses)b : the part of grammar dealing with this2: a connected or orderly system : harmonious arrangement ofparts or elements <the syntax of classical architecture>3: syntactics especially as dealing with the formal properties oflanguages or calculi My over view: the term The part of grammar The part of grammar “grammar” refers to the concerned with word concerned with the order way we use language and usage, of what form of a of words in language is our rules for using word to use in a given syntax. Non-native language. Grammar has language situation, is speakers/writers t wo parts: inﬂection and called inﬂection. When to struggle with syntax syntax. use “who” and “whom” is more often than native a matter of inﬂection. speakers.
Which is correct?Which features errors in syntax?Which features errors in inﬂection?She and I went to the store.Me and her gone to the store.Went store to she I and the.The second sentence does not reveal its meaning as precisely as the ﬁrst. Thethird group of words cannot be considered a sentence at all because it does notcommunicate a thought.The difference between the ﬁrst and second sentences is a difference of degree.One is considerably more effective than the other, but both communicatemeaning. The third does not.
1. So now we know what grammar is and what kind of errorswe’re most likely to have in our writing...if both the ﬁrst andthe second sentences in the previous slide communicatemeaning, what does it matter?2. Why should someone fail ENG 1113 for using languageconsistent with sentence two if it conveys meaning?This is where it grammar becomes political. I recently foundpart of a speech (we will listen to in the next slide) in a bookthat I am reading about teaching writing (Engaging Ideas byJohn C. Bean). It illustrates the politics of grammar. It is froma speech by Civil Rights Era political activist, Stokely (My answers)Carmichael. 1. The two sentences differ in how precisely and effectively theyThe slide following the speech will analyze the content and convey meaning.presentation of Carmichael’s message in order to illustrate thepoint that speaking and writing in the standard of the language 2. For one’s writing to have credibility and tois most advantageous to anyone wanting to compel and convincean audience. earn the serious consideration of academic and professional readers, it must be presented in Edited Standard Written English. To pass the course, students not only have to demonstrate skill in writing effective content, but also establish the ability present that content in Edited Written Standard English.
Stokely Carmichael *He coined the terms “black power” and “institutional racism” *He was active in the Black Panther Party *He worked with Martin Luther King Jr. on several occasions but ultimately disagreed with King’s non-violent approach to change and pursuit of an integrated society Listen to him here (then go to the next slide to read the text of his speech): http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=plz0vb2Qczo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plz0vb2QczoWe are an African people, nothing else. We have always been an African people.We have always maintained our own value system, and I will prove that to you.As much as he has tried, our people have resisted for 413 years in this wilderness,and they resisted for this generation to carry out what must be done. We cannotfail our ancestors. We cannot fail our ancestors. We cannot fail our ancestors.We resisted in every way you can point to. Take the English language. There arecats who come here from Italy, from Germany, from Poland, from France. In twogenerations they speak english perfectly. We have never spoken English correctly.Never have we spoken English correctly. Never. Never.Never.And that is because our people consciously resisted a language that did notbelong to us. Never did. Never will. Anyhow they try to run it down our throats, weain’t gone have it. We ain’t gone have it. You must understand that as a level ofresistance. Anybody can speak that simple honkeys language correctly. Anybodycan do it. We have not done it because we have resisted. Resisted.NOTICE: Carmichael’s speech is, with only the exception of minor and clearlyintentional deviations, STANDARD ENGLISH.
SO, why doesn’t Carmichaelpractice what he preaches? What Carmichael calls “that simple honkey’s language” is Standard English. His message to resist using Standard English is delivered almost entirely in Standard English. The exception is the repeated line, “We ain’t gone have it, “ but this is an intentional deviation included to reinforce a message which otherwise transposes as Standard English. So, why does he use Standard English to rally an audience to resist speaking Standard English? Is it because he wants his words to carry the most power and inﬂuence possible with the audience (or audiences) to whom he is speaking? Is it because he wants to communicate as clearly as possible to the broadest audience?
In academic, professional, and public life,presenting your thoughts in Edited StandardWritten English is a matter of credibility.If you want your words to be takenseriously by a general audience, useStandard English.
In the real world, who cares?instructors andprofessorsbosses andprospective employerscoworkerscustomersemployees
Ways of looking at grammar instructionat the college level: The rules of “The teaching of grammar must be grammar is the taught explicitly to exercise of power and produce improved skill in writing little else; we should grammatically turn to more correct sentences in important Standard English. matters.” (Patrick Hartwell, 1985)
Study after study, dating back to thesixties, demonstrates that theteaching of grammar rules does notresult in better student writing.Hartwell uses this analogy: baseballcoaches dont sit their players downand have them learn the extremelycomplex scientiﬁc formula forcatching a ﬂy ball before they putthem on the ﬁeld and have themcatch ﬂy balls. Furthermore, couldany of the players ﬁgure out thecomplex formula, that would in noway indicate that the same playerwould be the best among his peers atcatching ﬂy balls. Simply put, Hartwelland many other scholars haveconcluded that the teaching ofgrammar does not improve writing.
The unfortunate reality is that a high percentage ofstudents continue to struggle with the formal rules ofEnglish and are not well prepared to present theirthoughts in Edited Standard Written English.However, in one classroom of students, three may notunderstand how to punctuate complete thoughts clearly,ﬁve may be in the habit of using commas like salt andpepper, ﬁve may have serious difﬁculty with spelling,three may struggle with subject-verb agreement, andseven may use Standard English effectively. The focus ofthe course remains on improving students ability to writewell organized, detailed, and sophisticated content thatillustrates evidence of critical thought.
At the college level, ﬁlling in the gaps of yourunderstanding of the rules of grammar andmechanics is an individual responsibility. Takeadvantage of relevant chapters and pages of yourtextbook or resources available online, such asthe online writing lab for Purdue Universityknown as The OWL. (Google OWL Purdue and youwill ﬁnd a treasure trove of resources for correctusage.)
Compare grammar to fashion: consider the occasion and dress appropriately. If you showed up for work or a job interview looking like this character, you’d be dismissed. You would not make it past the front door. DRESS APPROPRIATELY. Likewise, if your academic and professional writing is as sloppy, it does not merit serious consideration. EDIT FOR STANDARD ENGLISH.
Check out these sites for further proof: http://www.copyblogger.com/5-common-mistakes-that-make-you- look-dumb/ http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10things/10-ﬂagrant-grammar- mistakes-that-make-you-look-stupid/320 http://www.you-can-teach-writing.com/grammar_websites.htmlThis last one is forprospective middle schoolteachers and points outtop status markingerrors that everyoneshould strive to avoid.The key is to realize thatlanguage use=status.
Overview:Grammar is the way we use language and it is a system of rulesfor using language.Studies show that teaching grammar at the college level does notresult in improved writing. In this course, using correct grammar isa revision issue, and should be considered when editing your writingfor presentation.Using correct grammar in academic writing is a matter of style andcredibility, and the ability to do so is a pre-requisite skill of thiscourse.It is smart to follow the rules of grammar for professional andacademic occasions; make your own call for other occasions.
For this class, the only assignments that willbe graded for Edited Standard WrittenEnglish are ﬁnal drafts of papers andexamination essays. The rubric I will use tograde your papers is included in my CourseOutline. Your ﬁnal papers are expected tohave fewer than three deviations fromEdited Standard Written English per page (orper 300 words). Papers with more errorsthan this are not eligible for passing grades.