What is flow?

[I’ve just discovered a whole stack of posts under “Drafts” … no idea when I wrote this one. It was a while back.]

As a writing instructor, I’ve been chronically frustrated by the fact that composition textbooks use words no one has ever defined.

Flow, for instance.

What is it?

Or paragraph.

What is a paragraph apart from a list of sentences separated by white space from other lists of sentences inside a longer text?

The answer is that a paragraph has a topic (topic?) and the sentences have flow.

But what is flow?

I think there’s some interesting work on flow and paragraphing etc. from the Prague School of linguistics, and probably also from the field of inquiry called stylistics. But people who write composition textbooks haven’t read it. At least, not so far as I can see.

I managed to make acquaintance with the Prague School while teaching and writing, but my books on stylistics are still waiting.

Google Master is still the Master

It really is uncanny.

After I discovered that Coursera doesn’t offer a stylistics course and left it at that, Google Master surfaced English Grammar and Style at EdX.

That sounds right up my alley. Looking at the syllabus now.

By the way, there are some online courses offered in stylistics, or were a couple of years ago when I looked

I’ll try to get those links posted at some point. 

(Add that to the list — )

What do English teachers need to know about grammar? part 2

An amazing trip down memory lane from Mom of 4:

When I was at my flagship state college, in the 60s, every English major in the College of Arts and Sciences had to earn at least a B in (1) Structure of the English Language and (2) Stylistics, in that order. The professor was outstanding, demanding – I had her for another class – and widely considered to be the toughest grader in the department. I don’t think re-taking the class was possible, and I had a number of English major friends. I do know that many prospective majors bolted to the ed school, over the requirement. The ed school required neither class, although some of the top students did take Structure.

Back in the 80s, my younger kids had a new grad (different state flagship) who practically boasted – as an English teacher – that she had never diagrammed a sentence and thought it both useless and ridiculous. She might have been a better writer if she had; I was tempted to correct her communications and send them back, and my major was not even in the humanities. I spent a lot of time supervising my kids’s work…

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Putting things in order

Beth Randall leaves this observation:

Recently I’ve been seeing errors like this: “Putting things in order are difficult.” It seems that people are deciding whether to make a verb singular or plural by checking the status of the most recent noun (“things”) instead of the subject of the clause (“putting”). The horsemen of the apocalypse are not far behind …

And here’s Katharine:

Good diagnosis! Linguists sometimes call it “contact agreement” (as in “The horsemen of the apocalypse is not far behind…”).

I’d love to know more about when and where this kind of mistake happens.

What do English teachers need to know about grammar?

I don’t have an answer to that, but I do have an opinion: English teachers need to have taken at least one linguistics class somewhere along the line, and probably a traditional grammar class to boot.

We’re a long way from that standard:

A few years ago, Syntax in the Schools ran a series of articles on main and subordinate clauses — is the main idea in a sentence usually embedded in the main subject and verb?  I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised when a number of subscribers told me that the series was, for them, incomprehensible because they cannot identify clauses. And these were teachers who want to teach grammar and even belong to ATEG.

On Learning Those Pesky Parts of Speech – Dr. Ed Vavra


Looking at the same thing at the same time with Andrew, part 2

re: shared attention and GrammarTrainer I had a funny experience a few days ago. Funny and wonderful.

I had gone to Andrew’s day program and logged him onto a new GrammarTrainer session. Then, when all seemed to be going well, I started reading my phone instead of looking at the laptop Andrew was using. (In theory, he’s supposed to use the program independently….) 

And Andrew didn’t like it !

He poked me, protested (“Huh!“), and jabbed his pointer finger at the laptop screen. I thought he must have been having trouble with a question, but he wasn’t. He just wanted me to look at the same thing he was looking at. 

I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

And see:
Syntax is not so easy
Looking at the same thing at the same time with Andrew
Looking at the same thing at the same time with Andrew, part 2

Looking at the same thing at the same time with Andrew

This may be a post only parents of autistic children and adults can really ‘get,’ but here goes.

One of the most painful aspects of autism for the parent (and no doubt for siblings and others close to the child) is the profound deficit in shared attention:

Joint [shared] attention occurs when two people share interest in an object or event and there is understanding between the two people that they are both interested in the same object or event.

Joint attention should emerge around 9 months of age and be very well-established by 18 months of age.

A 9-month old baby points. (Right? It’s been a while.)

A 9-month old baby points, and, when you point, s/he follows your finger to see what it is you’re pointing at. Parent and child look at the same thing at the same time, and they do so on purpose because people share. 

But autistic babies don’t point. At least, neither of my autistic children pointed. Nor did they react when I pointed.

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Progress Report, part 2

re: Happy New Year

  1. Dry January is going swimmingly. Not so swimmingly that I’m tempted to adopt Dry February, too, but never mind that. I recommend it. 
  2. 7,000 steps is going. Mostly, I’m hitting the mark, even this week, under the influence of a protracted flu that keeps me up nights coughing. 
  3. Andrew and I are 2 steps forward, 1 step back, which has set me to wondering whether all implicit learning is like that. More on that later. 

Today’s question: suppose I were to buy the ridiculously pricey Nylora tights leggings I’ve been cruising at Neiman Marcus.

Would that make me get in my car and drive to the gym? Because I bought ridiculously pricey Nylora tights leggings so now I’m obligated? 

And see:
Happy New Year !
Sober January, too
Progress report
News you can use: the 7,000

Progress Report, part 2