Tag Archives: diction/grammar/style/usage

Term of Art: Determiner

“Determiner: A part of speech or word class that determines or limits a noun phrase, showing whether a phrase is definite (the, this, my), indefinite (a, some, much), or limiting it in some other way, such as through negation (no in no hope). Determiners include the articles and words traditionally classified as kinds of adjective or pronoun. They precede adjectives: many clever people, not clever many people; my poor friend, not poor my friend. Most words that function as determiners can be used alone as pronouns (this in Look at this picture and Look at this) or have related pronouns (every/everyone/everything, my/mine, no/none). Some grammarians regard as determiners such phrases as plenty of… in We have plenty of money.

Determiners can be subdivided into three groups according to their position in the noun phrase: (1) Central determiners. These may be articles (a, the in a storm, the weather, demonstratives (this, those in this day, those clouds), possessives (my, your in my hat, your umbrella), some quantifiers (each, every, no, any, some in each moment, every day, no excuse, any help, some clouds). Such determiners are mutually exclusive and contrast with adjectives, with which however they can co-occur: the best weather, any possible help, no reliable news. (2) Post-determiners. These are used after central determiners and including numbers (two, first in those two problems, my first job) and some quantifiers (many, several in your many kindnesses, his several attempts). (3) Pre-determiners. These are used before central determiners, mainly referring to quantity. They include: all, both, half (all this time, both your houses, half a loaf), double, twice and other multiplier expressions (double the money, twice the man he was, once each day, six times a year), fractions (a quarter of the price), and such and what in exclamations (Such a waste of money, What a good time we had!)

They can also be divided according to the countability of the nouns the co-occur with: (1) With singular countable nouns only: a/an, each, every, either, neither. (2) With singular countable and uncountable nouns: this, that. (3) With uncountable nouns only: much and little/a little, and usually less, least. (4) With uncountable and with plural countable nouns: all, enough, more, most, a lot, lots of, and the primary meaning of some, any. (5) With countable plurals only: a few, few, fewer, fewest, both, many, several, these, those, and numbers. (6) with most common nouns: the, no, the possessives my, your, etc., and some wh- words (whose roll/rolls/bread, by which date, whatever food you eat).”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005

“The Road Not Taken”

Here is a reading on Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” accompanied by its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This is a rare two-page reading in the series of materials I have prepared using texts from The Intellectual Devotional series; it includes a full typescript of the text of the poem as well as a surprisingly thorough exegesis of the poem itself.

I only wrote this recently, but I did so because in the years that I worked in New York City, especially in the South Bronx, a number of paraeducators with whom I worked were students at Hostos Community College on 149th Street and the Grand Concourse, one of the Bronx’s great intersections. “The Road Not Taken” was at the time and may still be a staple of one or more of the American literature courses at the school. As this reading points out, this is a difficult poem to interpret; Frost himself said so (his remark is one of the “additional questions” on the reading and worksheet), calling the poem “tricky.” Even The Paris Review weighed in on the subject of “The Road Not Taken,” calling it “The Most Misread Poem in America.”

So, for students everywhere wrestling with these verses, this post may be useful to you.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Codify (vt)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the verb codify, which is only used transitively, so don’t forget your direct object–you must codify something.

Merriam-Webster defines this verb quite simply: “to reduce to a code.” I wrote this worksheet because this word kept showing up in social studies texts in the years in which I was teaching global studies. What students will need to understand (and this is an opportunity to awaken prior knowledge and put it to use, particularly if your global studies curriculum includes, as it should, material on the Code of Hammurabi) is that the word code defines “a systematic statement of a body of laws especially: one given statutory force” and “a system of principles or rules.” Put another way, the verb codify connotes “to make into law.”

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Cultural Literacy: Marbury v. Madison

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Marbury v. Madison, the United State Supreme Court’s legal decision that established the principle of judicial review–i.e. that the Court is the final arbiter of the constitutionality of any legislation drafted and passed in this republic.

This is a half-page worksheet with three questions that serves only as on introduction to this decision and its implications. I’m not an expert in United States history, but this is clearly a big conceptual moment in the history of this nation, so I must assume Marbury v. Madison merits–indeed requires– a much deeper dive than this document affords. For example, the Court, before Marbury v. Madison, had in 1796 exercised judicial review in the Hylton v. United States case–the adducing of which would help students understand a key concept in Supreme Court jurisprudence: stare decisis, also known as precedent.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Ellipsis

“Ellipsis: A figure of speech in which a word or number of words, which have little to the logical construction of the sentence, are left out and supplied by the reader.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cartel (n)

Here’s one more post before I take a vacation from this blog for a few days, to wit, a context clues worksheet on the noun cartel. It’s a word that shows up in social studies classes, particularly those United States history classes that deal with 1970s global oil markets and their effect on the American economy.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Here is a reading on F. Scott Fitzgerald along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

This is a biography of Fitzgerald. While it does include a paragraph on The Great Gatsby, this short reading supplies the author’s personal details. There are other materials on Fitzgerald and Gatsby (and more forthcoming) on this site–simply use the search bar in the upper-right of the home page.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

A Learning Support on the Stylistic and Typographical Conventions for Using Numbers in Prose

Here is a learning support on the conventions for writing numbers in prose. This document has a big open field, and is in Microsoft Word, so it is at your–and more importantly, your students’–disposal; you can modify or adapt it to your needs.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Common Errors in English Usage: Unkept (adj), Unkempt (adj)

Here is an English usage worksheet on the adjectives unkept and unkempt. These are a couple of solid modifiers in sufficiently frequent use in the vernacular to teach them to students. This is an English usage worksheet, so one of its purposes besides introducing vocabulary students may not know is to familiarize students with the concept of proper usage. They’re sufficiently near in sound to each other that I’ve tagged this post as containing homophones.

You’ll find ten modified cloze exercises on this page. As always, this is a Microsoft Word document, so you can adapt it to your students’ needs.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Edgar Allan Poe

Here is a reading on Edgar Allan Poe along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I believe he is taught at the secondary level. This is a good introduction to Poe’s biography and his bibliography.

Have you read Poe, beyond hearing James Earl Jones read “The Raven” on The Simpsons first “Treehouse of Horror” episode? I confess my own reading of Poe doesn’t extend very far beyond that. He is a very influential figure in the history of American letters. His first editions are some of the most sought after in the antiquarian book trade; his very first book, Tamerlane, which doesn’t even bear his name (the author is given as “A Bostonian) is a high spot in book collecting–it is known as the “black tulip” of American literature. The last copy that came up at auction sold for $662,000. His influence abroad may be even more pronounced, especially in France.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.