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It may be felt by many that there should be some reasonable justification for adding another text-book on grammar to the long list of such books already before the teaching public; and it is not without a constant recognition of this fact that this book has been prepared. It would seem almost impossible at this late day to present anything very strikingly new in a science as old as that of the grammar of our language. Not only has the field been worked over and over, but the field itself is by nature limited. Both from their logical and their historical points of view the grammatical subtleties of our tongue have been explained by one author or another in almost every conceivable way, and about all that has been left to the student of grammar is a choice among authorities.
It is not the purpose of this book to add anything new along these lines. As its name indicates, it is an elementary treatise of the subject. It is intended for use in the upper grades of grammar schools, where it is believed that the teaching of grammar is found most difficult. The only excuse for being that can be claimed for the book must be upon the basis of its order of arrangement, its method, its simplicity and clearness. In other words, whatever merits it may have are fundamentally pedagogic.
The general order of presentation of the subject cannot fail to appeal to the teacher's logical sense, while the success with which
this method of presenting the subject has been met in the schoolroom bears substantial evidence to its practicability. The fact has too often been ignored that in taking up for the first time the scientific study of grammar the pupil is already well acquainted with the data of his study- the language that he is daily and hourly using. It is not at all necessary that he should begin with a study of words and undertake to build up the language from these. By imitation he has already made most of the changes in the forms of words his own with little thought of the “whys” and the “wherefores.” Language has up to this time been an almost unconscious medium for the expression of his thought. It is in this expression of his thought that we must hope to interest him. But his thought has been expressed in sentences. With sentences he is already familiar. It would seem, therefore, that the logical unit for the beginning of the pupil's study of grammar is the sentence by means of which he expresses his thought, not the words of which that sentence is composed. For this reason Part I of this book has been devoted to the discussion of the sentence and its parts, leading up to a general treatment of the analysis of sentences. A single chapter, however, of this first part has been given to the treatment of words, it being quite necessary for the pupils' intelligent comprehension of the subject that he shall be able to distinguish the various parts of speech.
Part II has been devoted to the orderly discussion and more detailed classification of the parts of speech. To these two general divisions of the subject proper has been added a third part, containing suggestive work in composition. The extent to which this work can be used must be left to the discretion of the teacher. In its use the order of the book may be followed, leaving Part III until the study of the grammar has been completed, or it may seem advisable to use it as collateral work in conjunction with the study of Parts I and II. Attention is especially directed to Chapter XXIII, in which are to be found suggestions for the building up of compositions.
In regard to the method which has been followed in the treatment of individual subjects, it may be said that it is entirely and consistently inductive, because, again, the inductive method has seemed to be the logical method. If the pupil is already familiar with the data of his subject, why should he not reason from those data? Why should not definitions and rules follow naturally from his analysis of given illustrations, instead of being stated arbitrarily or discussed abstractly, and then followed by illustrations to which these definitions and rules must be applied ?
Every effort has been made to use in the discussions language which is at once simple and clear. Of course there are certain parts of English grammar which are in themselves difficult for the child to comprehend, and for the explanation of which it is not always possible to find very simple language. The aim for simplicity, however, has been a conscious one. Elaborate classifications and discussion of the finer technicalities of grammar have alike been avoided. An effort has also been made to restrict within reasonable limits the tendency toward a rapidly increasing system of terminology. The names by which grammatical constructions are designated have been chosen with regard alike to their appropriateness and to their customary usage.
In the matter of definitions care has been taken to make them both inclusive of all possible illustrations of the thing defined and exclusive of all else.
No attempt has been made to treat the subject in any respect from its historical point of view, the authors believing that this should be reserved for more advanced study.