Before diagramming, grammar was taught by means of its drabber older sibling, parsing. Parsing is a venerable method for teaching inflected languages like Latin; the word itself is schoolboy slang derived from pars orationis, Latin for “a part of speech.” Sometime in the 18th century, teachers began to realize that practical skills were more useful to young people than classical languages, and that the ability to speak English didn’t necessarily mean that a student spoke it well, wrote it correctly or understood its structure. To teach it, they borrowed the concept of parsing from the classical tradition in which they themselves had been trained.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
… am I talking about? A Picture of Language - NYTimes.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)