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Grammatical analysis strategies are strategies for separating the formal properties of language from the use of language to communicate. This separation makes it possible to create metalinguistic representations of words, phrases, and sentences; to communicate about them clearly and precisely with other people; and to reason more effectively about how the wording of a sentence affects the meaning it communicates. Viewed in this light, learning grammar (such as parts of speech and sentence-diagramming) is designed to create richer mental representations of the text, enabling the reader to pinpoint ambiguities, dysfluencies, and other infelicities; enabling the reviewer to identify what needs to be fixed to make a text clearer and easier to read; and enabling the writer to understand what sort of modifications will eliminate ambiguities, communicate the meaning more succinctly, or achieve other desirable effects. The hypothesized development of these skills is presented in Development Table 35.

This use of grammar as a metalanguage for editing and verbal expression should be distinguished from the prescriptive application of grammatical rules to guarantee that a text will be in Standard English. However, many grammatical rules are motivated by editorial concerns, since sentences that violate the rules are often unclear or confusing. This ability corresponds in part to Language Standard 1 from the Common Core State Standards.

Literature Note - Grammatical Analysis

Development Table 35. Hypothesized Development of Grammatical Analysis Skills

(oral to word)
Recognizes and labels basic building blocks of grammar (words, phrases, sentences).
Recognizes major parts of speech—noun, adjective, verb, adverb. Recognizes inflectional suffixes and label their functions (present or past tense, progressive; comparative, etc.).
Deploys word substitution strategies to identify words with similar grammatical properties.
Deploys grouping/division strategies to identify natural grammatical units such as phrases and sentences.
Discusses text using basic metalanguage for types of words and their organization into phrases and sentences.
(word to sentence)
Recognizes and labels grammatical categories critical to understanding the grammatical organization of sentences (auxiliaries and the full system of verb tenses; comparative and superlative constructions; possessives; pronouns, and articles).
Distinguishes between necessary elements and modifiers.
Recognizes and labels core sentence patterns (declarative, interrogative, etc.).
Recognizes and labels subcategories critical for basic sentence structure (transitive and intransitive verbs, subjects and objects, passives, attributive and predicate adjectives, etc.).
Deploys head identification strategies to identify the key words around which phrases are built and recognize which words modifiers are describing.
Deploys reduction strategies to identify the kernel sentences around which more complex sentences are organized.
Uses grammatical labels to identify and discuss editing issues connected with word-level grammatical features (consistency of tense, pronouns without antecedents, proper use of possessives, proper punctuation of declarative and interrogative sentences, etc.).
(sentence to text)
Recognizes and labels grammatical categories necessary to understand complex sentences (clauses, the difference between main and subordinate clauses, coordination vs. subordination, coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, gerunds and participles, relative clauses, subject and object clauses.).
Deploys sentence diagramming strategies to map out the structure of complex sentences graphically.
Uses grammatical labels to identify and discuss editing issues connected with precision of meaning, emphasis, and clarity in complex sentences (e.g., dangling modifiers, ambiguous sentence structures, dense or tangled syntactic structures).
(sentence to context)
Recognizes and labels a variety of transformational relationships among sentences that support alternative surface realizations of the same propositional content.
Uses grammatical analysis strategies to identify editing choices that depend on grammatical manipulation of alternative sentence patterns.
Uses grammatical labels and concepts to analyze the flow of sentences in a text and to identify places where the syntactic choices do not match theme/rheme organizational structures that are implied by the discourse context.
(sentence and context to discourse)
Applies grammatical concepts such as ellipsis and presupposition to identify and label hidden discourse dependencies in texts.
Uses grammatical analysis strategies to recognize and unpack ways in which presuppositions and unstated information are hidden, and other aspects of content are highlighted, by particular syntactic choices.
Uses grammatical labels and concepts to identify and discuss presuppositions, unstated assumptions, and other rhetorical features that emerge from the grammatical structure of text.

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