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Published by Naoufel M'TIBAA, 2019-09-30 04:25:10





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Dr. Turnoi Turjakuunnen, 2009



VII.1 PUNCTUATION can be defined as the use of a modest sub-system of symbols
whose importance far exceeds their visual size. Though often reckoned as a
domain within ORTHOGRAPHY, PUNCTUATION cannot be effectively
presented without highlighting its association with PROSODY. Unhappily, this
association has evidently encouraged a similar neglect as has been visited upon
that domain. Both domains are strongly dependent on personal interpretation
which is only inadequately “taught” by “rules” and judged by “correctness”,
possibly with occasional references to “grammar” of some formal type. Worse,
PUNCTUATION is also misinterpreted as a measure of a writer’s level of
“intelligence” (cf. II.16, 54; III.3).

VII.2 Accordingly, whoever seeks counsel on the “punctuation of English” will no lack
of would-be advisors. At the Amazon on-line bookshop, I found 44 works with
Punctuation Guide in the title, collocating with terms ranging from Complete or
Ultimate over to Basic, Brief, Quick, Handy, Easy, Simple, and the neologism
Unintimidating. In April 2003, I found 3,197 websites via the AltaVista search
engine for “punctuation rules”. Like the myriad “grammar rules” also
promulgated by language guardians (II.30, 42ff), the provenance is uneven at best.
Some sound merely shallow [1-2]; or make unworkably vague and obscure
appeals to “thought” or “meaning” [3-4]; or just don’t reflect the facts of attested
usage [5-6] — much like the “rules” of “grammar”, though mercifully less
[1] Do not use a colon to introduce a list after the verb “to be” unless you add
“the following” or “as follows”.
[2] Never use more than one exclamation point.
[3] Use a comma to set off an interruption in the main thought of a sentence.
[4] Do not use commas to bracket phrases that are essential to a sentence’s


[5] Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives that equally modify the
same noun.

[6] Never use a comma before a dependent clause at the end of a sentence.
The homage to “rules” seems to correlate with a blinkered disinterest in
PROSODY, as I have suggested:

[7] Never punctuate unless you know a rule. Avoid punctuating by reflex
because it sounds good.

[8] Punctuation marks the structure of sentences, not the voice pauses or
inflections. After you learn the basic structures of complex sentences [sic!],
punctuating correctly becomes a matter of applying logical rules.

The Survey of English Usage displayed a more accurate view of consensus:[Note

[9] Punctuation practice is governed primarily by grammatical considerations
[and] sometimes linked to intonation, stress, rhythm, or any other prosodic
distinctions, […] but the link is neither simple nor systematic.

[10] We are dealing with tendencies which, while clear enough, are by no
means rules. […] There is […] a great deal of flexibility [and] opportunity
for personal taste.

Seeming uniformity, the Survey pungently adds, comes from the “regular practice
of printing organizations” or “publishing houses” who can “impose fairly strict
VII.3 Disregarding the key role of PROSODY can lead to describing PUNCTUATION
by treating each MARK in isolation — first the period, then the comma, and so
forth, rather like describing grammar by treating first the NOUN, then the VERB,
and so forth. Such a description obscures the systemic nature of the overarching
principles that guide the dynamic choice of marks during the writing process.
VII.4 Video tapes I filmed of students and staff at the University of Florida while they
wrote revealed them hesitating or stopping to consider just before selecting or
changing a punctuation mark. A COMMA got replaced by a PERIOD at the end
of [11]; or a PERIOD got replaced by a COMMA in [12]. I enclose <crossed-out


material> in pointy brackets, and {inserted material} in curly brackets; an upright
line | is for a PAUSE as for PROSODY (VI.11).

[11] Turn left | , <stop at the stop sign> {follow the road}, and turn right into
the parking lot of the hospital <,> .

[12] This goes on for <two> | three weeks or so <.> | , and the total grade
counts 10%.

Evidently, writers can assess and reassess the need for one mark or another as
they move along.
VII.5 My own account will be seek to describe PUNCTUATION in its relations among
LEXICOGRAMMAR and PROSODY. I shall follow the consistent principles of
operation in a linear medium, including print.[Note 2] The PACING
PRINCIPLE is most firmly aligned with PROSODY and its scalar parameter of
PACE (cf. VI.10): you mark with PUNCTUATION the points where a hesitation
or pause would occur within the implicit PROSODIC CONTOUR of the written
text if “read aloud”, as in [13-14].

[13] Erika read aloud: “On this spot, on the tenth of May, 1933, under the evil
spirit of Fascism, the gangsters of the Nazi party burned the noblest works
of German and World Literature.” (Bury the Dead)

[14] Bodie read aloud, “One, two, three, four, five — You’ll be all right —
You’ll have something to remember, a lot to remember.” (Professionals 15)

PUNCTUATION tends to mark off the end of a PITCH CONTOUR from the start
of a new one, as shown here for sample [14].

VII.6 Among the more common usages, a COMMA suggests a brief PAUSE [15], the
SEMICOLON a longer one at the end of a CLAUSE [16], and a PERIOD a still
longer one at the end of a SENTENCE [17].
[15] The children wept, Nana ran to him beseechingly, but he waved her back.
(Peter Pan)

[16] I wished to know if she was unhappy; but I felt it was not my province to
inquire. (Agnes Grey)

[17] I was a fool ever to come back here. But I felt stranded. (Chatterley)
The length of PAUSES could logically suggest varying degrees of linguistic,
cognitive, or social INTEGRATION among PROCESSES e.g., higher for
“running but waving back” [15], lower for “wishing but feeling” [16], and lower
still for “being a fool but feeling stranded” [17].


VII.7 Some less common usages for pacing are the DASH and the SUSPENSION
DOTS, which can signal a stronger hesitation, postponement, or pause [18-19].
DOTS may also indicate the voice losing volume and trailing off [20].
[18] I found out what made it cold. ‘Twas ice — tons of it — in the basement
[19] Then they…I could recount…I disdain to chronicle such victories. (Egoist)
[20] “I thought she loved me…and was good…” Adam’s voice had been
gradually sinking into a hoarse undertone (Adam Bede)

VII.8 PAUSES can carry auxiliary functions, such as inviting hearers to draw ominous
conclusions [21]; allowing the speaker time to “think” [22]; or having a
STATEMENT treated as a “question” [23].
[21] “And, if I find you sneakin’ off to the Three Pigeons [the local pub]…”
His pause was more eloquent than his speech (Damsel)
[22] “Why now” — he paused, to think briefly upon his words — “I took it for
granted you were showing Miss Madden around.” (Market Place).
[23] “I must return to Oxford to-morrow, and I don’t know on which side of
the scale to throw in my voice”. He paused, as if asking a question. (North
and South)

These can be distinguished from dysfunctional PAUSES where the speaker just
doesn’t manage to sustain INTEGRATION [24-25] (from Bush Jr).


[24] I should have clarified it by my statement. I just clarified it by my — not
should have — I just.

[25] There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in
Tennessee — that says: Fool me once, shame on [pause] shame on you.
[pause] Fool me [long, uncomfortable, agonizing pause] you can’t get
fooled again.

VII.9 For the LOOK-BACK PRINCIPLE, the mark indicates that what’s coming up
looks back to what came before. The most prominent are of course the terminal
identify the preceding stretch as a STATEMENT, QUESTION or
EXCLAMATION even when the format is the same, either as a CLAUSE [04-06]
or a NON-CLAUSE [07-09].
[26] she would say to him gently, “You are a child.” (Lame Prince)
[27] “You are a foreigner?” The voice was sharp, beside Holly’s knee.
[28] You are a fool! I could SHAKE you!” she cried, trembling with passion
(Sons and Lovers)
[29] “I said I was going to be a minister to-day before any of you said anything
at all.” “You right”, said Herman. “You the firs’ one to say it.” (Penrod)


[30] “I’ve always believed in being broad-minded and liberal —” “You?
Liberal?” (Babbitt)

[31] “What do you intend to be?” “A messenger”, answered the hazel-nut child.
“You a messenger!” (Blue Fairy)

In return, a PERIOD after the format of a QUESTION or EXCLAMATION
lowers the WEIGHT and suggests a gently falling PROSODIC CONTOUR.

[32] How could she resist. (Peter Pan)
[33] Tuppence beamed upon him. “How lovely.” (Adversary)
VII.10 The converse LOOK-AHEAD PRINCIPLE signals what to expect after the
mark, the most distinctive being the COLON that looks ahead to a specification or
explanation of what went shortly before. A NOUN PHRASE may describe the
upcoming content [34-35]; or the COLON may point toward some ACTION or
EVENT [36-37].
[34] They lose control over both the revenue and the expenditure, often with

catastrophic results: rent not paid, fuel bills missed, arrears mounting.
(Wigan Pier)
[35] The cattle in the district are: 10 asses, 401 oxen, 492 cows (Dr

[Livingstone himself lower left]]


[36] At this moment the door opened: a fat, furious face looked in. (Sylvie and

[37] Connie heard a low whistle behind her. She glanced sharply round: the
keeper was striding downhill towards her (Chatterley)

The DASH can also serve for LOOK-AHEAD when some expectation has been

[38] One good thing was immediately brought to a certainty by this removal —
the ball at the Crown. (Emma)

[39] he saw what he had been looking for — a puff of white smoke (Whirligigs)
A left-hand PARENTHESIS can look ahead to a specification [40], commentary
[41], or clarification [42], which the right-hand one concludes.

[40] His flat […] was a mixture of Victorian (the furniture) and deco (the
mirrors, the glass). (Nudists)

[41] Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle was given the nickname Fatty (a name he
detested and used only professionally) because of his substantial girth.


[42] What was the name of Geoffrey Howe’s dog when he was chancellor
(when Sir Geoffrey was chancellor, that is, not the dog)? (Punch)

[“What needs either your mum or her budget?”
-- Merry Wives of Windsor ]

VII.11 The HYPHEN looks ahead to a continuation of a WORD, but its usage is
singularly unstable. You conventionally find it for MULTI-PIECE MODIFIERS
before a NOUN [43], but you may also find either separation [44] or integration

[45]. Sometimes too, the HYPHEN looks further ahead to a second HYPHEN
preceding the follow-up part [46].

[43] lower-class juvenile delinquents find themselves confronting a legal
system which has literally declared war against them (Power, Crime, and

[44] There was never a consensus for them, as there was for middle class and
lower class opinion. (Third Way)

[45] For white middleclass males, however, pride and dignity has little
resonance (Blissed Out)


[46] In the socialist society both upper- and lower-class crime would disappear
(Controlling Crime)

Here at least, the “flexibility” and “personal taste” noted in [10] are well
VII.12 Together, LOOK-AHEAD and LOOK-BACK set off a FRAMED QUOTE in
the sense of V.76f by placing QUOTATION MARKS at the FRONT and the
END. A COMMA usually looks ahead to the FRAME after the QUOTE, which is
the unmarked position, though usage is divided on whether the COMMA goes
(illogically) before or (logically) after the QUOTATION MARK [47-48]; another
COMMA usually looks ahead if the QUOTE is resumed after the FRAME [49].
To my surprise, I also found a COMMA in addition to other MARKS [50-52], as
if it were deemed indispensable.

[47] “Climb on my back then, dear master,” said the horse. (Under the Sea)
[48] “Do not stray from the path”, said a notice in the Cheviots (Walking the


[49] “I have travelled widely”, said Goodney, “in the world of pornography.”

[50] In China, Prince Charles was shown a potion guaranteeing virility […].
“How does it work?,” he asked for the sake of British tabloid papers.


[51] “Great God!,” cried I. (War of the Worlds)
[52] “The first thing I always do — ,” he said. “The first thing you'll both do is
catch your death of cold,” said Helen over his shoulder. (Haunted

A COLON too is eminently suited ahead of the QUOTE, the more so when the
type of QUOTE has been indicated [53-54].

[53] It is an old saying: “The devil looks after his own.” (Penitentiaries)
[54] He was hearing again the question of the night before: “The cup my

Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (Ben-Hur )


PUNCTUATION tends to mark off the end of a PITCH CONTOUR from the start
of a new one, as shown here for sample [55].

VII.13 A short QUOTE may have no other mark ahead of it but a QUOTATION
MARK [56], especially if it is included in a longer TONE GROUP [57].

US usage Prefers doubled QUOTATION MARKS [58] over the European single
MARKS [59], but the doubled ones are the most secure for reproduction on the
Internet, whereas I sometimes find single ones perversely replaced by question
marks (echhh2). Older usages may set off QUOTES with DASHES too [60].

[58] “Tom, it was middling warm in school, warn’t it?” “Yes’m.” “Powerful
warm, warn’t it?” “Yes’m.” (Tom Sawyer)


[59] She frowned fiercely and said ‘Remember’ terribly sternly. (Garden Party)
[60] “And what, sir” — said Pott — “what, sir, is the state of the public mind

in London?” (Pickwick)
SUSPENSION DOTS, as their name might hint, can serve to create some
“hesitation” for “suspense” about what to look ahead for.

[61] But when she actually touched her steadily-lived life with Clifford
she…hesitated. Was it actually her destiny to go on weaving herself into his
life all the rest of her life? (Chatterley)


[62] “What is it?” said Maggie, in a whisper. “Why it’s... a... new...guess,
Maggie!” “O, I can't guess, Tom”, said Maggie, impatiently. (Mill on the

VII.14 The LISTING PRINCIPLE marks off with PUNCTUATION, mainly
COMMAS, a series of three or more Items, most strategically with clear
COMPATIBILITY among them, e.g., NOUNS [63], VERBS [64], MODIFIERS
[65], or whole CLAUSES [66]. Normally, the CONJUNCTION “and” or, less
often, “or” goes before the final Item [64-66], but may be omitted for laconic or
literary effect [67-68], or else placed before each item for effusive effect without
COMMAS [69-70].
[63] You showed no surprise, fear, annoyance, or displeasure at my
moroseness. (Jane Eyre)

[64] Let their motto be: Hunt, shoot, and fight (same)
[65] He was sleeping easily, lightly, and wholesomely. (Golden Road)
[66] Somewhere in the dark a duck was quacking, a cock was crowing, a dove

was cooing, an owl was hooting, a lamb was bleating, and Jip was barking.
[67] Life was made for riding, driving, dancing, going. (Financier)
[68] With this question Plotinus grapples, earnestly, shrewdly, fairly.


[69] I’ve been wondering what the people on the receiving end of a Bush
lecture on personal responsibility think when they watch Dubya weasel and
waffle and bob and weave and blame and deny. (Paul Begala)

[70] The sadness seemed to extinguish her as if she had no real eyes or fingers
or genitals or teeth or frown-lines or kidneys (Lee’s Ghost)

WEIGHTY listed Items can be set off by SEMICOLONS [71], particularly if they
contain COMMAS [72]; or by DASHES [73]; or even by PERIODS [74].


[71] He has a sullen, rebellious spirit; a violent temper; and an untoward,
intractable disposition. (Copperfield)

[72] I will talk of things heavenly, or things earthly; things moral, or things
evangelical; things sacred, or things profane; (Pilgrim’s Progress)

[73] Closet after closet — drawer after drawer — corner after corner — were
scrutinized to no purpose. (Loss of Breath)

[74] John Major is now being exposed for what some of us always warned that
he was. A fake. A flake. A wimp. A phoney. (Daily Mirror)

VII.15 Just two ITEMS linked by “and” or “or” shouldn’t need a COMMA [76-77]
(IV.353). But I do find some COMMAS there [78-79], resembling a LIST. Also, a
COMMA helps with no CONJUNCTION, as in literary usage [80-81].
[76] The tradition gives many convincing pictures of the inwardness and
invasiveness of friends and rivals. (Authors)
[77] They sleep on the floor without mattress or bedcover. (Amnesty).
[78] It was true he was footloose, and unmarried. (Cameron)
[79] They sound like pirates, or ruffians. Wild men playing a violent game.
[80] The two poets resemble one another. Each is inexperienced, youthful.
[81] The novel makes a mystique of darkness and futility in the course of
saying that the whole island is peripheral, arrested. (Authors)


VII.16 The PROSODY of a LIST can use short, matching TONE GROUPS for its
ITEMS, viz.

VII.3 The WEIGHT PRINCIPLE concerns how important or informative Items are
made to appear (cf. § xxx). For PROSODY, the leading options put the main
STRONG STRESS at the END (unmarked) or the MID or the FRONT (more
marked) (VI.22-25, 27). For PUNCTUATION, the options centre on whether
some LEXICOGRAMMATICAL or PROSODIC UNIT will be set off and by
which MARKS. The most striking is the EXCLAMATION MARK giving higher
WEIGHT to a WORD [58], a PHRASE [59], or a whole CLAUSE [60]. Weight
can be enhanced for an inserted Item with DASHES too. [61-62].
[84] In great fright, the boy ran for help. “Wolf! Wolf!” he screamed. (Stories
to Tell Children)


[85] Riflemen, riflemen, riflemen form!
Look to your butts and make good aims.
(Alfred Lord Tennyson, The War)

[86] “Oh, she’ll make someone a wonderful wife!” screeched Jamie. (Jay
Loves Lucy)

[87] What would he say when — if! — Lady Merchiston informed him of her
plan? (Hidden Flame)

[88] being hard of hearing, […] I bound him to a pirate — you! — instead of to
a pilot. (Pirates of Penzance)

Like the EXCLAMATION itself, the MARK may be deemed unsuitable for
“formal” usage (VI.49), and mostly serves in FRAMED conversation like [84-88].
VII.17 The weight principle helps decide if a DEPENDENT CLAUSE is set off by
PUNCTUATION, mostly a COMMA; an ACTION already known [89] gets less
WEIGHT than one intervening “suddenly” [90] or as a “surprise” [91]. The
CLAUSE may gain weight being punctuated with a PERIOD like a SENTENCE

[89] Her kiss is hard […] “You give yourself away when you kiss like that.”
(V.S. Naipaul)

[90] One night I was going to bed, when suddenly the bristles rose on the dog’s
back and he barked uneasily at the window (Prester John)

[91] The scientific gentleman was gazing abstractedly on the thick darkness
outside, when he was very much surprised by a most brilliant light

[92] But my mother always speaks of sleeping in the shelter. When London
was bombed. (Strawberries)


VII.18 Also, WEIGHT helps decide whether a given ADVERB is set off by
PUNCTUATION, and by which MARKS: greater for PERIOD plus
EXCLAMATION MARK [93], moderate for COMMA [94], and least for no
MARK [95].
[93] Spirit of the Blitz is out now. Finally! (Liverpool Museums)

[94] There was then a mighty production of papers, […] and great work of
signing, sealing, stamping, inking, and sanding, with exceedingly blurred,
gritty, and undecipherable results. Finally, everything was done according to
rule (Dorrit)

[95] Finally the woman opened her eyes feebly. (Adversary)

The context can contribute WEIGHT too, as when the blizzard of bumph in
officious “work” at French customs was “finally done” [95].
VII.19 Punctuation can also indicate lower WEIGHT. Parentheses do so for the inserted
content, e.g., to indicate that being “true” hardly mattered when the “answer” was
so “pompous” and “unsatisfactory” [96]; or to sarcastically suggest that “English
kindness” extends to “animals” and (oh, by the way) to “women” [97].

[96] we timorously hinted that we should be glad of our meal, the pompous,
and (though true) most unsatisfactory answer was, “It will be ready when it
is ready” (Voyage of the Beagle)

[97] Up until recently the English have had certain virtues assigned: honesty,
loyalty, fair dealing, kindness to animals (and women). (So Very English)

WEIGHT can be lowered for ITEMS with a QUESTION MARK in
PARENTHESES, e.g., some naff “dancing” [98], or some drab “noteworthies”
[99]. Or, scepticism can arise from PARENTHESES enclosing “(sic)” [100], or,
more dubiously, “(sic!)” [101].

[98] Elvira Flower introduces the Huggies in a polemic of poetic licence and
leads the dancing (?) (NME)


[99] Among the noteworthy (?) in attendance was none other than the Right
Horrible David Mellor MP, the newly appointed so-called “Minister For
Fun” (NME)

[100] This 1972 concert film, interspersed with “accidental” (sic) offstage
scenes, is hardly an edifying addition to his memory. Directed by none other
than Ringo Starr (!) the first thing that Born To Boogie makes obvious is
that, outrageous and intoxicating as they were on single, T-Rex were an
appalling live band. (NME)

[101] According to local tradition, St Sitha was martyred, her head was cut off,
and “she picked it up and ran three miles to the nearby (sic!) church to warn
the other Christians.” (East Yorkshire)

Conversely, an EXCLAMATION MARK in PARENTHESES can raise the
WEIGHT, e.g., for the spiffing “fun” [102], or the “horrendous photographs”

[102] The venue is the enticingly-named Ruby’s Dance Hall and the fun (!)
starts on Nov. 5 (NME)

[103] The competition involved matching the delightful baby photographs to
the horrendous (!) recent photographs. (Winfrith Journal)BNC

Lower WEIGHT can be indicated by QUOTATION MARKS to imply that
someone or something does not merit the designation.

[104] Dubya Bush will enter office as the So-Called “President” and doubtless
will earn that sobriquet several times over before he leaves. (Baltimore City
Paper) (VII.20)

[105] People are coming to the conclusion that this so-called “war on drugs”
has been lost (BBC News) (VII.96)

Like the “scare italics” shown in V.32, these too may be merited by scary matters,
e.g., a “President” who literally “took office” through a massive election fraud.
VII.20 For the CORE-AND-ADJUNCT PRINCIPLE, the MARKS delimit the
PHRASE, and position their ADJUNCTS within the CLAUSE or SENTENCE.
Writers are commonly reluctant to place PUNCTUATION that breaks up these
two parts of a CLAUSE CORE, witness the “rule” back in [3] proscribing an


“interruption in the main thought of a sentence” (VII.2). But as for so many
“rules”, authentic usage is more flexible. Though lists of two linked by “and” or
“or” shouldn’t need any COMMA (VII.15), two SUBJECTS at times have one to
add WEIGHT to the second, whether shorter [106] or longer [107].

[106] “We thought about the format”, said David Llewellyn, “and we decided
that the rule for the day was to keep two balls in play off the tee.” His
partner, and captain, was Mickey Walker (Guardian)

[107] The sexuality of the past, and the extent of the intimidatory violence,
were only very faintly registered. (Authors)

The most authorised marks to set off two INDEPENDENT CLAUSE CORES are
the SEMICOLON [108], COLON [109], PARENTHESES [110], or DASH [111].

[108] She was wearing only a white dress; she would be frozen without a coat.
(Patently Murder)

[109] Her limbs lack feeling: she would never have walked. (Race of

[110] She disapproved of the haphazard selection of foster parents (she would
have much preferred the children to go to hostels run on the lines of Bunce
Court). (Policeman Smiled)


[111] I should perish — I should throw myself out of window — I should take
poison — I should pine and die. (Vanity Fair)

Placing only a COMMA gives a “comma splice” castigated by language guardians
on the Internet as a “grammar crime” crying out to be “rehabilitated” (Canterbury
Student Services)www — when students produce it, that is, as in [112-13].
Recognised writers seem unconcerned [114-15].

[112] The soil is divided into two types, the first type is topsoil. (Arabia)
[113] The same happens to people, they can learn how to respect each other.

[114] But Lily seldom made a mistake in the orders, so that she got on well

with her three mistresses. They were fussy, that was all. (Dubliners)
[115] But why did he conceal his lineage? Ah, my dear H., it was cruel, it was

insulting, it was unnecessary. (Lord Byron)


VII.21 Whether a DEPENDENT CLAUSE is set off by PUNCTUATION can depend,
as we saw, on weight and length (V.56), but with some leeway for differing
choices. Largely similar CLAUSES may take a COMMA [116, 118] or may not
[117, 119].
[116] I will send up and get it for you, if you would like to hear it. (Autocrat)
[117] Please contact Rita as soon as possible if you would like to attend.
(Medau Society)

[118] So few men have the strength of their goodness or the courage of their
badness, when it comes to a big test. (Lady Bridget)

[119] It’s five hours yet, and I’m afraid she’ll stand me up when it comes to the
scratch. (Options)

COMMAS are hardly needed for a DEPENDENT CLAUSE integrated into the
CORE by functioning like a SUBJECT [120], OBJECT [121], or SUBJECT

[120] No kind of power is more formidable than the power of making men
ridiculous. How grossly that power was abused by Swift and by Voltaire is
well known (Life of Addison)

[121] His father understood the way kids really felt about things (Claims of

[122] And the question was how was the matter to be kept quiet (Financier)
VII.22 For ADVERBIALS, higher WEIGHT calls for COMMAS whilst lower does not,

whether before the CORE at the FRONT [123-24], after the CORE at the END
[125-26], or inside the CORE at the MID [127-28]. PARENTHESES can lower
the WEIGHT [129], or DASHES can raise it [130].

[123] At least in his judgment of French national psychology, Falkenhayn’s
appreciation had been accurate. (Verdun 1916)


[124] At least in Western prisons inmates in solitary had writing materials

[125] Only organic beings of certain classes can be preserved in a fossil
condition, at least in any great number. (On the Origin of Species)

[126] The ushers had their will at least in part. (Ben Hur)
[127] The related tribes, at least in some cases, are united in a confederacy.

(The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State)
[128] The principle proposals at least in this report can be accommodated

within the budget (Herts County Council)BNC


[129] They sowed exotic grasses for their animals, […] but then (at least in
some cases) found that the grass was overgrazed (Global Ecology)

[130] The sovereign rights of the Prince were then taken over — at least in
form and principle — by the people at large (Vested Interests)

around it [131], as does each one in a list of them [132]. Or, DASHES appear
[133]. PUNCTUATION can be left out if the APPOSITIVE is short and expresses
an IDENTITY in the sense of V.62 [134-35].
[131] Mr. Rego, the commandant, offered me a guard to Ambaca. (Dr
Livingstone )

[132] The greatest of mortals, that important atom of humanity,that little god
upon earth, Johnny Bold her baby, ought to have a house of his own over
his head. (Barchester)

[133] They beheld him — their Baker — their hero unnamed — on the top of a
neigh-boring crag. (Snark)

[134] Mr Eames the butler put up his hand in rebuke. (English Crime)
[135] My friend the Governor has promised protection to my family.

VII.24 Finally, the SORTING PRINCIPLE deploys PUNCTUATION to signal

relations among ITEMS so as to resolve any doubt about what goes with what and
where. The APOSTROPHE serves to mark the POSSESSIVE of a NOUN from
its PLURAL [136-39]. But, a bit confusingly, the same form of APOSTROPHE +
“-s” is also enlisted in a CONTRACTION for “is” [140], and, less often, “has”
[141] or “as” [142]. All this must be a bit much for the ordinary folks who have
somehow decided that the PLURAL needs an APOSTROPHE too [143].

[136] Pater’s judgement is decisive, that this picture is Leonardo’s masterpiece.
(Art Criticism)


[137] “Socialist Realism” has been described by Ernst Fischer as implying “the
artist’s or writer’s fundamental agreement with the aims of the working
class (same)

[138] One would like to publish many of the beautiful letters [that] overflow
with the writers’ sincerity and gratitude. (Mark Twain)

[139] Germany, France, and Italy have many positions in universities, picture-
galleries, museums, opera houses for lovers of the beautiful, and above all
an educated respect for artists and writers (Oscar Wilde)

[140] Four finalists will go through to the closing contest on Sunday. […] My
money’s on Alastair Miles (Independent)

[141] Drops me from training just because I make a fumble! Why, you've
fumbled, Paul, and so’s Fletcher here; lots of times. But he doesn't lay YOU
off! (Behind the Line)

[142] Any way that suited the other man would suit Jim Smiley -- any way just
so’s he got a bet, he was satisfied. (Celebrated Jumping Frog)

[143] Jim is the Creator of Bonham Enterprise’s. A NEW Online FSBO
Classifieds that works! Both for buyers and sellers! (Bonham

Even the form “Gateau’x” on a sign in a cake shop has been reported (Grammar
Cop)W WW
VII.25 By marking the end of an Item, a COMMA can prevent the misreading known as
the “garden path”:

[144] As Gabriel was watching, the cart stopped at the top of the hill (Madding

[145] Already, he could hear, the Major and Mrs Channing had progressed
from Glenda Grower to some of the deficiencies of the boarding
establishment. (Little Victims)

[146] When Malmsteen hit, everybody was getting very technically geared up
(Guitarist) (NOT: Malmsteen hit everybody )


Unintended omission of a COMMA can turn out picturesque, as in news headlines:
[147] Excess of vitamins harmful, expensive specialist warns (London Free
[148] Garden Grove resident naive, foolish judge says (Orange County

[149] Connie Tied, Nude Policeman Testifies (Atlanta Journal)


can direct look-back further than with no MARK. In [150], the COMMAS signal
that both “wounds” and “monarchy” were “of the church”. In [151], the PERIOD
makes both “asking questions” and “getting answers” into talents of Judi’s. In
[1512], the SEMICOLON helps the “band” receive all three MODIFIERS. And in
[153], the COMMA signals that Bob Dylan was doing all the actions and
mannerisms “just like” WOODY GUTHRIE, not just the final “slurring”.
[150] To heal the wounds, and restore the monarchy, of the church, the synods
of Pisa and Constance were successively convened (Decline)
[151] She was good at asking questions, he realised, good at getting answers.
Just like Judi. (Bad Dreams)
[152] The Clash (Potential): Stark, fiercesome, bold; just like the band itself.


[153] Dylan returned to Minneapolis later that year a-singing and a-playing,
mumbling and slurring his words, just like Woody himself. (Economist).

VII.27 Conversely, PUNCTUATION can influence look-ahead. In [154], all the
ACTIONS of the men occurred “soon”, and not just the “growing bolder”; in
[155], only the “falling asleep” occurred “instantly” whilst the “burning” took
some time.
[154] Soon, growing bolder, men stood face to face and spoke of settled plans,
gave signs, and openly declared themselves. (Golden Hours)
[155] Instantly the chief of the scullions fell fast asleep, and the goose was
burnt to a cinder (Blue Fairy)

VII.28 In sum, these seven principles seem plausible guidelines for the
PUNCTUATION of English texts. Unlike the “rules” on websites of language
guardians eager to edify the bemused multitudes (VII.1), they are not attached to
specific items or positions in prefabricated “sentences”, but reflect sensitive,
dynamic decisions about the status and structure of units or positions, and guide
appropriate choices.

Notes to Ch. VII

1 Quirk et al. 1985 (cited in II.25), p 1611.
2 I have modified some terms from the account in my New Foundations, section IV.E, which

is now superseded by this one.


Part VIII. On the future of GRAMMAR and “grammar”

Thus far, with rough and all-unable
Our bending author hath pursu’d the
story of “grammar”
In little room confining mighty data; and,
for their sake,
In your fair minds let this acceptance take.
— with apologies to King Henry V

VIII.1 I hope to have made plausible that the three-sided linguistic, cognitive, and social
notion of the real GRAMMAR -- as the system of operations, guidelines, and
strategies actually applied to forms, patterns, and positions by speakers and
writers of English, as well as their audiences -- is far broader, deeper, and more
variegated than any compiled “grammar” could hope to encompass. In return, I
also hope that my Friendly Grammar may do its bit toward broadening and
deepening public or educational notions of “grammar ”, and toward encouraging
respect for its dynamic flexibility, creativity, and variation.

VIII.2 The aspirations peaking in 18th century Enlightenment “to polish and refine the
English Tongue, and advance the so much neglected Faculty of Correct Language,
Purity and Propriety” (Daniel Defoe) and indeed to “fix our Language for ever”
(Jonathan Swift) (II.92) seems to live on as a theory magisterially impervious to
the problematic exigencies of practice. The recalcitrant discrepancies between
theory and practise can stake out an ominous terrain for many teachers and
learners of English around the world, as if we can be held responsible and even
assailed for failing at a chaotic mission whose methods, objectives, and outcomes
are so disputatious, divisive, and inconsistent.

VIII.3 Given that a divided society ruled by a moneyed elite is a firm credo of Tory
ideology, their grand initiatives like the Revised National Curriculum for English
might raise some uncertainties about their motives. As noted, the goals of that


turgid enterprise are set so high – not merely being “confident” in “using the
grammatical, lexical and orthographic features of Standard English”, but doing so
in seventeen distinct “written forms” (II.46, 12) – that complete success for all
learners can hardly be anticipated, even if we shared a clear and coherent account
of what those “features” might be, which we apparently do not.
VIII.4 Many Tory politicos themselves cultivate an orotund “Standard English”, which
is a crucial support for their tacit claim to power and, as needed, a smoke screen
for “saying a lot of silly things”, as John Major was wont to do (New Statesman)
(cf. V.76). The linguistic and social sides are thus brandished like fetishes, much
at the expense of the cognitive.
VIII.5 Surveys indicate that “Standard English” (along with its “Received
Pronunciation”) as a medium of daily use in Britain is increasingly an elite
minority variety. Meanwhile, respect is rising for alternative varieties, such as
Estuary English, which, as cited in III.15, is seen by “significant numbers of
young people” “as modern, up-front, high on ‘street cred’ and ideal for image-
conscious trendsetters” (see also Note 2 to Part III). Socially, then, both the low
and the high ends of “society” may be attracted; but I doubt whether “Estuary”
will come to be “Standard” as long as the latter remains the language of power
among those most reluctant to share it.
VIII.6 Other regional Englishes too are being treated more like vital media of solidarity
and rendered generally accessible on the Internet, including what are still quaintly
called their “slang” versions. These last are no doubt also “high on street cred”,
and plausibly oppositional, anti-elitist power media of resistance among the
disempowered within a sharply divided society.
VIII.7 Furthermore, the Internet is an arena where young people are becoming major
improvisers of language. As demonstrated in III.23, they focus on break-away
orthography, pronunciation, and punctuation, presumably as a gesture of
spontaneity and individualism, yet also as a signature of membership in trend-
setting in-groups of their own fashioning. The effects depend critically on
knowing the “standards” that are being displaced. Illiteracy is therefore not a
factor; indeed, the very fact that young people are happily writing, in their own
languages about themselves and their lives, to friends and strangers alike -- not


glumly knocking out “school essays” in some dutiful stab at “standard” language -
- certifies them to be literate, albeit on their own terms and turf.
VIII.8 The “future of GRAMMAR” is difficult to foresee, yet perhaps some conjectures
may be ventured. Runaway technologies at fiercely competitive prices should
significantly increase the prevalence and facility of spoken English and facial
contact in arenas where writing has predominated in the past. In parallel, the
public self-consciousness about the labyrinthine imperatives for “correctness”
should be relaxed, eventually even for ostensibly “formal” discourse, which many
could find hard to produce and understand in spontaneous speech. And the
public’s shyness and fastidiousness about one’s image and environment, which
has held back “picturephones” and “videophones” since the 1960s and 1970s, is
likely to fade under the outreach of adventurous or exhibitionist teenagers.
VIII.9 The “future of grammar” as a subject-matter for schooling and training will
depend vitally on whether it moves ain step with social and communicative trends,
tuning away from a long and rancorous history of decrying them as signs of
“Ignorance and Affectation” (Defoe) or “Corruptions” and “Licentiousness”
(Swift) (II.92). Perhaps the confrontational ambience may finally be defused as
“non-standard” varieties like “Estuary English” flourish as media of
empowerment (cf. § VIII.5). But the image of “grammarians” as professional or
amateur devotees of one-up-man-ship and gotcha, inheritors of that stony
gargoyle on the Cathedral at Chartres (II.144), will be hard to shed without some
clear manifestations of a firm will for change, among which my “cyberbook” may
be counted as a something of a start.
VIII.10 In the new millennium, the issues are hugely complicated by the egregious
uncertainties of breakneck social change and instability at large. We are, I believe,
approaching the final showdown between money power versus people power.
Hardly by coincidence, this matches the contest between language of power (e.g.,
deceitful and befogging doublespeak from polluting corporations) versus
language of solidarity (e.g. humanitarian appeals from the Greenpeace movement),
where the notion of “grammatical correctness” is rather a red herring.
VIII.11 To judge from those Tory crusades, “grammar” will remain a playing chip in
this end game. Indeed, elites have pungent motives to welcome and prolong the


long-standing impasse whereby “grammar ” has been subjected to a general
confabulation – meaning “a fantasy that has unconsciously emerged as a factual
account in memory” (Skeptic’s Dictionary).WWW Thus , a presumptuous bishop of
London with spare time on his hands and no commitment to apostolic poverty,
could, without serious challenge much less ridicule, peddle a “grammar”
pronouncing the likes of Shakespeare and Milton to have been “guilty of errors”
VIII.12 The last 35 years or so have finally set aside this conveniently doomed crusade,
yet, in my view, many of the new grammars are rather too ponderous, expensive,
“formal”, and indebted to tradition to facilitate the daily travails of English
teachers I have talked with from places like the highlands of Northern Luzon, the
shores of Lake Maracaibo, the olive groves of Galilee, or the urban “favelas”
(informal settlements) of Manaus along the upper Amazon. These hefty tomes
still do not go far enough to push out the edges of envelope in which “grammar”
has routinely been delivered.
VIII.13 The vital challenge I would see for “grammarians” – perhaps under some more
tactful title like “consultants” – would be to keep tabs on where the real
GRAMMAR of English, or its family of GRAMMARS, is in fact heading. So far-
reaching a enterprise is becoming steadily more tractable with the tactical support
of electronic media and its results can be expected to snowball as broader and
deeper issues congeal into focus from large data sets.
VIII.14 If this projection sounds a bit sanguine, then because the dynamic vitality of
English itself is growing ever more accessible to exploration; and even long-term
explorers can expect to uncover a shimmering tapestry of surprises. So intense
has been my own experience that I might well feel abashed to recall some sketchy
views of the subject-matter I had so long sustained without large-scale, systematic
access to data. Instead, I feel privileged as if I were gazing from above upon such
a vast floating archipelago as the Solimões of the Amazon Basin, where the
surfeits of discovery are limitless indeed.



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