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What is

Syntax?

Look at promethean slide She told him that she loved him
Syntax is the way words and
clauses are arranged to form
sentences.
That arrangement contributes to and
enhances meaning and effect.
Or more simply:

Its how authors put words and


phrases together.

Syntax helps authors effectively


make their points.
One thing Syntax does is
control pacing.

But how does an author do that with words


and sentences?
In order to quicken the pace, the author will
use shorter, simpler sentences.

In order to slow down the pace, the author will


use longer, more complex and convoluted
sentences.
When analyzing syntax, consider such
questions as:

Are the sentences simple and direct, or complex and


convoluted?
Does the author use repetition or parallel structure for
emphasis?
(Note: Always say what is emphasized and why.)
Are there rhetorical questions in the passage?
Arrangement of Ideas Are ideas set out in a special
way for a purpose or effect?
Loose sentence: The main point is at the beginning
ex. We reached Edmonton that morning after a turbulent
flight and some exciting experiences.

Periodic sentence: The main point is at the end (near


the period).
ex. That morning, after a turbulent flight and some exciting
experiences, we reached Edmonton.
Periodic Sentence: purposefully long sentence with a climax
ex. "In the almost incredibly brief time
which it took the small but sturdy porter to roll a milk-can
across the platform and bump it, with a clang, against other
milk-cans similarly treated a moment before, Ashe fell in
love."
(P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh, 1915)
Parallel structure: Grammatical or structural similarity
between sentences or parts of a sentence. It involves an
arrangement of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs so
that elements of equal importance are equally developed
and similarly phrased.

Wrong: In the winter, I like skiing and to skate.


Right: In the winter, I like skiing and skating.
Right: In the winter, I like to ski and to skate.

Additional ex. He was the kind of man who knew what he


wanted, who intended to get it, and who allowed nothing
to stand in his way.
Natural order sentence: A sentence that follows the
order: Subject Verb - Object
ex. Oranges grow in California.

Inverted order sentence: a sentence where the predicate


(main verb) comes before the subject.
ex. In California grow oranges.

Slightly inverted sentences may simply move the object in


front of the subject and verb.
ex. In California oranges grow.
An author will vary word order for an effect. It is your job to decide
what effect the author is trying to achieve
Sentence Classifications:
Consider the following four basic types in
examining sentence structures
Declarative: Makes a statement
ex. The king is sick.
Imperative: Gives a command
ex. Bow to the king.
Interrogative: Asks a question
ex. Whats the matter with the king?
Exclamatory: Makes an exclamation
ex. The king is dead!
Four Basic Structures
Simple sentence: One independent clause*
ex. The singer bowed to her adoring audience.
Compound sentence: Two or more independent clauses (joined
by a comma with a coordinating conjunctionand, but, for, or,
nor, yet, soor a semicolon)
ex. The singer bowed gratefully to the audience, but she
sang no encores.
ex. The singer bowed gratefully to the audience; however,
she sang no encores.

*An independent clause has a subject and a verb, and can stand
alone because it has a complete thought
Complex sentence: One independent clause and one or more
dependent (subordinate) clauses.*
ex. Although the singer bowed gratefully to the audience,
she sang no encores.
Compound-complex sentence: Two or more independent
clauses and at least one dependent (subordinate) clause.
ex. The singer bowed gratefully while the audience
applauded, but she sang no encores.

* A dependent (subordinate) clause has a subject and a verb;


however, it cannot stand alone because it does not have a
complete thought. Ex. Once Adam smashed the spider,
Antithesis: The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, often
in parallel structure. Conjunctions that express
antithesis include but, yet, and while.
ex.: ask not what your country can do for you; ask
what you can do for your country." --John F. Kennedy,
"Inaugural Address"" That's one small step for a man,
one giant leap for mankind." --Neil Armstrong
Juxtaposition: -placing two ideas, words, or pictures side
by side so that their closeness creates a new, sometimes
ironic, meaning.
ex: The wretchedness of slavery and the blessedness
of freedom were perpetually before me.
Ellipsis: purposeful omission of word to be supplied by
the reader ex. "His brow was furrowedhis mouth
peevish. (P.G. Wodehouse, Leave It to Psmith, 1923)
Always look for the anomalies
that is, the things that are
different from regular writing.
And remember syntactically, you create
emphasis by:
Position Where you put something in the sentence

Isolation Setting it off by itself (dash, quotation


marks, parenthesis, etc.)

Repetition The number of times something is


repeated

Proportion The size of the idea and how much of the


piece the idea takes up
Authors do these things on
purpose.
Do not assume sentences are
composed without the rules of
syntax in mind.
So lets look at a paragraph by
Nancy Mairs-----
I am a cripple. I choose this word to name me. I
choose from among several possibilities, the most common
of which are handicapped and disabled. I made the
choice a number of years ago, without thinking, unaware of
my motives for doing so. Even now, Im not sure what those
motives are, but I recognize that they are complex and not
entirely flattering. People crippled or not wince at the
word cripple, as they do not at handicapped or
disabled. Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see
me as a tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses
have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her
existence squarely. As a cripple, I swagger.
Whats the first unusual thing
that you notice?

The sentence: I am a cripple.


Why does the author use this short
sentence in the first position?
To draw attention to the politically
incorrect word cripple.
And why use that diction choice?
To shock, and to show that even though
people dont call her this to her face, the
word is always present.
So what do you notice next?

What else is different?


I am a cripple. I choose this word to name me. I
choose from among several possibilities, the most common
of which are handicapped and disabled. I made the
choice a number of years ago, without thinking, unaware of
my motives for doing so. Even now, Im not sure what
those motives are, but I recognize that they are complex and
not entirely flattering. People crippled or not wince at
the word cripple, as they do not at handicapped or
disabled. Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to
see me as a tough customer, one to whom the
fates/gods/viruses have not been kind, but who can face the
brutal truth of her existence squarely. As a cripple, I
swagger.
Remember: Isolation and Repetition
The em dashes isolate and bring extra attention to the
words crippled or not more forcefully than commas
would.

Also, notice the continued repetition of the word


crippled.

Perhaps if you confront the word, you will eventually be


able to look at her, the person, not just her, the cripple.
So what do you notice next?

What else is different?


I am a cripple. I choose this word to name me. I choose
from among several possibilities, the most common of which are
handicapped and disabled. I made the choice a number of
years ago, without thinking, unaware of my motives for doing so.
Even now, Im not sure what those motives are, but I recognize that
they are complex and not entirely flattering. People crippled or
not wince at the word cripple, as they do not at handicapped
or disabled. Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me
as a tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses have not
been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence
squarely. As a cripple, I swagger.
Repetition harsh word wince

Why?

Perhaps to show you that you arent the only


one who is uncomfortable by someone who is
crippled. She is still a person look past the
condition to the person.
So what do you notice next?

What else is different?


I am a cripple. I choose this word to name me. I
choose from among several possibilities, the most common of
which are handicapped and disabled. I made the choice a
number of years ago, without thinking, unaware of my
motives for doing so. Even now, Im not sure what those
motives are, but I recognize that they are complex and not
entirely flattering. People crippled or not wince at the
word cripple, as they do not at handicapped or disabled.
Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me as a
tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses have not
been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence
squarely. As a cripple, I swagger.
Position: fates/gods/viruses

Note the use of slashes (/) to juxtapose


and jam these words right up next to
each other.
The slashes allow the words to have equal
emphasis while hitting you all at once.
So what do you notice next?

What else is different?


I am a cripple. I choose this word to name me. I choose
from among several possibilities, the most common of which are
handicapped and disabled. I made the choice a number of
years ago, without thinking, unaware of my motives for doing so.
Even now, Im not sure what those motives are, but I recognize that
they are complex and not entirely flattering. People crippled or
not wince at the word cripple, as they do not at handicapped
or disabled. Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me
as a tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses have not
been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence
squarely. As a cripple, I swagger.
What did the author do here?

Position Last sentence gets more attention


Use of short inverted sentence adds power.
Repetition cripple
Also notice the diction choice of swagger
Syntax often goes unnoticed by
the reader, but contributes
strongly to the readers
impression of the topic
presented.