English Grammar for Beginners
is written by Alfred S. West
and is published by The Copp, Clark Company, Ltd in 1897
. The really interesting thing about this book is that it was used as school text. There is a notation on the title page that it is "Authorized for use in the Province of Quebec
." Similarly on the back of the title page it is written "Entered according to the Act of Parliament of Canada
in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven by the Copp, Clark Company, Limited, Toronto, Ontario in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture." I am curious why the Ministry of Agriculture
. Was there an educational crisis in rural Canada
West breaks grammar down into four parts: Phonology or the sounds in words; Orthography or writing with the alphabet; Etymology; and Syntax. West is noted as a fellow of University College London and he approach taken by him seems to me to be highly influenced by Latin. There is a an emphasis on the inflexion of nouns and the conjugation of verbs with many tables and lists of exceptions. For example, the male equivalent of a slut is a sloven (p.27). He rails against the non-phonetic nature of English spelling as noted here:
Why is English spelling so difficult?
- Because the alphabet is defective, and if deficiencies are supplied by different devices in different words.
- Because our spelling has been pretty well fixed for nearly three centuries, whereas the pronunciation has probably changed greatly in the interval.
- Because our words came to us from many sources, and we have kept the spelling which they had in the languages from which we took them, whilst we pronouce the words in our own fashion. (p.11)
In contrast with Writing and Thinking
published half a century later, there is not a lot about syntax or sentence structure
. There are only 13 pages devoted to this subject. Following this brief list of rules, there is a list of faulty sentence
s (p.103-104). I reproduce it here because these errors seem rather subtle, so subtle that in some cases I have no idea where the fault lies. This is not an invitation
to provide your analysis as a follow up write up. If there is hue and cry enough, I'll try to provide an answer key in consultation with some of you grammarians out there. Or, I'll just cull
Sentences for correction:
- Observing the house, the engines were sent for.
- Being a warm day, I wore no overcoat.
- Standing on the bridge, the view is magnificent.
- Cheered by their approval, his progress was rapid.
- Sitting at the open window, a chill settled on his lungs.
- You ought not to use these kind of arguments.
- I hear that each of the policemen were injured.
- Each of the combatants think themselves right.
- Are either of these statements true?
- Every one of the houses were flooded.
- None but the brave deserve the fair.
- Either of the two essays are good, but yours is the best.
- Of all the other Constitutions, the English is most perfect.
- Iron is more useful than any metal.
- The population of Glasgow is greater than Edinburgh.
- He won renown in the Old and New World.
- I saw a black and white man arm in arm.
- The chairman and secretary sat opposite each other.
- He walks just like a duck waddles.
- Nobody writes quote like you do.
- I am one of those who is disgusted at his conduct.
- This is one of the bedrooms that has a fire-place.
- Who is that parcel for?
- Whom do people say that he is?
- Whom they were I must not disclose.
- I can't think who he meant.
- Nothing but novels and plays interest him.
- The beauties of the landscape charms the tourist.
- The range of his accomplishments surprise me.
- Not a line of your verses are written correctly.
- Variety in one's amusements is desirable.
- The jury were unanimous in its opinion.
- The Newcomes were written by Thackeray.
- The captain with the other officers were drowned.
- The building, in addition to its contents, were destroyed.
- They could not guess where I or my brother were.
- Our success or our failure generally depend on ourselves.
- Will you let my brother and I go for a walk?
- I only want a few shillings to make up the amount.
- He will be very annoyed by your conduct.
- They are worse off than us.
- He is as strong or stronger than I.
- No one plays more skilfully or as successfully as he.
- Neither his happiness or his misery were deserved.
- Everybody except he knows the reason.
- There is nobody but you and I that saw it done.
- Let this be a secret between you and I.
- This case is entirely different to that.
- I was there as well as him.
- Your cousin is not so clever as her.
It is not clear as to whether it is intended for people learning a second language
or for middle school kids or for perhaps university
students. (Quebec is primarily French speaking.) As a historical object, it provides some insight into the value placed on correct speech at the time.