A High School Reading/Writing Course (Short Version)


1) Communication, the various modes in which we connect with each other. Body gesture, signs, hidden signs, the face, the tone... etc.

2) What sounds can automatically tell us: Language, country, region in a country, educational level, social mobility pattern... ?

3) The World as a collection of sounds, carrying "meaning". Meaning as THING, as IDEA, as FUNCTION. What is Meaning?

4) The invisible code of language, which we can speak and use. How do we describe the code? Why?

5) Grammar as the code observed in a language (not a formula for construction). Right and wrong. What is "wrong" linguistically, as against socially?

6) Various levels of language use: At home, with other kids, in school, speaking with the Principal, at church, with elders, applying for a job.

7) Spoken language beside written language: What are the points of contact? Differences? Similarities?

8) Let's take a one-minute story, and try to describe what it is made up of. Then let's write our comments down, and look at the page again. Differences?

9 (Listen to a song, then look at a page of musical score. Similar? Different? In comparison to speech as against a page of print?)

10) What is a word? (Easy to decide of paper with white on each side, but hard to distinguish in speech.)

11) Analyze the one-page story in all possible ways, isolating word by word:

SOUNDS

FORMS

FUNCTIONS

MEANINGS

12) Go over Sec. 16) above, and note the things which happen again and again. This is the core of something which we can call Structure or Grammar.

13) Words functioning in sequences, how they work, what ideas they carry. English: the Rule of 1-2-3- expressing Function, as against a few "remnant endings" from an earlier period (who/whom, am/are/is).

14) A sample short study of a language which uses endings (Latin, French, or even better an artificial language): What happened to the endings in English?

15) Differences between the way you say things in different languages while meaning the same thing:

Je me porte bien (Fr.) = I feel OK

Je m'appelle... (Fr.) = my name is

Pericolo de morte (Ital.) = Danger!

Imitation de bois (Fr.) = wood grain finish

Does this mean that people think differently?

16) Can you think without words? What things cannot be expressed in words exactly? God? Smells? Tastes?

17) Setting up a grammatical framework for our use in writing good (= clear) English sentences.

NOUN VERB ADJECTIVE SINGULAR PLURAL TENSES AGREEMENT PREPOSITIONS PRONOUNS etc.

FOR THIS SECTION, SEE: SUPPLEMENT ON GRAMMAR

18) Analysis of a page of writing in terms of this framework, optionally using a color stripe for each function.

19) Analysis of a sample page of student writing, finding things which do not "fit" the situation. Are these things "wrong" in terms of communication, in style, in terms of good written English (but OK elsewhere)?

20) The levels of English in a series of readings:

Colloquial (Mark Twain dialog piece)

Vernacular of the workplace (shop or garage man)

Vernacular of a locale (a Damon Runyon story)

Substandard (ain't... ; it don't... nohow.)

"Swears" and such.

High school book-report

Paper on a poem

College paper in sociology or philosophy

Medical prose (on a sheet in a pharmacy notice)

21) A shorthand system of notation for correcting errors in written English, used as a convenience rather than a rule.

22) Practice in finding errors, understanding them, and redoing the paper to make clean and acceptable English copy.

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William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris