LINGUIST List 8.1044

Sat Jul 12 1997

Disc: Grammar in Schools

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <annlinguistlist.org>


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  1. Peter Chew, Disc: Grammar in UK Schools

Message 1: Disc: Grammar in UK Schools

Date: Tue, 8 Jul 1997 21:49:46 +0100 (BST)
From: Peter Chew <pchewjesus.ox.ac.uk>
Subject: Disc: Grammar in UK Schools

On Thu, 3 July 1997, Larry Koch wrote:

>I read your contribution to the Linguist List after having it forwarded 
>to me, and I must say I am disappointed to see a teacher of English 
>promoting the fallacy of the "split infinitive". There simply is no 
>such thing. 
>
>First, the "to" particle is not always a part of the infinite (e.g. 
>after modal verbs).
>
>Second, placing the adverb between "to" and the infinitive is often
>the only way the sentence makes sense, in terms of modifying the verb.
>Likewise, placing the adverb elsewhere often makes the sentence less
>understandable.
 
I think you have misunderstood what I was saying in my contribution to
the list. I do not `promote the fallacy of the split infinitive'. The
syllabus which I teach requires a descriptive rather than a
prescriptive approach. The questions set by the external examining
board, however, often require the students to show their commitment to
descriptivism by commenting critically on various prescriptive rules
laid down in the past, as in the Orwell example. They need to know
what actives, passives and infinitives are before they can do
this. The sixteen-year-old students who come to me have usually been
taught no terminology at all, apparently because their teachers have
been terrified of being prescriptive.

I know and teach that not all infinitives contain `to'. I also give
the students examples (e.g. `I asked him to kindly apologise') where
placing the adverb anywhere else would cause ambiguity.

Jennifer Chew
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