Grammatical Principles

Grammatical Principles

Grammar

Opening

Complete a Quick Write.

  • How can grammar interfere with or enhance communication? Explain.

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Reactions to the Opening Paragraph

Work Time

For the rest of the period, you will focus on grammar in “A Modest Proposal.”

Submit your responses to your teacher.

  • Reread the opening paragraph of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” aloud.
  • In a Quick Write, describe your reactions to these sentences. Refer to the specific words or phrases that affected your reactions.
  • When you have finished, share your writing with a partner or small group and discuss your reactions.

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You Have a Choice
You may work individually, with a partner, or with a small group to complete today’s grammar activities.

Vocabulary in the Opening Paragraph

Work Time

Continue to focus on the opening paragraph of “A Modest Proposal.”

  • Highlight any vocabulary you are unfamiliar with or are uncertain about.
  • Pay particular attention to melancholy, importuning, alms, and sustenance. Jot down some ideas about possible meanings based on what the paragraph tells you.
  • Share with a partner or small group. When you have finished sharing, look up the meaning of these new words and discuss how the definitions are similar to your own ideas.

Author's Attitude and Intended Audience

Work Time

Based on your initial reading of the opening paragraph, respond to the following questions.

  • What do you think the author feels about this situation?
  • What words or phrases reveal the author’s attitude toward his topic?
  • Who do you think is his intended audience?
  • Could there be more than one audience he is writing for?

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Swift's Attitude and Irony

Work Time

Look again at the first sentence of the opening paragraph and answer the following questions.

  • “It” is the subject, but what is the “melancholy object” that “It” is?
  • Whom are “those” referring to? How does the reader know they are different from the melancholy objects that they see?
  • What in this sentence provides evidence of Swift’s attitude toward both “those who walk through this great town” and the “objects” they see? Particularly note:
    • How “great town” fits with what the reader sees.
    • Why Swift uses the word object to describe the beggars .
    • Other word choices Swift makes.
  • What kinds of irony can you find here, and does Swift’s use of irony suggest anything about his attitude?

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These Mothers

Work Time

Now focus on the beginning of the second sentence of the opening paragraph and answer the following questions.

  • Why do you think “these mothers” cannot work for an “honest livelihood”?
  • In what ways could “these mothers” be “forced to employ all their time” this way?
  • Look at Swift’s word choices in this clause and decide if the word strolling suggests or implies anything beyond the main idea. Could that word suggest something about Swift’s audience and how they might view the situation with the poor?

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Helpless Infants

Work Time

Then focus on the rest of the second sentence of the opening paragraph and answer the following questions.

  • Swift indicates only two choices for these “helpless infants,” although one of the choices has two parts. What are these choices? Given the time period and historical situation in Ireland, can you think of any other choices they might have? What reason would Swift have for limiting the choices to the ones he mentions?
  • Why does Swift use the phrase their “dear native country”? “Their” refers to whom? Do you think they feel their native country is “dear”? Why? How does this reveal more of Swift’s attitude about the issue, or about his own readers?

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Brief Research

Work Time

Continue to focus on the rest of the second sentence of the opening paragraph and answer the following questions.

  • If you need more background information about the Pretender in Spain, where could you find it? Do some brief research on this reference and discuss how this might relate to the issue of poor, starving families in Ireland.
  • Do you need more information on the reference to selling “themselves to the Barbadoes”? Remember the historical period of this essay and discuss your reaction to this solution for these “helpless infants.”

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Hyperbole and Sentence Structure

Work Time

Answer the following questions.

  • Does Swift use any hyperbole in these opening sentences? Why would he use hyperbole when the situation in Ireland is as grim as he suggests? How might that affect the reaction of his audience?
  • Does the long sentence structure suggest anything? Think about the issue Swift identifies, the powerful image of starving children, and why he might start with two rather long and complex sentences.

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Target Audiences

Work Time

This satirical essay was published in London in 1729. The complete title is “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.”

  • Keeping in mind the purpose of satire, who are the possible audiences for Swift’s essay?
  • How might Swift be targeting separate types of audiences, and how might each target audience react differently to reading these first two sentences?

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Imitation of Swift's Style

Work Time

Work individually to write in Swift’s style.

  • In one or two more paragraphs, continue Swift’s essay with your own ideas, explaining or describing a solution to the problem Swift has identified. Try imitating Swift’s style, maintaining his tone with similar word choices, sentence structures, irony, and hyperbole where appropriate.
  • Next write another paragraph or two, again in Swift’s style, where you propose a satirical or humorous solution to the problem.
  • Share your paragraphs with a partner or small group and discuss the different approaches you each took. Referring to the opening sentences, identify why you made the choices that you did in words, syntax, and so on.

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Grammar Check-In

Closing

  • Let your teacher know where you are in the grammar assignment.

Why Grammar Is Worth Studying

Homework

Write a response to the following.

  • In a paragraph, explain why grammar is worth studying. How does it influence your writing?

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