The curious art of diagramming sentences was invented 165 years ago by S.W. Clark, a schoolmaster in Homer, N.Y. His book, published in 1847, was called A Practical Grammar: In which Words, Phrases, and Sentences Are Classified According to Their Offices and Their Various Relations to One Another. His goal was to simplify the teaching of English grammar. It was more than 300 pages long, contained information on such things as unipersonal verbs and “rhetorico-grammatical figures,” and provided a long section on Prosody, which he defined as “that part of the Science of Language which treats of utterance.”
It may have been unwieldy, but this formidable tome was also quite revolutionary: out of the general murk of its tiny print, incessant repetitions, maze of definitions and uplifting examples emerged the profoundly innovative, dazzlingly ingenious and rather whimsical idea of analyzing sentences by turning them into pictures…
The full story– and lots of nifty diagrams– at Kitty Burns Florey’s “A Picture of Language” in the New York Times‘ Opinionator blog…
As we map our mumblings, we might pause to think some celebratory thoughts: today is Juneteenth.
Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862 (effective January 1, 1863), word was slow to spread. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, who’d arrived in Galveston, Texas, with 2,000 federal troops to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves, read “General Order No. 3” from a local balcony:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Former slaves in Galveston celebrated in the streets; Juneteenth observances began across Texas the following year– and are now recognized as State Holidays by 41 states.
Ashton Villa in Glaveston, from whose front balcony the Emancipation Proclamation was read on June 19, 1865 (source)
Juneteenth celebration in Austin, c.1900 (source)