Time to Go Wayback

Monday, September 5, 2016

Fire Up the Wayback Machine

George Santayana was famously quoted, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  You might be inclined to wonder, what does that have to do with attending a class in seminary?  Well, that is a very good question and I'm glad you asked!

Last week we began talking about the importance of observation in studying the Bible.  Specifically, the ability to identify the basic grammatical structures and syntax of a text.  How an author used language elements to express thoughts and ideas is important to ultimately being able to properly interpret a passage.

After listening to the professor and reading my textbook last week, I'm convinced I must have been either asleep or brain dead during my English classes some 33 years ago.  I recall nothing!  And this makes up a significant portion of my first learning assignment in BE101.  So it's time to fire up the Wayback Machine because if I have any hope of completing this assignment, I'm going to need to learn some English grammar, and fast!

Starting with the Basics

Ok, so I'm not a total ignoramus when it comes to the English language, but I know I need to sharpen my technical vocabulary and understanding when it comes to grammar.

For the most part, the basics are easy enough to understand; nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronouns, etc.  It's diving into things like phrases, clauses, verb forms, verb tenses, conjunctions, and punctuation where I go off the rails.  The text chosen for my assignment seems to have a little bit of everything, so I'm going to need some help.

My Friend the Internet

I spent a little time hunting around the internet for resources that will help me learn the particulars of English grammar.  I also searched for tools that can help me process information moving forward.  Long story short, I found several good resources worth mentioning.

  • Grammar Bytes - www.chompchomp.com - A cornucopia of grammar goodness written in a fun and easy to understand style.  If you need to remember some aspect of grammar and that School House Rock tune from your childhood escapes you, this is a great place to start.
  • Reverso Conjugator - conjugator.reverso.net/conjugation-english.html - Are verbs giving you the blues?  Well, plug in any verb in the Reverso Conjugator and you'll get more forms and tenses than you knew existed - unless you're an English major.
  • Enju - http://www.nactem.ac.uk/enju/demo.html - Enju is an XML sentence parser that is as educational as it is helpful.  Basically, Enju takes a sentence and builds a grammar tree.  The important thing to realize is that parsers are based on specific rules frameworks.  Different rules are going to yield different results, so you need to review the output carefully.
  • BE101 Grammar Review - Well, the professor didn't leave us in the middle of the woods.  He prepared a simple but thorough document that expounded on common grammar structures we are going to encounter.  Very helpful.
  • Xmind - www.xmind.net - Mind mapping software.  Very useful tool that I've been using for years to help organize and structure random thoughts.  This is just about the perfect tool to record observations for this assignment.

Putting it All Together

My assignment was to come up with 25 observations on one specific Bible verse in isolation.  These observations could be both contextual and structural in nature.  So how did I fare?

I used Xmind to record my observations and I started by listing as many contextual observations as I could.  I then proceeded to work on the structural observations of the text.  The basics I covered myself easy enough and I followed up by perusing Grammar Bytes on some of the particulars.  Reverso came in handy when I was really struggling to identify a present perfect verb.  And finally, Enju helped me a lot with some of the determiners, a clause, and one particular adverb.

Overall I spent a little over 9 hours on the assignment which I'll tweak a little bit more before I turn it in later this week.  Out of that 9 hours I probably spent about 3 hours on making and recording observations.  I spent the other 6 hours reading and studying various grammar elements and learned how to identify them.

All in all, I learned a lot during this assignment.  At the very least, I'm far more comfortable now in handling structural English than I was last week.  Not sure if I should be happy about that or embarrassed about how much I'd forgotten.  Oh well, I continue.

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