Linguistic Signification

Linguistic Signification: A Classical and Semiotic Course in Grammar & Composition 

This book is intended to serve one end: instructing students how to compose a thoughtful and insightful essay in the English language.  Though it admits of some flexibility, the course of study ought to take approximately 26 weeks, and the text has been accordingly structured.

The study of grammar forms an integral and recursively-applied part of this education, which ought to provide students (depending on their prior grammatical education) the foundation that is needed in going forward in all writing-oriented educational institutions and occupations.  Through understanding the principles at work in the grammatical rules of any language, a mind becomes more acutely attuned to the process of structuring thought, and thus the how of conveying meaning: how we are able to make things known both to ourselves and to others.  Accordingly, students will learn the functions of the parts of speech and how they are related to one another through definitions, examples, and extensive practice in diagramming.  Moreover, students are encouraged to think about the parts of speech, their functions, and how they relate one to another; mere correctness is not the goal, but rather a striving for understanding.  Subsequently, they will learn how to apply this understanding of the parts of speech to the art of composition, which is broken up into three parts: sentences, paragraphs, and essays.

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Whereas other textbooks of English grammar and composition tend to proceed entirely piecemeal, focusing upon one limited aspect of English at a time, the intention of this work is to provide an integral experience, incorporating the practice of writing into a larger educational development.  To that end, students are given 10 new vocabulary words to learn most weeks with the expectation that they will be given a corresponding quiz each week.  These words are assigned in concert with a reading from Virgil’s Aeneid, an exciting masterwork of epic poetry and one of the literary cornerstones of Western Civilization.  The text used is the English translation by Robert Fitzgerald.[1] The entirety of The Aeneid will be read throughout the year and will provide a basis for most of the writing assignments.  Good writing cannot occur in a vacuum: that is, students must simultaneously improve their knowledge of vocabulary and abilities of reading comprehension.  As an art, composition is fructified by the expanse of the mind as a whole—a well-wrought essay is the product not merely of a refined technical ability, but the expression of something true.  Reading a classic story concerning human character and thinking about the meaning and use of the words within does wonders to expand the mind, and therefore to improve one’s capacity for expressing the truth in the written word.

[1] New York: Random House, Inc., 1983 (ISBN: 0-394-72596-4).

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