Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This meaning or that? aka, Demonstrative Adjective or Demonstrative Pronoun?

I'm a rules person.  I like my grammar nice and neat.  But I find myself frequently telling my girls, Sophie and Clara, during their homeschooling, that some aspects of grammar are open to interpretation.  For example, when to use less common punctuation such as an M-dash, a colon, parentheses, ellipses, etc. 

Yesterday we ran into one that was so clear to me, but the curriculum materials had explained it differently.  I asked Joe, and he agreed with the curriculum.  I looked it up in Writers Inc, and ... gues what!!  I won!!  I mean, I was right.

The dilemma:  Is the word that always a demonstrative pronoun?

When the girls do their grammar lessons, they are given an excerpt from their current reader, a paragraph or two, perhaps five to eight lines.  They are instructed to make certain grammatical observations and notations regarding the given paragraph.

In the example that caused the murkiness yesterday, they were to find and mark all the pronouns.  The hint they were given:  "The words that and which are pronouns."

I don't disagree that that and which can be pronouns.  But I don't think they are always pronouns.  Especially not that.  I still have to think a little bit more about which.

That can be a demonstrative pronoun.  Can you please bring that to me? 
That can also be a demonstrative adjective.  Can you please bring that pencil to me?

This explanation is clear as a bell to me.  It's so fundamental to how I "think grammar" that I absolutely wouldn't consider it even worthy of discussion.

But in Clara and Sophie's grammar lesson, there was that hint:  "The words that and which are pronouns."

The selection in which those thats occurred?
My story will tell much of that little strip of land called Canaan to the south, between us and the accursed land of Egypt, which was only a name to me when I was a child.  For all the wealth and all the armies and all the glories of the nations have passed through that little land and probably always will; and the story of the kings of Canaan is the story of the world.  (from Hittite Warrior, by Joanne Williamson)
I've shaded the two thats in that selection.   Both to me are quite obviously adjectives.  That strip.  That land. 

When I found myself once again in disagreement with the curriculum, I asked my husband, Mr. Languages.  "I've never heard of a demonstrative adjective.  Those are pronouns.  That is always a pronoun."


But I was unwilling to let it go.  I pulled out Writers Inc, the recommended writing manual for use with our curriculum. 

According to Writers Inc,
504.3 Demonstrative Pronouns
A demonstrative pronoun points out people, places, or things without naming them.
This shouldn't be too hard.  That looks about right.
These are the best ones.  Those ought to be thrown out.
That would seem to imply that the uses in the paragraph above are not pronouns, since the definition specifies, "without naming them."  And none of the examples are of the same construction as the paragraph in the girls' school lesson.

"I'll just look up demonstrative adjectives, to check what they say there."

Writers Inc on adjectives,
from section 513.1 Types of Adjectives
NOTE: Some words can be either adjectives or pronouns (that, these, all, each, both, many, some, etc.).  These words are adjectives when they come before the nouns they modify; they are pronouns when they stand alone.
Yes, I'm a little competitive.  Just a little, really.  But I felt like spiking the football.

But there's still that which to deal with.  My gut reaction is that it's a subordinating conjunction, introducing the dependent clause.  I don't find which in any lists of possible subordinating conjunctions.  But there are so many possibilities, that the lists usually say something like, "and many other words," or, "etc."  So I can probably include it there if I want.  Count it as one of those mury places in the English language. 

But I have to admit that it might just be a pronoun. 

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