The Early History of Sentence Diagrams

Note: The following pages represent notes that I collected for an article on early sentence diagrams, an article which, given the demands on my time, I am unlikely to complete any time soon. I may, however, add additional points as time permits. Included in this material is a scan of a substantial portion of the earliest attempt to provide a systematic scheme for diagramming, Clark's Practical Grammar (1847). The scan of Clark (and any other 19th-century works here) is public domain, but my commentary remains covered by the Creative Commons license.

Reed-Kellog Diagram
In the United States there are currently two major varieties of diagrams in use to represent sentence structure: traditional diagrams, used more or less exclusively in junior high school and high school classrooms, and tree diagrams, the most common method used by professional linguists.

The traditional system has lost much of its former popularity but is still to be found in the back of many schoolbooks. Such diagrams, with words tilted at odd angles, with lines forming inscrutable patterns and extending quaquaversally to the edges of the page, remain the image most readily evoked for non-linguists, even if fewer and fewer people are forced to draw them by their ninth-grade English teachers.

These illustrations are known as Reed-Kellogg diagrams, named after Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg, who described their method in two books first published in the 1870s: Graded Lessons in English (1875) and Higher Lessons in English (1877). A simple example is shown to the right.

The Reed-Kellogg diagram is a tool of the classroom and of the textbooks that codify the rules for its production. But grammar textbooks share a problem similar to the one Thomas Kuhn noted for science textbooks: they tend to efface the history of their subject. Indeed, grammar textbooks are far more ahistorical that science textbooks. The average science textbook will contain some history, however Whiggish. There will be at least a cursory mention of the scientists who formulated the theories under discussion, some suggestion that scientific knowledge is subject to change and accretion. Grammar, however, comes to students as an abstract whole. The sources from which the textbook authors derived their accounts normally go unacknowledged. There is no sense of grammar as a theory—or, more precisely, a constellation of competing theories—with its own intellectual history.

Reed and Kellogg were not the first to represent sentence structure visually. Their diagrams encode one late-nineteenth-century view of English grammar and their attempt to find a more effective way to teach it. Moreover, the assumptions behind the diagrams were vigorously debated throughout the nineteenth century. What, then, led Reed-Kellogg diagrams to displace earlier schemes? When we turn to look at Reed and Kellogg's predecessors, another surprising fact emerges: sentence diagrams themselves appeared only in the middle of the nineteenth century, about thirty years before Reed and Kellogg introduced their system. But writers had been publishing studies of English grammar for centuries by that point. Why did it take so long for diagrams to develop?

Although the overall evolution of grammatical pedagogy has been studied by a number of writers, diagrams themselves have
not attracted much attention. Kitty Burns Florey has published a popular account of sentence diagrams, Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog (Florey, 2006), which contains modest historical detail and a large amount of impressionistic reaction to diagrams as she encountered them in her own schooling. In a more scholarly vein, Richard Brittain's PhD dissertation (Brittain, 1973) serves as a useful catalog of those grammarians who employed diagrams in their work. Brittain, however, is mostly concerned with judging how adequate the systems were with respect to transformational-generative syntax as it was understood in the early 1970s. His account provides minimal historical context and does not try to explain the reasons for the sudden appearance of diagrams in the middle of the nineteenth century.[1]

(This page last updated Oct. 17, 2015)


1. I would like to thank Frank Schumacher for making a copy of Brittain's dissertation available to me.


Before Diagrams

The practice of diagramming sentences first began in America in the middle of the nineteenth century. Set against the full history of grammatical study, diagramming is a relative newcomer. Language has been studied systematically since at least the second century bce in the western world, and even earlier in India. Yet sentence diagrams—visual depictions of the relationships among words—were developed only after over 2000 years of study. From our vantage, the desire to visualize sentence structure may seem like an intuitively obvious move. But diagrams' sudden appearance and their subsequent popularity owe much to a significant shift in methods of teaching grammar that occurred at the same time. Starting in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, three factors conspired to overturn centuries of pedagogical tradition: increasing dissatisfaction among teachers with traditional methods, new technology introduced into the classroom, and, most importantly, a reformulation of syntax that shifted the focus away from the individual word and to the sentence.

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, the market for grammar textbooks was dominated by Lindley Murray's English Grammar, adapted to the different classes of learners (1795). In addition to numerous editions of the English Grammar itself, there were scores of abridgments, expansions, guides, and imitators. Murray's primary method of analysis was oral parsing, a technique copied almost without change from instruction in Latin grammar. A student would be given a sentence and expected to provide a detailed breakdown for each word, naming the parts of speech and the inflectional relations (case, number, gender, tense, as appropriate), and reciting the rules laid down in the grammar book that explained the particular construction. The procedure required a large amount of rote recitation and very little attention was paid to how words were grouped apart from agreement relationships and case assignment. The following extract from Murray illustrates how such parsing was conducted:

"This bounty has relieved you and us; and has gratified the donor."

This is an adjective pronoun of the demonstrative kind. Bounty is a common substantive. (Repeat the person, number, and case.) Has relieved is a regular verb active, indicative mood, perfect tense, third person singular, agreeing with its nominative "bounty," according to RULE I which says &c. You is a personal pronoun of the second person plural, and in the objective case. (Repeat the government and rule.) And is a copulative conjunction. Us is a personal pronoun, in the objective case. You and us are put in the same case according to RULE XVIII, which says, &c. And is a copulative conjunction. Has gratified is a regular verb active, indicative mood, perfect tense, and third person singular, agreeing with its nominative "bounty," understood. "Has relieved" and "has gratified" are in the same mood and tense, according to rule XVIII, which says, &c. The is the definite article. Donor is a common substantive, of the third person, the singular number, and the object of the active verb "has gratified;" or, the objective case governed by that verb. (Murray 1809, p. 220-221)

Such analysis is fundamentally word-based. To use the terminology of nineteenth-century grammar books, it is "etymological parsing." (In the nineteenth century, etymology included what modern linguists would now call morphosyntax.) Relationships between words are specified only in so far as they explain grammatical concepts such as case. So we are told that has relieved agrees with bounty, but there is no consideration of phrasal units such as this bounty. Murray, of course, knew that this is related to bounty. But pedagogically that fact is never emphasized, and there is no recognition that the two words together form a cohesive unit of grammar.[2] What was lacking, in other words, was a systematic conception of a hierarchical sentence structure.

As if to double down on the inherent tedium of the method, Murray and his close imitators presented the abstract rules first. Only after the rules had been committed to memory did parsing, their practical application, begin. As a pedagogical method, this order clearly leaves much to be desired. It is unsurprising, then, that from the 1820s we find a rising chorus of complaints about the traditional methods of teaching. Goold Brown, conservative both in grammatical description and pedagogy, describes the trend while sniffing disapprovingly at it:

This fact [rote memorization], too frequently illustrated in practice, has been made the basis of the strongest argument ever raised against the study of grammar; and has been particularly urged against the ordinary technical method of teaching it, as if the whole of that laborious process were useless. It has led some men, even of the highest talents, to doubt the expediency of that method, under any circumstances, and either to discountenance the whole matter, or invent other schemes by which they hoped to be more successful. The utter futility of the old accidence has been inferred from it, and urged, even in some well-written books, with all the plausibility of a fair and legitimate deduction. The hardships of children, compelled to learn what they did not understand, have been bewailed in prefaces and reviews; incredible things boasted by literary jugglers, have been believed by men of sense; and the sympathies of nature, with accumulated prejudices, have been excited against that method of teaching grammar, which after all will be found in experience to be at once the easiest, the shortest, and the best. I mean, essentially, the ancient positive method, which aims directly at the inculcation of principles. (G. Brown, 1862, p. 102)

The early reformers did not depart significantly from the basic concepts of parsing, but they took great pains to make the process more understandable to their students. Samuel Kirkham's English Grammar in Familiar Lectures (1823) is representative of this drive towards reform. From a modern perspective, his book may appear virtually identical to earlier grammars such as those of Lowth or Murray, whose rules Kirkham follows almost slavishly. But Kirkham was quite proud of his "systematic order of parsing" (Kirkham, 1829, p. 9). He condemns the older methods of teaching, albeit not the grammatical principles themselves, and emphasizes putting grammatical rules into immediate practical use and explaining things to students in conversational terms:

The systematic order laid down in this work, if pursued by the pupil, compels him to apply every definition and every rule that appertains to each word he parses, without having a question put to him by the teacher; and, in so doing, he explains every word fully as he goes along. This course enables the learner to proceed independently; and proves, at the same time, a great relief to the instructer [sic].... The author is, therefore, anxious to have the absurd practice, wherever it has been established, of causing learners to commit and recite definitions and rules without any simultaneous application of them to practical examples, immediately abolished. This system obviates the necessity of pursuing such a stupid course of drudgery; for the young beginner who pursues it, will have, in a few weeks, all the most important definitions and rules perfectly committed, simply by applying them in parsing. (Kirkham, p. 11)

(This page last updated Oct. 17, 2015)


2. This word-based thinking is reflected, for example, in the traditional definition of a pronoun, which states that it replaces a noun. In fact, it replaces a noun phrase, as can be seen by considering sentences such as, "John approached the woman sitting at the bar and asked if he could buy her a drink." Her in this sentence cannot be taken merely as a replacement for woman. It replaces the whole phrase the woman sitting at the bar.

Prerequisites to Diagrams

New Technology

Even with Kirkham's innovations, etymological parsing still appears to be monumentally dull. And yet it did have one pedagogical virtue: it was easily employed in a largely oral environment, where students spoke their answers without writing anything down. At the start of the nineteenth century, equipment we now consider basic to classrooms was largely lacking in American schools. Commonplace books for students to write in were available but used sparingly, given the relative expense of paper. There were no blackboards. Even the slate, a portable, reusable writing surface that had been used in Europe for centuries, was apparently seldom used in American classrooms before the 1830s, or at least was not normally applied to the teaching of grammar. Lyman quotes one William A. Alcott, writing in 1830, who notes that "the idea of studying grammar with slates and pencils was so novel that I found no difficulty in gaining general attention." (Lyman, 1922, p. 148).

This traditional reliance on oral methods for teaching grammar is one reason that diagrams did not appear earlier. Diagrams are a means of visualizing structure. One necessary prerequisite for their use, therefore is a suitable medium for their display. They are unusable in the classroom if teachers and students cannot show them to one another. The major technological innovation that made diagrams possible in the classroom was the blackboard, an oversized version of the slate, which begins to appear in schoolrooms as early as 1818 but was not standard equipment for schools until the 1830s or 1840s (Lyman, 1922, p. 149).

The blackboard let teachers show connections among words in new ways. Lyman quotes James Ray giving advice in 1830 about the use of the blackboard, including an early, ad hoc form of diagramming:

In the study of Grammar the blackboard may be used to exhibit the inflections of the various parts of speech; it may also be used in syntax, to point out the connection of the principal words to each other. The method of doing this is by writing on the board the sentence to be parsed, and then connecting by curved lines those words that have any grammatical connection with each other. The instructor at the same time pointing out what that relation is. It may be observed that in teaching grammar the use of the blackboard is confined to the teaching of the elementary principles of the science, [and] is used by the teacher for the purpose of illustrating these principles. (Lyman, p. 148).

The drawing described here is an attempt to illustrate the traditional relationships of government rather than full system of diagrams, but it's clear that in the decades before the appearance of the first true sentence diagrams, teachers were beginning to hit on the basic technique of depicting syntactic relationships visually.

From Word to Sentence

As has been noted, the word-centered methods of traditional grammar discouraged looking at hierarchical relationships within the sentence. Diagrams, however, are an attempt to illustrate constituency within the sentence. A second prerequisite to diagrams, therefore, was a shift in thinking about syntax to a hierarchical, sentence-based orientation.

Traditional grammar was not wholly lacking in a consideration of sentence structure. The terms subject, predicate, and clause are notably lacking from Lindley Murray's work, but they predate Murray by centuries.[3] Yet the word-by-word approach to analysis dominates these earlier discussions. James Harris, for example, begins his work Hermes with a consideration of the sentence (Harris, 1751), but almost immediately, he turns his focus to individual words and their parts of speech. Similarly, when Goold Brown presents his syntactic parsing, he works through his example word by word, in sentence order. At each stage he describes the syntax by naming a word that it governs or is governed by, or related to. The first part of his sample syntactic parsing in The Institutes of English Grammar is the following:

"This enterprise, alas! will never compensate us for the trouble and expense with which it has been attended.''

This is a pronominal adjective, of the singular number, not compared: and relates to enterprise; according to Rule IV, which says, "Adjectives relate to nouns or pronouns." Because the meaning is—this enterprise.

Enterprise is a common noun, of the third person, singular number, neuter gender, and nominative case: and is the subject of will compensate; according to Rule II, which says, "A noun or a pronoun which is the subject of
a verb must be in the nominative case." Because the meaning is—enterprise will compensate. (G. Brown, 1845, p. 108}

Brown is so captive to the word-and-accidence model of syntax that he appears not to notice that his rule for the subject is circular. It's in the nominative case, he says, and we know it's the subject because it's in the nominative case. But how do we know it's really nominative? English nouns have no distinct forms for nominative and objective cases, after all. Because it's the subject, which is presumably self-evident from the "meaning," a formulation that explains nothing.

From the 1830s, however, writers of grammar books began to incorporate a more systematic analysis of sentences beyond word-level parsing. The ultimate source of this shift was German philology, especially as filtered through the intermediary of the influential Latin grammar of Andrews and Stoddard (1836), which introduced a method of analysis deriving "the rules of Syntax from the logical analysis of the sentence, and its distinct specification of the particular use of each of the several words of which a sentence is composed." (Andrews and Stoddard, p. 4).

English grammars quickly took up the sentence-based method of analysis. Noble Butler, author of the popular A Practical Grammar of the English Language (1846) and one of several authors who explicitly credit Andrews and Stoddard, gives a concise account of the method of analysis he championed:


Tell whether the sentence is simple or compound.
If it is a simple sentence, name the logical subject and the logical predicate.
Name the grammatical subject.
Tell by what the grammatical subject is modified.
If the words which modify the grammatical subject are themselves modified, tell by what they are modified.
Name the grammatical predicate.
Tell by what the grammatical predicate is modified.
If the words which modify the grammatical predicate are themselves modified, tell by what they are modified.
If it is a compound sentence, name the several clauses.
Name the independent and the dependent clauses.
Tell by what each dependent clause is connected to the independent.
Analyze each clause in the same manner in which the simple sentence is analyzed.
(Butler, 1847, pp. 201-202)

Unlike the earlier methods of parsing, which proceed word by word in order, Butler's process encourages a top-down view of the sentence. The student's first job is to divide the sentence into clauses, it there is more than one, then to divide each clause into subject and predicate. By "logical" subject and predicate, Butler means what would, in later works, be called the "complete" subject and predicate. Then, the student analyzes how the subject and predicate, respectively, are constructed.

(This page was last updated October 17, 2015.)


3. The concepts of subject and predicate were introduced by Boethius in the early sixth century (Vineis and Maieru, p. 151), and clause (Latin clausula) appears in the grammatical sense around 1300.


In the decades before the first full system of diagrams, a number of authors experimented with various ways to visualize grammatical relationships. None of these systems were particularly influential, but they all show early instances of teachers grappling with the same problems that would later give rise to true diagrams.

(This page was last updated October 17, 2015.)

James Brown

The earliest, and certainly the most innovative, of these experimenters was James Brown, whose system of "American grammar," attempted a complete break with the terminology of English grammar—or indeed with that of any other system ever devised. A cursory glance at the pages of Brown's works provide the reader with definitions like the following:


Is a class of syllabanes, or ne-syllabanes, which is made up of those monos that have a branch dependence upon some other mono, or monos in the poetrone;
(J. Brown, 1847, p. 41).

It easy to see why Goold Brown (1862) dismissed the other Brown's work as "fantastical" (p. xiii). Such bizarre terminology, combined with his flagrant self-promotion and his captious attacks on rival grammarians can easily incline a reader to dismiss Brown as a mere crank. Yet Görlach's (1998) dry suggestion that "it would be worth studying Brown in case he is more than a productive eccentric" (p. 64) is well taken. Brown stands apart from the mainstream of nineteenth-century grammar, but some of his criticisms, such as the inadequacy of traditional definitions, are reminiscent of critiques by contemporary linguists.[4]

Most relevant to a consideration of diagrams, however, is Brown's treatment of constituency, or "scanning," as he calls it in J. Brown (1831).[5] Brown uses a system of brackets and numbers printed above words to show structural relationships among words. He divides up a sentence into "sections", as in the following example from J. Brown (1831), p. 36:

1   1 1 1     1 1 1  
[The sun shines] (upon all men) (who will receive his rays)
    1 1 1  
(which he sends) (from the heavens.)

Brown uses square brackets to denote "major sections," that is, word groups which he takes to be independent, and he uses parentheses to denote "minor sections," that is, word groups that depend on another unit. He uses numbers above individual words to distinguish "major words," which are left unmarked, and "minor words," that is, those that depend on another word. He also recognizes that these dependency relationships can be nested to an arbitrary extent, and uses increasing numbers to show the depth of the nesting:

4 3 2 1
Very much too cold weather.

In other words, with this notation, Brown indicates that very modifies much, which in turn modifies too, which modifies cold, which modifies weather. He uses similar numerical notations to show the dependency arrangements in the sections above: "the sun shines (upon all men1) (who will receive his rays2) (which he sends3) (from the heavens4.)"

As these examples illustrate, Brown was groping towards a way to illustrate syntactic structure. But his peculiar theory comports neither with grammar as it was understood in the nineteenth century nor with contemporary linguistic notions of phrase structure. The analysis here assumes that the root of language consists of nouns, and that all other words are
modifications of those fundamental terms. Thus, the major words in the constituents above are always nouns. (He groups pronouns and nouns in the same category.) For example, in the section "who will receive his rays," who and rays receive equal rank. In other words, the direct object, "his rays" is treated as a first-order constituent, on the same level as the subject. This treatment explicitly flips on its head the notion that the object of a verb is a dependent of that verb. A similar point can be made for his treatment of preposition phrases. Moreover, despite his use of numbers to annotate a degree of dependency, the way Brown deploys his brackets suggests that he remains stuck in a word-by-word way of thinking about structure. His sections simply divide up the sentence into groups one after the other rather than recognizing that one unit actually nests within another. In other words, he takes one section to depend on another section as a whole, rather than on a specific word in the section.

Brown does elaborate this system slightly to indicate the direction of the reference when there is more than one noun, and to handle compound relationships where a word refers to more than one other word at the same time, but the analytical shortcomings of the scheme, quite apart from his fondness for renaming all the conventional terms of grammar, ultimately doom this system to be a dead-end.

(This page was last updated Oct. 17, 2015.)


4. For an extensive discussion of Brown's overall work and its place in the intellectual currents of the time, see West (2000).

5. This work, although it has its own curious terminology, is relatively free of the dense neologisms of Brown's later works.

Barnard's Analytic Grammar

Brown was so caught up with revising the technical aspects of English grammar that he paid little attention to pedagogy. His methods are generally traditional, even if the scheme he taught was entirely new. Altogether more innovative in his use of new pedagogical techniques was another writer from the 1830s: Frederick A. P. Barnard, the tenth president of Columbia College (now Columbia University) and the person for whom Barnard College was named. In 1836, Barnard published his Analytic Grammar with Symbolic Illustrations, a work that can lay claim to be the first to employ graphical symbols as a way of recording and visualizing grammatical analysis.

Barnard's grammar achieved little popularity outside the community of educators for the Deaf. Whereas popular grammar books of the day would go through dozens, or even hundreds, of editions, Barnard's book exists only in a single edition.[6] Today, it has become entirely obscure, and the schemes of sentence diagramming that come to dominate the later half of the nineteenth century appear to be uninfluenced by his work. Nevertheless, the Analytic Grammar is notable not merely because it precedes other diagramming systems but because it also reflects the transition in grammatical pedagogy that was occurring at the time. In it we can see Barnard not only attempting to provide visual representations for the old accidence-based parsing but also groping his way towards a hierarchical conception of language, expressed in visual terms. And along the way he proves to be a leader in other pedagogical techniques, such as linking the study of grammar to composition.

Barnard's method involved annotating sentences by placing a symbols above each word in the sentence. These symbols convey information not only about parts of speech but also about concepts such as case and tense, as well as certain semantic relationships.

Example of Barnard's Symbols

Earlier grammarians had used interlinear glosses to convey certain grammatical information. Lowth (1764), for example, used numbers over words to indicate the parts of speech in the eighteenth century. But Barnard credits the idea of representing the grammatical features of a word visually to the inspiration of Roche-Ambroise Sicard.

Sicard ran the the first public school for the deaf, the Institution Impérial des Sourds-Muets, as it was known in 1808, when he published his Théorie des Signes pour l'Instruction de Sourds-Muets, describing a system of signs that was used at his school.[7]

Sicard's signs were logical source of inspiration for Barnard, who himself had grown increasingly deaf as a young adult and who worked, at the time he wrote the Analytical Grammar, as a teacher at the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now known as the New York School for the Deaf). These signs, though, served more as a general inspiration for Barnard than a specific road-map.

Sicard's system is not actually a record of French Sign Language. Rather, it is a method of teaching deaf students how to read and write French when they may possess only a rudimentary home sign language. The bulk of the Théorie des Signes constitutes a dictionary, but the keywords in that dictionary are simply French words. The gestures which constitute definitions are closer to pantomimes meant to convey a definition than true signs in a full sign language. Sicard decomposes words into semantic primitives, each of which is conveyed through a gesture that is meant to be iconic. The result can be an extensive series of signs—far too many for practical, day-to-day conversation—that include gestures not only for a word's core meaning but also for a wide variety of grammatical features, including signed equivalents for both derivational and inflectional morphology.

The process of semantic decomposition and the effort at iconicity can both be seen in Sicard's treatment of grammatical concepts. For example, Sicard's method for expressing what he calls the absolute past (the passé composé) is as follows:

on jette la main droite par-dessus l'épaule, derrière soi, pour indiquer que l'action qu'on énonce n'est ni devant soi, ce qui annonceroit qu'elle est présente; ni au devant de soi, à quelque distance de soi, ce qui annonceroit
qu'elle est future.

(the right hand is thrown back over the shoulder, indicating that the action described is neither immediately in front of us, which indicates that it is the present, nor ahead of us at some distance, which indicates that it is the future.)
Sicard (1808), v. 2, p. 574.

His signs for the passé simple, which he calls the "first relative past," are the following:

Le signe du 1er passé relatif se compose de deux signes : 1°. Du signe du passé absolu (qui est aussi le signe de tous les passés). 2°. De l'indication de l'époque, qui se fait en avançant l'index devant soi, comme pour indiquer un objet quelconque.

(The sign for the first relative past consists of two signs: (1) The sign of the absolute past, which is also the sign of all the pasts. (2) The indication of the time, which is done by advancing the index finger in front of oneself, as if to indicate some object or other.)
Sicard (1808), v. 2, p. 575.

This method of dealing with tense clearly shows that Sicard bases his signs on a semantic analysis of time relationships, even if he takes the grammatical distinctions made available in French as his starting point. Notably, his signs bear no direct correspondence to language-specific morphology. Hence, the absolute past, a two-word verb form in French (e. g.,
j'ai parlé), is taken as the semantic base from which to build other expressions of past time, whereas the first relative past is treated as a derived form, even though its French expression is a one-word form (e. g., je parlai). Nor does Sicard distinguish between the different verb classes. Signs for verbs like parler, venir, and rendre all receive the same additional gestures to mark tense, mood, person, and number.

It is the primarily the concept of representing abstract grammatical features in an iconic form that Barnard takes from Sicard's work. Barnard does not attempt to draw Sicard's gestures, but like Sicard, he attempts to find symbols that bear some transparent semantic relationship to the concepts that he is trying to annotate. Also following the lead of Sicard, he builds up his symbols compositionally, starting with basic elements and gradually adding more and more features to encode other concepts, a point that he is at pains to stress in his preface:

Should the variety of forms which the symbolic characters assume, appear, at the first glance, to render the subject complicated, it may be worth while to suggest that all these forms spring from the combination of elements, exceedingly simple in their nature, and in number only six, viz. :---

Barnard's Basic Forms

These elements are separately introduced, at intervals, and gradually modified and combined, to meet the growing wants of the learner.
Barnard, 1836, p. iii.

How Barnard elaborates upon these basic elements, and his attempt at iconicity, can be seen in his treatment of nouns. The resemblance to stick figures of people is not accidental. His basic representation for a substantive, a vertical line, is first expanded by adding little feet to the bottom, "[t]o give it an appearance of stability" (Barnard, 1836, p. 24). The little arms extending from the nominative and objective forms of the noun symbols are meant to suggest action proceeding from the subject and moving towards the object. The possessive form adds the basic symbol for the attributive function to that for a noun. In other words, it conveys Barnard's analysis of the possessive noun as a word that is both a noun and a modifier. Plural forms are indicated by adding two ticks to the basic forms.

Barnard's Paradigm for Nouns

The number of features that Barnard encodes in his symbols can become quite elaborate, particularly when he treats the verbs. Unlike modern theories that also enumerate grammatical features explicitly, for example head-driven phrase structure grammar, Barnard normally encodes only the forms he regards as marked. Thus plurality can be indicated for both nouns and verbs, but only the plural forms modify the basic symbol.

Barnard's explicit discussion of gender treats both masculine and feminine nouns as marked. He distinguishes between masculine, feminine, neuter, and common-gender nouns. In terms of his symbols, the symbol for a neuter noun is the most basic, consisting of a single vertical line. The masculine noun is shown by the addition of the two feet, as shown above. For feminine nouns (e. g. actress), the feet are replaced by a horizontal line. The symbol for common nouns joins the modifiers for both masculine and feminine nouns, forming a triangle beneath the vertical line (Barnard, 1836, p. 85). In practice, however, Barnard regards these distinctions as of little value and uses the masculine form as the default for all nouns. He also does not distinguish gender in third-person singular pronouns. He, she, and it all are given
the same symbol.

The most intriguing moments in Barnard's work are when he starts to consider how to use his system to represent different levels of constituent structure. In the diagram reproduced below, Barnard represents structure in a series of bracketed groupings that look, at least superficially, as if they anticipate tree diagrams. The numbers at the left of the figure indicate successive stages of grouping in which words are progressively combined into larger and larger units, building from the
bottom up.

Barnard's Constituent Structure

One important reason that Barnard's figure reminds a modern reader of a tree diagram is that it maintains the linear order of the words in the sentence, and the figures are grouped together on that basis. But once we start to look at the details, there are many differences. To better appreciate the ways in which his drawing does and does not anticipate a phrase-structure diagram, I have translated it into format will be more familiar to readers who are used to reading tree diagrams.

Barnard's Constituent Structure Translated

In the figure above, I have replaced Barnard's symbols with labels that reflect the part of speech and the marked features that the symbol encodes. Because he has no symbol for a clause, Barnard stops once he gets to the level of what we would call the subject and the predicate, although his symbols suggest that he actually thinks of these constituents as an expanded noun and verb, respectively. Indeed, Barnard does not have any consistent concept of a phrase as found in modern linguistics. As these symbols suggest, he treats part-of-speech labels as equally applicable to individual words as well as to larger units. Thus, for example, "in disposition" is labeled an adverb, because it modifies the adjective mild. This analysis is more or less identical to that adopted by later schoolbook grammars, even when they do use the term phrase.

In many other ways, however, the details of this translation show that Bernard was not thinking of phrase structure in any rigorously hierarchical way. For example, he marks the relative clause "who is mild in disposition" as an adjective. This distinction is in keeping with the mainline tradition of nineteenth-century grammar. But he shows this clause as consisting of two components: "who is mild," an adjective, and "in disposition," an adverb. In reality, "mild in disposition" is a single constituent, the complement of is, and "in disposition" should truly be shown as a dependent of mild. The lack of any symbol for a clause may be part of the problem here. Similarly, "very many" and "friends" are not shown as forming a single constituent, the object of make.

With such issues, it's difficult to decide if Barnard has simply made a mistake by his own standards or if the figure truly reflects his own best understanding of constituency. Given the paucity of discussion of the issue in previous grammar books, it is unsurprising that he would struggle to achieve a clear conception of such details of sentence structure.

(This page last updated Oct. 18, 2015.)


6. Within schools for the Deaf, however, Barnard's methods had a more lasting impact. His system was used in New York through at least the 1860s, and is mentioned as being taught in Michigan in 1873.

7. This system is typically credited to Sicard's predecessor at the institute, Charles-Michel de l'Épée. Sicard, however, suggests that it underwent major elaborations after Épée's death, extensions that made it much more effective. So the system that Sicard presents is not merely the one that Épée devised. For simplicity, I will refer to this system as Sicard's, but it would be most accurate to say that it was the result of long collaboration among many teachers and students.

Clark's Practical Grammar (1847)

The first complete diagramming system was developed by S. W. Clark in A Practical Grammar: in which Words, Phrases, and Sentences are Classified According to their Offices, and their Relation to Each Other. Illustrated by a Complete System of Diagrams (1847). His system

I have scanned the first part of Clark's book (pp. 18-36), which includes an overview of the system, illustrative examples for various sentence types, and practice exercises (remarkable only for their abundant citation of bad poetry). I've made some effort to preserve the format of the original, although the original pagination and a few other features are ignored, and pictures appear larger than in the original for the sake of clarity. I've silently corrected a few obvious printer's errors, but the punctuation is original, and not always in keeping with modern practice. The scans here come from the 6th edition (1853). Some pages in my copy are foxed, hence the spotting in the images.

Note: Clark's terminology is antiquated and may confuse a reader familiar with the terms' modern meanings. In particular, note that an auxiliary sentence is a subordinate clause, and etymology does not just mean the origin of words but also includes morphology, that is, their inflections, etc.

Title Page










“Speech is the body of thought.”

BY S. W. CLARK, A. M.,








General Rules


Prin. The office of a word in a sentence, determines its position in the diagram, according to the following



  1. The principal parts of a sentence are placed uppermost, and on the same horizontal line; as 1, 2, 3.
  2. The Subject of a sentence takes the first place; as 1.
  3. The Predicate is placed to the right of the subject—attached; as 2—7—11—26
  4. The Object is placed to the right of the predicate; as 3. The object of a phrase is placed to the right of the word which introduces the phrase; as 22 to the right of 21.
  5. A word, phrase, or sentence, is placed beneath the word which it qualifies; as 4 and 5 qualify I ~—(25, 26, x) qualify 22
  6. A word used to introduce a phrase, is placed beneath the word which the phrase qualities—having its object to the right and connecting both; as 15 connecting 12 and 16—21 connecting 3 and 22.
  7. A word used only to connect, is placed between the two words connected; as 10 between 7 and 11; and a word used to introduce a sentence, is placed above the predicate of the sentence, and attached to it by a line; as 0 above 2.
  8. A word relating back to an other word, is attached to the antecedent by a line; as 6 attached to 1, and x to 22.
Sample Diagram - General Form

Explanation of the preceding Diagram.
0—Introduces a sentence,  Rule 7.
2—Predicate of 1,
3—Object of 2.
4 and 5 individually, and 6 to 19 inclusive,
 collectively, qualify or define 1,
6—Subject of 7 and 11, and relates to 1, 2 and 8.
7—Predicate of 6, 3.
8 and 9—Modify 7, 5.
10—Connects 7 and 11,  7.
11—Predicate of 6, 3.
12—Object of 11, 4.
13, 14, (15, 16, 17, 18, 19)—Qualify or define 12, 5.
20 and (21, 22, 23, 24)—Qualify or define 3, 5.
21—Shows a relation of 3 and 22, 6.
22—Object of 21, 4.
23, 24, (25, 26, x)—Qualify or define 22, 5.
25—Subject of 26, 2.
26—Predicate of 25, 3.
x-Object (understood) of 26 and relating to 22, 4 and 8.

Classification of Sentences

Rem.—Some sentences assert the being, condition, or state, of a person or thing—or an action which does not terminate on an object. Others assert an ction which terminates on an object.

Some sentences assert but one fact; others, more. Some assert an independent, or a principal proposition; others, a secondary, or qualifying proposition. Hence,

Prin. Sentences are distinguished as—

Intransitive or Transitive,
Simple or Compound,
Principal or Auxiliary.

Def. 27. An Intransitive Sentence asserts being, condition, or state—or an act which does not terminate on an object.

EXAMPLES—I am—William sleeps—James is weary—Animals run—Cora sings sweetly—God is Love.

OBS.—An Intransitive Sentence contains one or more subjects and predicates, but no object.

Def. 28. A Transitive Sentence asserts an act which terminates on an object.

EXAMPLES—Birds built nests—Bring flowers—John and Dennis saw wood—Jane studies Grammar and Botany—“The king of shadows loves a shining mark.”

OBS.—1A Transitive Sentence has at least one subject, one predicate, and one object.

Def. 29. A Simple Sentence asserts but one proposition.

OBS.—It asserts but one fact concerning one person or thing. Hence, it contains but one subject, and one predicate, and (if transitive) one object.

EXAMPLES—Birds fly—John is studious—Resources are developed.

NOTE.—Two or more simple sentences, distinct in grammatical construction, may have a logical connection. Such a collection of sentences is properly called a Period.

“Wheat grows in the field—and men reap it.”

“A friend exaggerates a man's virtues—an enemy his crimes.”

Def. 30. A Compound Sentence asserts two or more propositions.

OBS.—It asserts two or more facts concerning one or more persons or things.

As, Henry studies and recites grammar.

Or it asserts one or more facts concerning two or more persons or things.

As, Homer and Henry study grammar.

Or it asserts one act of one person or thing which terminates on two or more objects.

As, Henry studies grammar and arithmetic.

Hence, a compound sentence contains two or more subjects, or predicates or objects.

DEF. 30, a.—The parts of a compound sentence are called clauses.

OBS.—The compound clauses may be—


Diagram 6 1. The subjects—As, Homer and Henry study grammar.
2. The predicates—Henry studies and recites grammar.
3. The objects—Henry studies grammar and arithmetic.

Rem.—Sentences which have compound predicates, often have objects applicable to only a part of them. Hence,

DEF. 30, b.—A compound sentence having one or more transitive. and one or more intransitive clauses, is a Mixed Sentence.


Diagram 7 EXAMPLES—Time slept on flowers, and lent his glass to Hope.
The stars will then lift up their heads and rejoice.

NOTE.—A compound sentence is not “a union of two or more simple sentences.” “Wheat grows in the field, and men reap it.” Here are two simple sentences independent of each other, so far as the grammatical construction of them is concerned. The latter sentence is simply added to the former—and its proximity alone determines the word for which the word “it” is substituted.

Nor is a compound sentence always “made up of parts of two or more simple sentences.” Oxygen and Hydrogen form water. We may not say—Oxygen forms water and Hydrogen forms water; but as the two things,Oxygen and Hydrogen, must be joined chemically before they can form water, so the two words, “Oxygen” and “Hydrogen,” must be joined in construction, before the “subject of the sentence” is complete.

A compound sentence has at least one member of one of the principal parts common to two or more members of another of the principal parts.

[See Examples above.]

Def. 31. A Principal Sentence asserts an independent or principal proposition: as,


Diagram 8 A mortal disease was upon her vitals.”

Def. 32. An Auxiliary Sentence expresses a qualifying assertion: as,


Diagram 9 “A mortal disease was upon her vitals, before Caesar had passed the Rubicon.”

NOTE.—An auxiliary sentence is an adjunct of a sentence phrase, or word, going before in construction; or it is used as a substitute for a noun. Hence,

Prin. Auxiliary sentences are distinguished as Substantive, Adjective, and Adverbial.

DEF. 32, a.—A Substantive Sentence is used as the subject of object of a verb: as,


Diagram 10 That good men sometimes commit faults can not be denied.”
“Much learning shows how little mortals know.”

NOTE.—A sentence is sometimes used independently in construction, although explanatory of another: as,

“It echoed his text, Take heed how ye hear.”

DEF. 32, b.—An Adjective Sentence is used to qualify a noun or pronoun: as,


Diagram 11 “He that getteth, wisdom, loveth his own soul”

DEF. 32, c.—An Adverbial Sentence is used to modify the signification of a Verb, Adjective, or Adverb: as,

Diagram 12 “Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails.”

Def. 33. A principal sentence, with its auxiliary sentences, constitutes a Complex sentence.

“He hears the thunder ere the tempest lowers.”

[See Examples attached to Diagrams 9, 10, 11, and 12.]

Simple Sentences

1. “The king of shadows loves a shining mark.”

Diagram 13

A simple sentence—transitive, See defs. 28 and 29.
Principal parts. King—Subject, 21.
Loves—Predicate, 22.
Mark—Object, 23.
The } Adjuncts of king,
Of shadows
A } Adjuncts of mark,

fist Let the construction of this sentence be written on the black-board.

Other Examples applicable to the same Diagram.

2. The science of Geology illustrates many astonishing facts.

fist Let the Analysis of this sentence be written on the black-board.

Words. Use. Class. Def.
The, limits “science.” Adj., 9.
Science, agent of the action expressed by “illustrates.” Noun, 7.
Of, expresses a relation of “science” and “geology.” Prep., 12.
Geology, object of the relation expressed by “of” Noun, 7.
Illustrates, expresses the action performed by “science.” Verb, 10.
Many, limits “facts.” Adj., 9.
Astonishing, qualifies “facts.” Adj., 9.
Facts, object of the action expressed by “illustrates.” Noun, 7.
  1. A love for study secures our intellectual improvement.
  2. The habit of intemperance produces much lasting misery.
  3. A desire for improvement should possess all our hearts.
  4. The use of tobacco degrades many good men.
  5. A house on fire presents a melancholy spectacle.
  6. A man of refinement will adopt no disgusting habit.

fist Let each pupil make a sentence adapted to the above diagram.

Compound Sentences

1. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Diagram 14
A compound sentence—transitive,  Def.*
Heaven } Objects,
In the beginning—Adjunct of created,
The—Adjunct of heaven,
The—Adjunct of earth,
Words. Use. Class. Def.
In, expresses a relation of “created” and “beginning,” Prep, 12.
The, limits “beginning,” Adj., 9.
Beginning, object of relation expressed by “in,” Noun, 7.
God, agent of the action expressed by “created,” Noun, 7.
Created, expresses the action performed by “God,” Verb, 10.
The, limits “heaven,” Adj., 9.
Heaven, object of action expressed by “created,” Noun, 7.
And, connects “heaven” and “earth,” Conj., 13.
The, limits “earth,” Adj., 9.
Earth, object of action expressed by “created,” Noun, 7.
  1. He educated his daughter and his son, at great expense.
  2. Students require of the teacher, much instruction and some patience.
  3. We, at all times, seek our honor and our happiness.
  4. God, in the creation, has displayed his wisdom and his power.
  5. Men gather the tares and the wheat, with equal care.
  6. John loves his study and his play, with equal attachment.

* Let the pupil repeat these definitions.

The Lord uplifts his awful hand
And chains you to the shore.


Diagram 15

Compound sentence—transitive

Lord—Subject of “uplifts” and “chains.”
Uplifts } Predicates of “Lord.”
Hand—Object of “uplifts.”
You—Object of “chains.”
Adjuncts. The—Adjunct of “Lord.”
} Adjuncts of “hand.”
To the shore—Adjunct of “chains.”

Other examples, in which the Principal Parts are the same.

fistLet the pupil place in diagrams, the following sentences:

“He heard the king's command,
And saw that writing's truth.”
“For misery stole me at my birth,
And cast me helpless on the wild.”

“Then weave the chaplet of flowers and strew the beauties of nature about the grave.”
“They fulfilled the great law of labor in the letter, but broke it in the spirit.”

                               “That the page unfolds
And spreads us to the gaze of God and men.”
“Now twilight lets her curtain down,
And pins it with a star.”
“He marks, and in heaven's register enrolls,
The rise AND progress of each option there.”

REMARK.—The last example differs from the others. Let the pupil tell wherein.

Temperance and frugality promote health, and secure happiness.

Diagram 16

A compound sentence—transitive.
Temperance }Subjects of “promote” and “secure.”
} Predicates of  ≴temperance” and “frugality≵
Health—Object of “promote.”
Happiness—Object of “secure.”

NOTE.—If I say—“Temperance promotes health and frugality secures happiness,” I make two distinct sentences each “simple.” But the “and” may be taken from between “temperance” and “frugality,” and placed between “health” and “happiness,” and it remains a compound sentence. It will then read thus—“Temperance promotes, and frugality secures, health and happiness;”—and is thus construed:

Temperance—Subject of “promotes.”
Promotes—Predicate of “temperance.”
Frugality—Subject of “secures.”
Secures—Predicate of “frugality.”
Health } Objects of “secures“ and “promotes.”

“There youth and beauty tread the choral ring,
And shout their raptures to the cloudless skies.”
“Prayer only, and the penitential tear,
Can call her smiling down and fix her here.”—Cowper.

NOTE TO THE TEACHER.—The Author suggests that the Teacher give to each Pupil, a sentence to be placed in Diagram, and presented for inspection and criticism, at a subsequent recitation. It is believed that this practice, repeated every day, will be an agreeable and profitable exercise.


Diagram 17
“Wisdom and virtue elevate and ennoble man.”
“The toils and cares of life torment the restless mind.”*
“Passion degrades and brutalizes man.”†

*A compound sentence—transitive; having two subjects, one predicate, and one object.

} Subjects of “torment.”
Torment—Predicate of “toils [and] cares.”
Mind—Object of “torment.”

} Adjuncts of “toils and “cares.”
Of life
} Adjuncts of “mind.”

†A compound sentence—transitive—having one subject, two predicates, and one object.


Passion—Subject of “degrades and brutalizes.”
Degrades } Predicates of “Passion.”
Man—Object of “degrades and brutalizes.”

Miscellaneous Examples having their Principal Parts adapted to Diagram a, b, or c, Fig. 17.

“Pride and envy accompany and strengthen each other.”
“Illuminated Reason and regulated Liberty shall once more exhibit man in the image of his Maker.”
“Here Art and Commerce, with auspicious reign,
Once breathed sweet influence on the happy plain.”
“For Hopes too long delayed,
And Feelings blasted or betrayed,
Its fabled Bliss destroy.”
“Patience and perseverance will surmount or remove the most formidable difficulties.”
“Then Strife and Faction rule the day,
And Pride and Avarice throng the way;
Loose Revelry and Riot bold,
In freighted streets their orgies hold.”
“The hunter's trace and the dark encampments started the wild beasts from their lairs.”
“Thy praise the widow's sighs, and orphan's tears embalm”
“Their names, their years; spelled by the unlettered muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply.”—Grey.
“Hence, every state, to one loved blessing prone,
Conforms and models life to that alone.”
“Hope, like a cordial, innocent though strong,
Man's heart at once inspirits and serenes.”—Young
“For which we shunned and hated thee before.”
“By thus acting, we cherish and improve both.”
“When mighty Alfred's piercing soul
Pervades and regulates the whole.”
“Knowledge reaches, or may reach, every home.”
“Whose potent arm perpetuates existence or destroys.”
Hill and valley echo back their songs.
“He tossed not high his ready cap in air,
Nor lifted up his voice in servile shouts,
At sight of that great ruffian.”

Diagram 18Unnumbered systems, suns, and worlds, unite to worship thee.

A compound sentence—intransitive; containing three subjects and one predicate.


Systems, } Subjects of “ unite.”
Unite—Predicate of “ systems, suns, and worlds.”
Adjuncts. Unnumbered—Adjunct of “systems, suns, and worlds.”
To worship thee—Adjunct of “unite.”

“The lame, the blind, and the aged repose in hospitals.”

Complex Sentences

Too low they build, who build beneath the stars.” Young

Diagram 21

A complex sentence—both simple and intransitive.

They—Subject of “build.”
Build—Predicate of “they.”
Adjuncts. Low—Adjunct of “build.”
Too—Adjunct of “low.”
Who build beneath the stars—Adjunct of “they.”
{ Who—Subject of “build.”
Build—Predicate of “who.”
Adjuncts. { Beneath stars—Adjunct of “build.”
The—Adjunct of “stars.”

Diagram 22

But they that fight for freedom, undertake
The noblest cause mankind can have at stake.

A complex sentence.

They—Subject of “undertake.”
Undertake—Predicate of “they.”
Cause—Object of “undertake.”
Adjuncts. That fight for freedom—Adjunct of they.”
The } Adjuncts of "cause"
[that] mankind can have at stake


But, introduces an additional sentence, Conj.
They, agent of action expressed by “undertake,” Pron.
That, agent of action expressed by “fight,” Pron.
Fight expresses the action performed by “that,” Verb.
For, expresses a relation of “fight “ and “freedom,” Prep.
Freedom, object of relation expressed by “for,” Noun.
Undertake, expresses the action of “they,” Verb.
The, limits “cause,” Adj.
Noblest, qualifies “cause,” Adj.
Cause, object of the action expressed by “undertake,” Noun.
X, [that], object of “can have”—referring to “cause,” Pron.
Mankind, agent of action expressed by “can have,” Noun.
Can have, expresses an action of “mankind,” Verb.
At, expresses a relation of “can have” and “stake,” Prep.
Stake, object of relation expressed by “at,” Noun.

fistLet each pupil make a sentence for the above diagram.

And students who love to study, merit the highest which teachers can give them.

Our proper bliss depends on what [that which] we blame.”

Diagram 23

A Complex sentence—the Auxiliary qualifies a phrase.

Bliss—Subject of “depends.”
Depends—Predicate of “bliss.”
Our } Adjuncts of “bliss.”

On what we blame—Adjunct of “depends.”

On—Expresses a relation of “depends” and “what.”
What{ [That]—Object of relation expressed by “on.”
[Which]—Object of action expressed by “blame.”

We—Subject of “blame.”

Blame—Predicate of “we.”

fistLet sentences be made for the above diagrams.

God never meant, that man should scale the heavens
By strides of human wisdom

Diagram 24

A complex sentence the Auxiliary the logical object of the Principal.

fistLet the Analysis of this sentence be written on the black-board.

Mixed Sentences

Time slept on flowers and lent his glass to hope.

Diagram 25

A mixed sentence.—Def. 30, b.

Time—Subject of “slept” and “lent.”
Slept } Predicates of “time.”
Glass—Object of “lent.”
Adjuncts. On flowers—Adjunct of “slept.”
His—Adjunct of “glass.”
To hope—Adjunct of “lent.”

fistLet the pupil apply the following sentences to the same diagram.

  1. We sign for change, and spend our lives for nought.
  2. We shall pass from earth, and yield our homes to others.
  3. William goes to school, and pursues his studies with diligence.
  4. James stays at home, and spends his time at play.
  5. Fruits ripen in autumn, and yield us rich repasts.
  6. Eagles build their nests on high, and watch for prey.
  7. Larks sing at dawn, and afford us much delight.

Vary the Adjuncts for the following.
“For spring shall return and a lover bestow.” Beattie.
“But the black blast blows hard,
And puffs them wide of hope.”
“Wreaths of smoke ascend through the trees, and betray the half hidden cottage.”
“Its little joys go out, one by one,
And leave poor man, at length, in perfect night.”
“In silence majestic they twinkle on high,
And draw admiration from every eye.”
“The waves mount up and wash the face of heaven.”

Diagram 26
For the angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed.

A mixed sentence—complex.—Def. 30, b. and 33.

Angel—Subject of “spread” and “breathed.”
} Predicates of “angel.”
Wings—Object of “spread.”
The } Adjuncts of “angel.”
Of death
His—Adjunct of  “wings.”
On the blast—Adjunct of “spread.”
In the face of the foe } Adjuncts of “breathed.”
As he passed
As—Introduces an auxiliary sentence.
He—Subject of “passed.”
Passed—Predicate of “he.”

fistLet the principal parts of the same diagram be written on the black-board, and vary the adjuncts to the following sentences.

“He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm”
The ravished eye casts its glance around on every side, and is never satisfied with gazing.
“That I might explore the records of remote ages, and become familiar with the learning and literature of other times.” Taylor
“But now a wave, high rising o’er the deep,
Lifts its dire crest—and, like a vengeful fiend,
Comes as a mountain on.”
“He leaps enclosures, bounds into the world.”—Young
“By that dread name, we wave the sword on high,
And swear for her to live—with her to die.”
“The moon in the east, now her crescent displays,
And adds to the grandeur of night.”

And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill.”
Diagram 27
Compound sentence—intransitive.

{ Eyes—Subject of “waxed deadly [and] chill.”
Waxed deadly [and] chill—Predicate of “eyes.”
Adjuncts. { The } Adjuncts of “eyes.”
Of the sleepers
And, introduces an additional sentence Conj., 13.
The, limits “eyes,” Adj., 9.
Eyes, agent of “waxed deadly [and] chill,” Noun, 7.
Of, expresses relation of “eyes” [and] “sleepers,” Prep., 12.
The, limits “sleepers,” Adj., 9.
Sleepers, object of relation expressed by “of,” Noun, 7.
Waxed, expresses (with “deadly” [and] chill”) what is affirmed of “eyes,” Verb, 10.
Deadly, used in predication with waxed Adj., 9.
And, connects “deadly” [and] “chill,” Conj., 13.
Chill, used in predication with waxed, Adj., 9.

Additional Examples
“Age is dark and unlovely.”—Ossian.
“Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves.”
“Bloodless are these limbs and cold.”—Byron.
“How finely diversified, and how multiplied into many thousand distinct exercises, is the attention of God.”—Chalmers.
“I am perplexed and confounded.”
“They became agitated and restless.”
“The wares of the merchant are spread abroad in the shops, or stored in the high-piled warehouses.”
“Rude am I in speech, and little blest With the set phrase of peace.”
“What bark is plunging ’mid the billowy strife,
And dashing madly on to fearful doom.”


Diagrams of the Principal Parts of Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences.


d36aIntransitive—having one Subject, one Predicate.
d36bTransitive—having one Subject, one Predicate, one Object.


d36-cde  Intransitive—two Subjects, one Predicate
 Intransitive—one Subject, two Predicates.
 Transitive—one Subject, two Predicates, two Objects.
d36-f-k  Transitive—two Subjects, two Predicates, one Object.
 Transitive—two Subjects, two Predicates, two Objects.
 Transitive—two Subjects, one Predicate, two Objects.
 Transitive—two Subjects, one Predicate, one Object.
 Transitive—one Subject, two Predicates, one Object.
 Transitive—one Subject, one Predicate, two Objects.


d36-lm  First Clause, Intransitive; Second, Transitive.
 First Clause, Transitive; Second, Intransitive.


d36-no  The Auxiliary sentence Substantive Subject of the Principal sentence.
 The Auxiliary sentence Substantive Object of the Principal sentence.
d36-p  Principal sentence, Simple, Intransitive.
 Auxiliary sentence, Simple, Transitive, Adverbial.
d37-q  Principal sentence, Simple, Transitive.
 Auxiliary sentence, Simple, Transitive, Adjective.


fist Rem.—Let the pupil write the Diagram for each sentence on the back-board and insert the words in the proper places.

Beatitudes diagram Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst
after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation,
for, when he is tried,
he shall receive the crown of life,
which the Lord hath promised
to them that love him.


That I have taken this old man's daughter, is most true.”
“As they sat down, one SAID to his friend at his right, ‘We shall soon see who is who.’”
“We bustle up with unsuccessful speed,
And in the saddest part, cry—‘Droll indeed.’”
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
“A celebrated writer says—‘Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.’”

“There is SOMETHING in their hearts which passes speech.”
“I heard the complaints of the LABORERS who had reaped down his fields, and the cries of the POOR whose covering he had taken away.”
“The difference in the HAPPINESS which is received or bestowed by the MAN who guards his temper, and that by the MAN who does not, is immense.”

And, as I passed along, I HEARD the complaints of the laborers.
“The sweet remembrance of the just,
SHALL FLOURISH when he sleeps in dust.”
“But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man RAISED his head, and SMILED.”
“And when [he was] listening to this, he WOULD often CLASP his hands in ecstasy of delight.”
“Their advancement in life and in education was SUCH that each ought to have been a gentleman.”
As they sat down, one SAID to his friend on his right, 'We shall soon see who is who.’”
If you would know the deeds of him who chews,
ENTER the house of God, and SEE the pews.” Adams.

Virtue secures happiness.
“Darkness is o’er the land—
For lo! a death-flag streams upon the breeze—
The Hero hath departed!”
“Nay, let us weep. Our grief hath need of tears—
Tears should embalm the dead.

 * * * * * * *

Throned in a nation’s love he sunk to sleep,
And so awoke in heaven.”—Mrs. Stevens.
“The perfect world, by Adam trod,
Was the first temple—built by God:
His fiat laid the corner-stone,
And heaved its pillars one by one.
“He hung its starry roof on high—
The broad, illimitable sky;
He spread its pavement green and bright,
And curtained it with morning light.”

  1. “A man of refinement never has recourse to proverbs and vulgar aphorisms.”
  2. “Across the ocean, came a pilgrim bark.”
  3. The bark of the trunk of the white oak is frequently variegated with large black spots.
  4. The wood of the young stocks is very elastic, and is susceptible of minute divisions
  5. “The flowers put forth in the month of May.”
  6. Night, sable goddess, from her ebon throne
    In rayless majesty, now stretches forth
    Her leaden sceptre o’er a slumbering world.”
  7. “Vulgarism in language, is a distinguishing characteristic of bad company, and a bad education,”
  8. “The wood of the Silver Fir is not much used as timber.” Goodrich
  9. “The Hemlock Spruce is not much esteemed for timber.”
  10. “Milton’s learning has all the effect of intuition.”
  11. “His imagination has the force of nature.”
  12. “Heaven, from all creatures, hides the book of fate.”
  13. “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind.”
  14. “If a noble squire had conducted himself well, during the period of his service, the honor of Knighthood was generally conferred upon him at the age of twenty.”
  15. “ Another bright day's sunset bathes the hills
    That gird Samaria.”
  16. “One glance of wonder, as we pass, deserve
    The books of Time.”
  17. “A fretful temper will divide
    The choicest knot that may be tied,
    By ceaseless, sharp corrosion.
  18. A temper, passionate and fierce,
    May suddenly your joys disperse
    At one immense explosion.”
  19. “But no mere human work or character is perfect.
  20. “The profoundest depths of man's intellect can be fathomed.
  21. “In the loftiest frights of his imagination he can be followed.
  22. “None of his richest mines are inexhaustible.”
  23. The time must come, when all will have been said, that can be said, to exalt the character of any individual of our race, however great his talents or illustrious his virtues.
  24. “Mysterious are His ways, whose power
    Brings forth that unexpected hour,
    When minds that never met before,
    Shall meet, unite, and part no more.”
  25. “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.”
  26. “That secrets are a sacred trust,
    That friends should be sincere and just,
    That constancy befits them—
    Are observations on the case,
    That savor much of common-place,
  27. And all the world admits them.”
  28. “The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance supply.”
  29. “Dryden often surpasses expectation—
  30. Pope never falls below it.”
  31. “Dryden is read with frequent astonishment—
  32. Pope, with perpetual delight.”
  33. “The heavenly hills were oft within thy view,
  34. And oft the shepherd called thee to his flock.”

Systems Derived From Clark

At the end of later editions of William C. Fowler's Common School Grammar (rev. ed., 1867) is a work by Francis A. March, A Parser and Analyzer for Beginners, with Diagrams and Suggestive Pictures (1869). These diagrams are similar to Clark's, but have square boxes where Clark has ovals. March acknowledges in the preface that the diagrams are adapted from Clark's system and says they are used with permission. The scan here comes from an 1884 stereotype edition.

Sample diagrams of coordinate conjunctions (pp. 60-61)

Systems Competing with Reed-Kellogg

At the end of Harvey's Revised English Grammar (1878) is a system which looks similar to R-K diagrams, but which is greatly simplified, in what appears to be unfortunate ways. Visually, note the absence of R-K's slanting lines for modifiers. Also, notice that the various modifiers are, in many cases, not clearly separated.

Sample diagrams for complex sentences, showing content clauses, infinitives, etc. (pp. 268-269)

The last page of this volume contains a plug for another book of diagrams by the same publisher: Irish's Grammar and Analysis Made Easy and Attractive by Diagrams. Given the nature of the diagrams in Harvey's Grammar, I suspect that this diagram system was cribbed from Reed and Kellogg, with enough changes to avoid copyright problems.

In E. J. Hoenshel, Hoenshel's Advanced Grammar (1899), there is a similar system that appears also to be an adaptation of Reed-Kellogg. Unlike Reed and Kellogg, the author does distinguish predicate nominatives from predicate adjectives, separating them from the verb by using an '=' for the former and a '-' for the latter.

Sample diagrams of relative clauses. (pp. 286-287)
Sample diagrams of adverbial clauses. (pp. 288-289)


Andrews, E. A. & Stoddard, S. (1839 [1836]). A Grammar of the Latin Language (Sixth ed.). Boston: Crocker and Brewster.

Barnard, F. A. P. (1836). Analytic Grammar; With Symbolic Illustration. New York: E. French.

Brittain, R. C. (1973). A Critical History of Systems of Sentence Diagramming in English. PhD thesis, University of Texas at Austin.

Brown, G. (1845 [1823]). The Institutes of English Grammar, Methodically Arranged (stereotype ed.). New York: Samuel and William Wood.

Brown, G. (1862 [1851]). The Grammar of English Grammars (Sixth ed.). New York and Boston: William Wood and Frederick Brown.

Brown, J. (1831). The American Grammar. Philadelphia: Clark and Raser.

Brown, J. (1847). An English Syntithology, in three books, developing the constructive principles of the English language by appropriate polymorph terms, used in this science only, and each having but one meaning (Fourth ed.)., volume 1. Abridged. Philadelphia: H. Grubb.

Butler, N. (1846). A Practical Grammar of the English Language (Electrotype ed.). Louisville, Ky.: Morton and Griswold.

Florey, K. B. (2006). Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences. Hoboken: Melville House.

Görlach, M.(1998). An Annotated Bibliography of Nineteenth-century Grammars of English. John Benjamins.

Harris, J. (1751). Hermes: Or, a Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Language and Universal Grammar. London: H. Woodfall.

Kirkham, S. (1829 [1823]). English Grammar in Familiar Lectures (Twelfth ed.). Robert B. Collins.

Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Second ed.). University of Chicago Press.

Lyman, R. L. V. (1922). English Grammar in American Schools Before 1850. Privately Printed.

Murray, L. (1809 [1795]). English Grammar, adapted to the different classes of learners (Sixteenth ed.). New York: Collins and Perkins.

Reed, A. & Kellogg, B. (1896 [1875]). Graded Lessons in English (Revised ed.). New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.

Reed, A. & Kellogg, B. (1896 [1877]). Higher Lessons in English (Revised ed.). New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.

Sicard, R.-A. C. (1808). Théorie des signes pour l’instruction de sourds-muets. 2 vols. Paris.

Vineis, E. & Maireù (1994). Medieval linguistics. In G. Lepschy (Ed.), History of Linguistics Volume II: Classical and Medieval Linguistics. Longman.

West, M. (2000). Transcendental Wordplay: America’s Romantic Punsters and the Search for the Search for the Language of Nature. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.