"Sentence Combining" seems like a short way to describe rhetorical
skills like summary, synthesis, and other features of what
Halliday and Martin call the "language of the expert" (I'm
looking at Janet Giltrow's _Academic_Writing_ here (236-237)).
Janet notes that this language of the expert gives priority
to taxonomy, "schemes for classifying and ordering phenomena" (237).
Janet also gives a full two chapters to the topic of summary
arguing that it is important because effective summary skills are
essential in academic contexts (28).
Not knowing much about New Brunswick's highschool English it is
hard to know if "sentence combining" is the best carrot for
these skills. A student could combine the sentences
in a way that would be grammatically correct but create a
questionable taxonomy. Perhaps that is what point "c" tries to
guard against -- though it would be interesting to see how
they define "effective." Who will determine if a particular
taxonomy is not effective?
Of course, it would be nice if the test material was accurate.
Perhaps a student's answer could focus on the test's inaccuracies
-- but that would involve "adding new ideas" (which education
should never do....)
On Sat, 12 Aug 2000, Russ Hunt wrote:
> I recently recieved a question from a teacher friend here in New
> Brunswick (Susan MacDonald, for those who might remember her from
> previous Inkshed meetings). She's concerned about the provincial
> grade 11 English test. The province is proposing a new item for the
> test. This is part of it:
> Student instructions:
> Sentence Combining
> Combine each group of sentences into one effective sentence.
> a. All of the original ideas must be included in each newly
> constructed sentence.
> b. Do not add any new ideas.
> c. Your score will be based on effective combination of ideas,
> correct spelling and punctuation.
> d. If you have difficulty with a particular group of sentences,
> go on to other sentences and come back to the difficult group when
> you have time.
> Sample item D
> 1. Ian Rankin is one of the most famous writers of the twentieth
> 2. Rankin was born in Edinburgh.
> 3. Rankin has written six detective novels.
> 4. One of these novels won the prestigious "Golden Dagger
> 5. The winning novel is titled The Hidden Highway.
> Sample item F
> 1. Freud and Jung "discovered" the unconscious in the nineteenth
> 2. Each had a very different view of this mental space.
> 3. For Freud the unconscious was a savage place which harboured
> humanity's primitive instincts.
> 4. For Jung the unconscious was a place which contained
> humanity's collective wisdom.
> She asked me what I thought about it, and whether I knew of research
> bearing on issues of current views of sentence combining, whether
> testing sentence combining is a useful strategy, and whether the
> likely consequence of including such an item -- that teachers would
> be more likely to include formal sentence combining instruction in
> their classrooms -- was one to be desired. (My own immediate
> question is why in Heaven's name anyone would attempt to construct
> one Frankenstein sentence which included all this stuff, but let that
> pass. You can also let pass my ignorance about who Ian Rankin, "one
> of the most famous writers of the twentieth century" is, or what Doug
> Vipond pointed out, that it's got Jung in the wrong century. Unless
> you think someone should care at least distantly about what they're
> I'd be grateful for any thoughts or (especially) references on this,
> and I'll pass them on to her.
> -- Russ
> Russell A. Hunt __|~_)_ __)_|~_ Professor of English
> St. Thomas University )_ __)_|_)__ __) PHONE: (506) 452-0424
> Fredericton, New Brunswick | )____) | FAX: (506) 450-9615
> E3B 5G3 CANADA ___|____|____|____/ [log in to unmask]
> \ /
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~ http://www.StThomasU.ca/~hunt/ ~~~~~~~~~~~~
> To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
> [log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
> write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
> For the list archives and information about the organization,
> the annual conference, and publications, go to the Inkshed Web site at
Brenton D. Faber Faculty Advisor:
Assistant Professor WTSC 91.1 Clarkson Radio
Clarkson University Society for Technical Communication
Potsdam NY 13699 Clarkson Student Chapter
[log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
[log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
the annual conference, and publications, go to the Inkshed Web site at