Online anaphora demonstration

From the University of Sydney:

See how words ‘without content’ point or link to content words in other sentences…”

Examples of words without content:

  • this
  • such
  • these

Examples of words with content:

  • cat
  • dog
  • house
  • run
  • sit
  • stay

DIRECTIONS for using the site:

  1. Click on Step 5 
  2. Read the paragraph.
  3. Click START.

Source:
Clearer Writing by the University of Sydney

I think of “words without content”  function words — as words whose meaning you can’t find in the dictionary. The meaning lies in the conversation you are having or the passage you are reading.

A simple example of anaphora

Anaphora are words (and expressions) that refer back to something that appeared earlier in the text. Here is a simple example:

Abby is my dog. She is a yellow Labrador retriever.

She” is an anaphora that refers to Abby.

You can’t look up the meaning of an anaphora in the dictionary because a dictionary can’t tell you that “she” refers to Abby. The anaphora’s meaning is inside the text, usually in the preceding sentence. You have to infer —  figure out — its meaning from the previous sentences.

We use anaphora in conversation all the time, and nobody has any trouble understanding what is being said. But text is different. Many students have great difficulty understanding the anaphora writers use in prose.

Anaphora are so challenging to young readers that the Morningside Academy (where I attended the Morningside Summer School Institute last summer) trains students to interpret anaphora first, before teaching them how to find the main idea.

To look at a use of anaphora that stumped our class last September, go here.

AND SEE:
Richard Hudson defines anaphora
William J. Kerrigan on Step 6
More from William J. Kerrigan on Step 6

Richard Hudson defines anaphora

Anaphora is the name for the relationship between she and Mary in—

Mary looked out of the window. The sky looked threatening, so she decided to take an umbrella.

What the two highlighted words share is the fact that they both refer to the same person – they have the same reference. The word she refers back to the word Mary without repeating the name. This ‘reference back’ is called anaphora. Successful writers keep track of the various people and things that they mention by building a reference chain by means of anaphoric devices such as pronouns. KS3 writers sometimes fail to make these links clear, thus spoiling the coherence of their writing.

Introduction: coherence, anaphora and reference
Richard Hudson

More from William J. Kerrigan on Step 6

Part 1: “Step 6 stuns some people.”

William J. Kerrigan explains Step 6:

STEP 6. Make sure every sentence in your theme is connected with, and makes a clear reference to, the preceding sentence.

1.
Repeat in Sentence B (the second of any two sentences) a word used in sentence A (the first of those two sentences).
EXAMPLE: The fable is a short tale designed to teach a lesson. The purpose of the fable is to give advice.

2.
Use in sentence B a synonym of a word in sentence A.
EXAMPLE: Cats are social animals. Feline behavior is different from what most people believe.
EXAMPLE: Researchers presented four crows with a pile of stones and a narrow flask of water at the bottom of which was a worm. The birds all picked up the stones and placed them in the flask, raising the water level to the point where they could reach the worm.

3.
Use a pronoun in sentence B to refer to an antecedent in sentence A.
EXAMPLE: The characters in fables are flat. They personify virtues and vices.

4.
Use in sentence B an antonym [opposite] of a word in sentence A.
[Use this technique when you’re showing a contrast or difference.]
EXAMPLE: In the far south of Africa, the Dutch and British and other Europeans were already living and trading….But
 north of Karuman lay the rest of the huge continent of Africa

, hundreds and hundreds of miles that no European had ever seen.
[“South” and “north” are opposites.]

5.
Use in sentence B a word commonly paired with a word in sentence A.
EXAMPLE: The Grimms, however, changed more than the style of the tales. They changed the content.
[“Style” and “content” are usually associated in discussions of fiction. Source:The Lure of the Fairy Tale by Joan Acocella | The New Yorker | 7.23.2012

6.
Repeat a sentence structure.
EXAMPLE: I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. – Winston Churchill
DOGS LOOK UP TO US
CATS LOOK DOWN ON
Same structure, same rhythm.

7.
Use a connective in sentence B to refer to an idea in sentence A.
EXAMPLES: for, therefore, however, although, etc.

AND SEE:
William J. Kerrigan explains Step 6 and tells a story 
Anaphora: all posts
Cohesion and coherence: all posts

William J Kerrigan on Step 6

from Writing to the Point:

STEP 6. Make sure every sentence in your theme is connected with, and makes a clear reference to, the preceding sentence.

[Step 6] stuns some people. It seems to claim to be a truth—a big truth—about all writing; yet since they have never heard it before, how can it be true?

In fact, I had teaching with me once, as a practice teacher, an intelligent young woman who was doing graduate work in English at one of our state universities. She had previously been a technical editor in the aerospace industry. She enjoyed her work teaching Steps 1 through 5 and did it excellently, I am happy to say. I suspect Step 5 may have been something of an eye-opener for her; but when I proposed Step 6 to her, she looked at me as if I were out of my mind. “Why, that’s simply not so,” she said.

“Well,” I said, “don’t take my word for it. But go to any printed essay or article that you think is well written, and see whether every sentence in it doesn’t connect with, and make clear reference to, the preceding sentence.”

She went away shaking her head, her eyes clouded with doubt. But a couple of days later she returned, after having done some conscientious and extensive investigation, and said simply, “Now I see why I haven’t been getting A’s on my papers at the university.”

AND SEE:
William J. Kerrigan on Step 6:
..7 ways to connect sentences

X-1-2-3: all posts
Anaphora: all posts
Cohesion and coherence: all posts

An “anaphoric phrase” that refers to a concept you have to glean from the text

(Quick review of anaphora here and here. Dictionary definition here.)

QUESTION: In the paragraph below, what does the phrase “such distinctions” mean?

Some combinations of words are possible in English, while others are not possible. Every native speaker of English can easily judge that ‘Home computers are now much cheaper’ is a possible English sentence, whereas “Home computers now much are cheaper” is not, because they know that “much” is wrongly positioned in the second example. The ability to recognise such distinctions is evidence that in some sense native speakers already know the rules of grammar, even if they have never formally studied grammar….” *

When we read this paragraph in class, everyone had trouble! Not a single person figured it out.

DT said something I found intriguing. He assumed that the words “such distinctions” referred to something outside the text, in the real world.

I mentioned in another post (here) that many students have trouble interpreting anaphora. Perhaps the problem is that students are looking for the meaning outside the text instead of inside?

I wonder.

Whatever the explanation, the phrase “such distinctions is an anaphora, and the meanings of anaphora are always found inside the text. Not outside.

IMPORTANT: Most of the time, the meaning of an anaphora lies exactly one sentence back. That is true because in the work of professional writers most sentences refer back to the sentences just before them. (The word “that,” in the last sentence, is an anaphora referring to the sentence before it.)

The sentence one back from the “such distinctions” sentence is:

Every native speaker of English can easily judge that ‘Home computers are now much cheaper’ is a possible English sentence, whereas “Home computers now much are cheaper” is not, because they know that “much” is wrongly positioned in the second example.

Here’s another way of saying the same thing:

Every native speaker of English knows the distinction [difference] between ‘Home computers are now much cheaper’ and ‘Home computers now much are cheaper.’ The distinction between these two sentences is that the first sentence is grammatical and the second sentence is ungrammatical.

Here’s the whole passage again:

Every native speaker of English can easily judge that ‘Home computers are now much cheaper’ is a possible English sentence, whereas “Home computers now much are cheaper” is not, because they know that “much” is wrongly positioned in the second example. The ability to recognise such distinctions is evidence that in some sense native speakers already know the rules of grammar….

Such distinctions” refers to “grammatical distinctions.” The authors are saying that native speakers can naturally tell the difference between grammatical and ungrammatical sentences without having to study grammar in school.

Why is it so difficult for student readers to interpret “such distinctions“?

The answer may be, at least in part, that “such distinctions” refers to a concept or idea (the grammar knowledge native speakers possess), not a person, place, or thing.

You have to understand the idea to understand the anaphora.

Companion Website for An Introduction to English Grammar, Third Edition

* Excerpt from Greenbaum and Nelson’s An Introduction to English Grammar

AND SEE:
William J. Kerrigan on Step 6
Richard Hudson defines anaphora
A very simple example of “anaphora”

Anaphora in a two-sentence pair

The words in blue are examples of anaphora:

Sentence fragments have long been a form that most teachers try to eradicate from student writing. However well intentioned this may be, does it help students become better writers of nonfiction?

The words this and it both refer to trying to eradicate sentence fragments from student writing.

When writers use different words or expressions to “rename” or refer back to something that appeared earlier in the text, they are using anaphora.

To understand what a word like “this” or “it” means, you have to know which word or words, or which idea, “this” or “it” has replaced.

Here’s what the two sentences above might sound like without “this” and “it”:

Sentence fragments have long been a form that most teachers try to eradicate from student writing. However well intentioned trying to eradicate sentence fragments from student writing may be, does trying to eradicate sentence fragments from student writing help students become better writers of nonfiction?

As a general rule, you can’t find out what anaphora mean by looking them up in the dictionary.

The meaning of anaphora is inside the text you are reading, not the dictionary.

FULL PASSAGE HERE

AND SEE:
William J. Kerrigan on Step 6