One City

I’ve been teaching grammar, punctuation, and the like at the New School for about ten years. After work, at either 6 or 8pm, for undergraduates and continuing ed students. My class size is limited to 15; I seldom max out on class size, but I usually get a nice group of 10-12 students by the time the first session begins.
Recently, a friend of mine in the ID Project was recruited to teach a class on Buddhism at the New School. At 8am. His class maxed out enrollment three weeks before the first class.
Clearly, the respective interest level in the these subjects is clear. I joked with my friend that perhaps I should teach Buddhist Grammar.
And I wondered what that would be, beyond a quickie absurdist comment.
The grammar I teach the undergraduates is based on three levels of understanding grammar: First, the rules for producing grammatically correct sentences that conform to Edited American English usage; second, the rules for producing grammar that all native English speakers have, but can seldom make explicit–rules explored by structuralists; and third, the deep structures of English syntax explored by Noam Chomsky and the transformational grammarians, who sought the underlying code that can generate all the grammatical sentences in English and none of the non-grammatical ones.
Now, if that doesn’t make you want to study grammar, I give up. Enroll already!
But seriously, about ten basic sentence structures exist, which can be transformed in various ways, duplicated, nested, cleft, and folded into the fantastic variety of forms that make up the world we read.
And all rest on the relationship of subject to itself or subject to object, expressed thru verbs. Either a complement IS the subject, a complement is an attribute of the subject, there is only a subject, or a subject acts upon or perceives an object. That’s pretty much it. Subject/object. Duality. Me, you. Us, them. I hit the ball, you drove the car, he fought the leopard, she loves the winter. People come to the ID Project.
So I started to whimsically muse: Would Buddhist grammar have no objects? Would it consist only of complements, or predicate nominatives?
Would it start from “I am you”? or “we are we”? We are it? It is we? Maybe interbeing doesn’t lend itself to long sentences.
Or maybe it proliferates into the multiplicity of sentence forms we know and love, folding, nesting, reduplicating, and echoing and reflecting themselves and the world itself.
Would be cool to have more buddhists into grammar. There’s more to this than the correct use of “which” and “that,”–that’s for sure!


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