15 March 2009

On a master's level comprehension passage

This is a classic piece!* It's* not difficult to "understand"* apart from some grammatical jargon which of course* (should that interpolation have commas? It's a relevant question given that the passage [full stop?])* may be obsessively super-pedantic, a plea for clarity*, or a gigantic piss-take.

I could go on* but that would spoil the fun!*

But* it is here* as a candidate for a comprehension exercise which could work at higher HE levels. This is not a trivial point*. Testing comprehension generally involves selecting passages of increasing technical abstruseness in a particular discipline,* or of increasing obtuseness in a particular medium (e.g. the Waste Land).* This is a mainstream piece* (albeit from the New Yorker)* which nevertheless illustrates much of what* it critiques* at several levels.

* indicates what even I recognise as contentious grammatical and particularly punctuational usages for a "maven"* (Pinker, 1993).

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