Saturday, February 9, 2008

More on sentence diagramming and visualizing sentences

I've been gathering feedback from my previous post on sentence diagramming as well as monitoring some comments on the Logos newsgroup. As you might imagine, it appears that people have a variety of approaches to diagramming. Some never do, and some are carefully working their way through the texts. Most people, however, are doing it in their head and perhaps occasionally, if the sentence is complicated, actually writing it out or using one of the pre-diagrammed resources. One issue that recurred is that before you can diagram Greek sentences, you really need to know how to diagram English sentences, and to do that, you need to understand English grammar... and that is sometimes a problem. In my Greek classes, I know that students are eager to jump into the Greek, and I do so as much as possible, but I spend a lot of time near the start and throughout the course teaching English grammar. Actually, I have found it helpful for really all students to first talk about, e.g., participles in English and give examples of all the ways English speakers use them, and then talk about the similar (and other) ways they function in Greek.
One more thing: in that previous post I had reviewed some of the strengths / weaknesses / abilities of the diagramming modules in BibleWorks7 and Logos. Jim McDaniel on the Logos newsgroup suggested another interesting option. He doesn't follow strict diagramming rules but is more interested in seeing the logical structure. To do this he uses a
mind-mapping visualization program, a resource often used in organizing concepts, work flows, prioritizing, etc. He uses MindManager which is a highly regarded and expensive program, but they are other options. A slightly less capable but free, downloadable program is FreeMind. I tried Mark 6.34 as an experiment, and without spending a lot of time, this is the best I could do.
Not so great...
There are some other neat and free online options. You might want to check out MindMeister which looks to be like an online implementation of MindMapper or FreeMi
Finally, I found to be very quick to pick up and even easier to use. Here is Mark 6.34 which I did in just a few minutes.
That's not bad for a quick view of the verse. It would be easy to develop one's own color scheme to make this work even better. It was very easy to move elements around and choose how I wanted to order and subordinate them.
Hmmm... I was just thinking that was a fairly clever way of doing things... and then I thought it looks exactly like something I could easily do in PowerPoint. Here's my 3 minute rendering of Mark 6.34:

That was probably the easiest of the bunch to do, because it was easiest to import and then move around the Greek text. If one committed to this kind of thing, it would probably be a fairly efficient process.
Bottom line: You probably already know how helpful or not diagramming is for you. If I am to use it or ask my students to do so, I would ask them either to use the pre-diagrammed resources or else do simple diagramming which is possible with or good, old PowerPoint.


  1. mgvh, i've done some work in tree diagrams similar to those in, though I studied linguistics under a different theory than Porter & Co. I'm working on eventually putting something together that's relatively comprehensive for at least the book of Ephesians. But you can see what I've done on at least one verse:

    Ephesians 4.16

  2. Sorry, the correct link is:

    Ephesians 4.16

  3. MGVH,

    As always, very interesting stuff. Every time I come here, I usually follow a link and download something new.

    I'm familiar with FreeMind and use it intermittently. I found your links to MindMeister and interesting.

    Thanks for researching all this tech stuff and sharing it.