Sentence diagramming in Germany

German educationalists seem to have invented both the main diagramming systems taken up in the UK and the USA: tables and trees.


The term ‘analysis’ may have been used first in syntax by Karl Ferdinand Becker in his 1827 Deutsche Sprachlehre (Vol 2, p.295):


Becker also may have been the first to use tables for presenting sentence structure, as in this representative example from the same book (p.381):

His ‘Schulgrammatik’ (1831) offers a slightly different use of tables (p.696):


Click here for a brief extract (courtesy of Google Books) from Weber 1997 about the history of dependency diagrams in German schools. This extract mentions a book by Billroth (1832) as an early user of tree diagrams, and here is an example from this book of a tree diagram applied to a Latin sentence:

(Notice the similarity to the much later Reed-Kellogg diagrams!) This diagram is from a document by Hodges which also mentions that the philosopher Gottfried Frege was probably the first to use trees in linguistic theory (1879), and that he may have learned such trees from a text written by his father for 9-13 year olds.


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.