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Grammatical metaphor: Nominalization

Introduction to compression

Conversational English

Let’s read this snippet again. It’s from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a history of the conflict between European settlers and native Americans.

Read it slowly and carefully.

Communications between the tribes of the New World were slow, and news of the Europeans’ barbarities rarely overtook the rapid spread of new conquests and settlements.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Dee Brown

Let’s stop and think for a moment. What does each part of this snippet mean?


What does “communications between the tribes of the New World” mean?

Well, it’s how people in one tribe managed to talk to another tribe (for instance, riding a long way on horseback to visit the other tribe and telling them what was going on).


What does “news of the Europeans’ barbarities” mean?

It’s a description of what the European settlers were doing, which was taking the land, destroying tribal settlements and killing lots of people.


What is meant by “the rapid spread of new conquests and settlements”?

It means the settlers were rapidly conquering native tribes and establishing new settlements across the land.

Now what I want you to do is imagine how you would retell this snippet to someone if you were talking aloud.


Here are three steps to help you do this:

  1. Read the snippet and the explanations again.
  2. Sit back and close your eyes and imagine what that situation looked like.
  3. Imagine how you would describe that situation to someone else, just in conversation.


Once you’ve done that, write down the kind of thing you would say in the response box below.

Note: You want it to sound conversational! Write the way you would speak! It doesn’t have to be well-written!

An example (don’t peek until you’ve written your own!)