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Grammatical metaphor: Nominalization

Introduction to compression


I hope you won’t mind the repetition, but let’s go back through these snippets and highlight the nominal groups and verbal groups so we can see them both clearly.

The natives weren’t communicating very well, and the Europeans took over all their land and placed settlements everywhere.

The native Americans didn’t talk to each other much, so when they found out what the Europeans were doing it was already too late, and the settlers and conquerors were already taking over their land.

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.



Do you see how tightly packed the original snippet is compared to the conversational versions?


There’s nothing wrong with the conversational versions, but the written version is very different.


Why? Well, the reason is compression. What Dee Brown is doing in that snippet is compressing as much information into as small a space as possible, and he’s doing it using a specific technique that is used a lot in historical and scientific writing.