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What is grammar?

What is grammar?

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What is grammar?

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  1. What is grammar?

  2. First of all , relax…. You can learn grammar. If you already know a lot of grammar, you can become an enlightened master!

  3. What is grammar? Two important features found in ALL languages: • Arbitrary signs • Patterns

  4. What is grammar? Two important features found in ALL languages: First, • Arbitrary signs: A stretch of sound is matched with a meaning. The sound is different in each language… the matching of word and meaning is arbitrary. This feature of language is… Words. Morphemes. Vocabulary/lexis We can’t generalize or find rules… we have to learn vocabulary item by item.

  5. What is grammar? We combine these arbitrary signs (words, morphemes, lexical phrases) to express more complex meanings, using…. • Patterns for combining, ordering, and showing relationships between the signs This feature of language… patterns, rules, order in the way we build up larger units from smaller ones… is grammar.

  6. What is grammar? Arbitrary signs (words) and patterns for combining, ordering, and showing relationships (grammar) = A way to convey meaning and communicate between speaker and listener: A language

  7. What is grammar? One way of thinking of grammar is as the patterns that are found in ALL languages (universal grammar) We can also talk about “the grammar of English” (or French, or Arabic, or Tagalog, or any other language) and define the patterns specific to that language

  8. What is grammar? So grammar is a feature of language. It is one of the shared resources that we use to convey meaning. Another way to think of grammar is as a way to analyze and describe the patterns of language. A grammar of English can also mean… A description An analysis A system for describing and analyzing…. the patterns of language

  9. Here is a word cloud made from definitions of grammar from various sources… Try this form of word art at wordle.net

  10. Two types of descriptions of the grammar of a language People who are interested in describing and analyzing grammar may approach the topic with 2 different purposes…. Prescriptive: Define what’s correct and not correct. Establish a standard. “Say it this way. Don’t say it that way!” Descriptive: Describe how people use the language at a particular time and place. Gather data and analyze. Non-evaluative.

  11. Two types of descriptions of the grammar of a language To illustrate the difference, look at these statements about this sentence: I’s the bye that builds the boat Prescriptive: This is incorrect. It should be “I’m the boy who builds the boat.” The subject must agree with the verb. Careless errors in subject-verb agreement can hold you back professionally and make people view you as uneducated. Descriptive: This sentence from a traditional Newfoundland song reflects a regional dialect. Rural Newfoundland dialects frequently follow the “Northern Subject Rule,” shared with areas in the North of England. –s occurs on present tense verbs with any subject and is a marker of habitual action.

  12. Two types of descriptions of the grammar of a language What can we say about this sentence? I’s the bye that builds the boat Prescriptive:This is incorrect. It should be “I’m the boy who builds the boat.” The subject must agree with the verb. Careless errors in subject-verb agreement can hold you back professionally and make people view you as uneducated. Descriptive: ….Rural Newfoundland dialects frequently follow the “Northern Subject Rule,” shared with areas in the North of England. –s occurs on present tense verbs with any subject and is a marker of habitual action. • Only one standard: the correct way • Value judgments • Describe who says this, when, where, why this statement may be used. • Looks for pattern instead of defining a standard.

  13. Two types of descriptions of the grammar of a language The different purposes of descriptive and prescriptive grammars also mean that they have different coverage and methods: Prescriptive grammars cover areas where there is noticeable variation in usage, to establish a correct standard. Descriptive grammars are comprehensive; they aim to describe all of the grammar patterns operating in a language. • Only one standard: the correct way • Value judgments • Describe who says this, when, where, why this statement may be used. • Looks for pattern instead of defining a standard.

  14. Two types of descriptions of the grammar of a language If you consult a usage guide (a prescriptive grammar), you will normally find no information to give to ELLs who say strange-sounding things like… ?I am not believing in ghosts. ? In the life, the love is more important than the wealth. ? I am very interesting in that topic. That is because no English speaker needs to be told that these are strange; there is no reason to establish a standard. • Only one standard: the correct way • Value judgments • Describe who says this, when, where, why this statement may be used. • Looks for pattern instead of defining a standard.

  15. As teachers of ELLs (English language learners), which type of description is more useful to us and our learners? We need and draw on both types. In order to understand grammar and to give our learners the information they need, we need to adopt the scientific, detached, descriptive attitude. The trouble with prescriptive grammars is that they are often combined with a crusading zeal to stamp out variation and a shuddering aversion to the “wrong” forms. If ELLs pick up on this emotional attitude, they may respond with: 1 SHAME about their “bad” grammar 2 RESENTMENT of the power hierarchy Prescriptive: • Only one standard: the correct way • Value judgments Descriptive: • Describe who says this, when, where, why this may be used. • Looks for pattern instead of defining a standard.

  16. As teachers of ELLs (English language learners), which type of description is more useful to us and our learners? Another reason why we can’t teach using prescriptive grammars for native speakers: Prescriptivegrammars: Their target audience knows English and has many grammar patterns to choose from in communicating. Prescriptive grammars aim at eliminating some of the optionsin current use. ELLs, on the other hand, don’t have much of the English language at their command! They need to add new options to the patterns they can use. Our aim: Prescriptive grammars:

  17. As teachers of ELLs (English language learners), which approach is more useful to us and our learners? However, we can’t adopt descriptive grammars as our teaching tools, either. Remember that “prescriptive” and “descriptive” are defined as different PURPOSES. When your learners come to you to learn English, the questions they want answered are, “Should I say it like this? Is this good English? Does it convey the message I want to convey? Does it present me as a competent, skillful person?” They need you to prescribe. Prescriptive: • Only one standard: the correct way • Value judgments Descriptive: • Describe who says this, when, where, why this may be used. • Looks for pattern instead of defining a standard.

  18. As teachers of ELLs (English language learners), which approach is more useful to us and our learners? Learners aren’t linguists. While the “Northern subject rule” may be interesting to linguists, most learners don’t have time for it. When learners ask, “is this correct?,” and it’s a nonstandard form, or just sounds strange to you, answer, “It is not standard.” You can add information like one of these answers: “You can say this to your friends, but not to your grandmother.” “You can say this, but don’t write it in your papers for school.” “You shouldn’t say or write this. It’s wrong.”

  19. So is descriptive grammar just a more permissive form of prescriptive grammar? No. Descriptive and prescriptive grammars use different methods of inquiry. Linguists who work in the area of descriptive grammar INVESTIGATE, FORM HYPOTHESES, GATHER AND ANALYZE DATA SETS. They use surveyandcorpus data to sample actual language usage.

  20. So is descriptive grammar just a more permissive form of prescriptive grammar? As teachers, we don’t normally DOdescriptive grammar in a scientific way, although we benefit from the insights contributed by the linguists who do. What we do is not scientific inquiry, but education… closer in methods to prescriptive grammar. Linguists doing descriptive grammar INVESTIGATE, FORM HYPOTHESES, GATHER AND ANALYZE DATA SETS. They use survey and corpus data to sample actual language usage.

  21. So is descriptive grammar just a more permissive form of prescriptive grammar? • Example of a grammar rule that native speakers use, but typically can’t explain: • Use “will” for decisions made at the moment of speaking, “going to” for planned or predicted actions… • A: We need eggs. • B: 1. Okay, I’ll buy some • tomorrow. • Versus: 2. I know. I’m going to buy • some tomorrow. • WHO KNEW THAT!!!! • Descriptive grammarians figured it out for us. Most of the grammar rules and guidelines we find in grammar textbooks for ELLs (English language learners) come to us from the work of descriptive grammar… intensive study of large amounts of language data to analyze what the underlying patterns are.

  22. Pedagogical grammar • Pedagogical grammar sits between prescriptive and descriptive • grammar. • The purpose of our practice of pedagogical grammar is to foster learners’ development of language skills. • We draw on descriptive grammars’ analysis of the underlying rules of English grammar when we teach. But we don’t explain more than our learners need to know. • We make judgements about what is correct and incorrect, and communicate these to our learners, because they need to enter the community of English speakers and communicate successfully within it. • We do not crusade to stamp out grammar errors. We don’t think of our learners’ nonstandard grammar as willful defiance of grammar norms.

  23. How is pedagogical grammar different from both descriptive and prescriptive grammar?

  24. Pedagogical and linguistic grammars Linguistic grammars: • attempt to create a complete, consistent system of analysis for a language. • The approach of linguistic grammarians is scientific; they want a complete, consistent system that accounts for all the facts. • Descriptive not prescriptive Pedagogical grammars: • the purpose of a pedagogical grammar is to help language learners. • Eclectic: takes bits from any type of grammar that seems useful. May not account for all facts. May sacrifice truth and consistency in the interests of simplicity. • Both descriptive and prescriptive: learners need both

  25. Pedagogical and linguistic grammars Linguistic grammars: • Are hard for graduate students who are native speakers of the language ! • Are heavy on terminology that must be learned • Don’t give information in a form that’s useful for teachers and learners Pedagogical grammars: • Are user-friendly. • Ideally, communicate as simply, concisely, and clearly as possible • Give guidelines and tips to help learners develop grammar skills in their new language

  26. Grammar learning: different types of knowledge We can learn grammar as DECLARATIVE knowledge: explaining rules. Naming structures. Giving examples of similar/different structures. But, when we use a language to communicate, we need PROCEDURAL knowledge: implicit knowledge that can be applied to do something. • What happens when we have DECLARATIVE knowledge without PROCEDURAL knowledge? • What happens when we have PROCEDURAL knowledge without DECLARATIVE knowledge?

  27. Grammar learning: different types of knowledge An interesting situation often arises in this course, EDUC 5658 Pedagogical Grammar for ESL/EFL. International graduate students who have learned English in school in their home countries find that they can explain much more about English grammar than some of the Canadians who are native speakers of English. They can answer learner questions like: Why do you say it like that? What’s the rule? Can you give me some more examples of this grammar structure? Many of the native speakers can’t do this very well, but they find it easy to identify errors and answer these learner questions: Can I say this in English? Is this correct? What’s the best way to say this? Can you help me edit this?

  28. Why? Two different types of knowledge…. Explicit (declarative) knowledge Implicit (procedural) knowledge Implicit knowledge means you know HOW. You have absorbed patterns without conscious effort. You can’t explain what you know, but you can use it to perform complex mental or physical operations, without thinking. • Explicit knowledge means you know WHAT. You have learned facts and rules through conscious attention. You can explain what you know. You can’t always apply this knowledge skillfully and effortlessly.

  29. Implicit knowledge and learning processes • If English is your mother tongue, you learned English grammar through implicit learning processes. No one spelled out the “rules” or asked you to explain them; but you are able to apply the rules without thinking about them. • Implicit learning takes place unconsciously, through doing. • Implicit knowledge is more like SKILL. It enables us to perform high-level complex actions without thinking about it. SKILLED PERFORMANCE

  30. Explicit knowledge and learning processes • Some students in this program studied English in school. You asked questions about grammar and had it explained to you as “rules.” You have explicit knowledge. You also have acquired quite a bit of implicit knowledge. • Explicit learning takes place through conscious attention(studying) • Explicit declarative knowledge is knowledge ABOUT something. It is available to the conscious mind, but is not applied automatically and fluently when conscious attention is focused elsewhere.

  31. Both groups will do well in this course! • If you are a native speaker with mostly IMPLICIT knowledge of English grammar, you’ll learn how to explain the patterns you use fluently. • If you are an international student with more EXPLICIT knowledge of English grammar, you’ll get some broad principles and reasons for the “rules” you learned explicitly.

  32. Both groups will do well in this course! • If you are a native speaker with IMPLICIT knowledge of English grammar, you’ll consult references and resources to find explicit rules and guidelines for your learners. • If you are an international student with EXPLICIT knowledge of English grammar, you’ll consult references and resources to check your implicit sense of what’s right.

  33. The problem with teaching grammar rules to English language learners……

  34. Useful ways of thinking about grammar Think of grammar this way… Not this way! Grammar rules are like the 10 Commandments or the Criminal Code… it’s our moral obligation to follow and enforce the rules. • Grammar rules are like a recipe or the rules of a game… they make it possible to produce something amazing!

  35. Useful ways of thinking about grammar Think of grammar this way… Not this way! Grammar is a set of restrictions. You have to stay within the limits. • Grammar is a resource. The more resources you have, the richer you are! Restrictions Resources

  36. Think of grammar this way… Not this way! Grammar skills can be built like a building, following a blueprint. We can add grammar points one by one, on a set schedule. • Grammar is skill. Grammar skills develop slowly and unevenly. Grammar skills grow and flower when nurtured and supported.

  37. Questions about the Powerpoint? I’d be happy to talk grammar with you! Sandra Powell