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Grammar: Meaning and Contexts * From Presentation at NCTE annual conference in Pittsburgh, 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "Grammar: Meaning and Contexts * From Presentation at NCTE annual conference in Pittsburgh, 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 Grammar: Meaning and Contexts * From Presentation at NCTE annual conference in Pittsburgh, 2005.

2 The question is not Should we teach grammar? The question is How should we teach grammar?

3 The Harris Study Compared two groups One studied traditional grammar; the other used the time to work on extended pieces of writing. This group approached errors through meaning.

4 Harris Study Conclusion After a period of two years five classes of high school students who had studied formal grammar performed significantly worse than a matched group of five non- grammar groups on several objective criteria of sentence complexity and the number of errors in their essays.

5 Looking at the theory

6 C. Grammar: The sounds and sound patterns, the basic units of meaning, such as words, and the rules to combine them to form new sentences constitute the grammar of a language. The grammar is an internalized, unconscious set of rules.

7 Is it prescriptive or descriptive? When we study a language, we aim to find the grammar of that language. The grammar here refers to those linguistic abilities of the native speakers of a language which enable him to speak and understand his language fluently. It is not the rules contained in a grammar book, which we refer to as prescriptive grammar.

8 Descriptive grammar: It does not tell you how you should speak; it describes your basic linguistic knowledge. It explains how it is possible for you to speak and understand, and it tells what you know about the sounds, words, phrases, and sentences of your language. Descriptive grammar has two meanings: one is the mental grammar speakers have in their brains; the other is the model or description of this internalized grammar.

9 Linguists view: Language is vigorous and dynamic and constantly changing. All languages and dialects are expressive, complete, and logical, as much so as they were 200 or 2000 years.

10 Prescriptive grammar: It is the correct forms or rules set by the purists or scholars for people to obey so as to prevent the language from corruption. It set, instead of describe, the rules of the language. For instance, the double negative sentence in the following is considered a bad sentence. John aint got no money.

11 competence vs. performance: And the grammar here means the competence instead of performance. competence: the speaker-hearers knowledge of his language. It is what you know about the language. performance: the actual use of language in concrete situations. It is how you use the knowledge in actual speech production and comprehension.

12 II. Linguistic ability: Linguistic ability is the capacity to produce sounds that signify certain meanings and to understand or interpret the sounds produced by others. (Fromkin & Rodman) A native speakers of a particular language knows his/her own language in several ways:

13 phonological ability: the knowledge of sound system 1. inventory of sounds 2. phonotactic rules 3. syllable structure e.g. English: spray is a possible word ksmatrn is not a possible word Chinese: ti ( ) is possible tit ( ) is not possible in Mandarin Chinese

14 semantic ability: the knowledge of words and their references When you know a language you know words in that language, that is, the sound units that are related to specific meanings. You also know the semantic features contained in the words and the relations between the graph, the sound, and the meaning. e.g.,, uncle,,,, rice

15 syntactic ability: the knowledge of relations between words and phrases in a sentence, the internal structure of a sentence, and the correct judgment of grammaticality of sentences. e.g. English: 1.Jack likes extremely beautiful girls. (extremely modifies beautiful; extremely beautiful modifies girls.) Chinese: { / }? (know which one is grammatical.)

16 Linguistics is descriptive, not prescriptive. Many people associate knowing a language with speaking and writing it according to the grammatical rules established for that language in grammar books and dictionaries. The study of linguistic competence does not include the study of prescriptive standards that claim that one sentence rather than another is correct. Instead, linguists are interested in what speakers of a language actually say and what they accept as possible in the language, regardless of whether the construction matches the grammar rules posited by the grammar police. This approach to grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Descriptive grammar is what speakers say, and when, why and how they say it (and not whether they should or shouldn't say it.) Linguists concern themselves with discovering what speakers know about a language and describing that knowledge objectively. They devise rules of descriptive grammar. For instance, a linguist describing English might formulate rules such as these:

17 1.Some English speakers end a sentence with a preposition (Who do you want to speak to?) 2.Some English speakers use double negatives for negation (I don't have nothing.) 3.Adjectives precede the nouns they modify (red book, nice guy) 4.To form the plural of a noun, add -s (1 room, 2 rooms; 1 book, 2 books) The vowel sound in the word suit is produced with rounded lips

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