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Most people were illiterate and knew no Latin, so this role went unchallenged. He argued that rhetoric should be subsumed under logic, rather than the reverse, and that rhetoric itself involved nothing more than style and delivery. Even professional writers and academics experience this problem, which is why publishers employ copyeditors to correct errors that the authors miss. They offered valuable advice for this second edition. Memory was very important because speakers did not use notes or talking points but had to give the appearance of speaking extempore; also, their speeches were usually quite long—1 or 2 hours—so developing the ability to memorize was crucial to success. Furthermore, grammar is so deep in the background that it is extremely difficult for people to attend to grammar when they listen to a conversation; it is only slightly less difficult when they are reading. Certainly, it treats terminology thoroughly, but it is far more than just a list of grammar terms.
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New Password. Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? W46 Most grammar books focus on terminology. Some add a discussion of the connection between grammar and writing. Certainly, it treats terminology thoroughly, but it is far more than just a list of grammar terms. It is not a handbook and was never intended to be one. In addition, it provides an overview of English grammar that is informed not only by historical developments in the field but also by a variety of pedagogical, research, and philosophical issues that underlie grammar and our efforts to understand grammar, language, writing, and teaching.
What I discovered early in my career is that large numbers of prospective teachers do not feel confident about their knowledge of English grammar. They experience a certain degree of anxiety as a result. Many have had bad experiences with grammar in the past.
In many respects, the finished product is significantly different from the original. The more important changes are: Chapter One. The first chapter offers a brief history of grammar in the Western tradition. Although there are some interesting stories to tell about the study of grammar in places like India, China, and the Middle East, they are not very relevant to American public education, based as it is on Greek and Roman models. The goal of this chapter, therefore, is to give readers a sense of the place PREFACE xi grammar has held in Western education since the days of Plato and Aristotle so that they can better understand and appreciate why we expect students to learn something about the English language.
Chapter Two. Chapter 2 explores various approaches to teaching grammar, and in many respects it is central to developing an effective classroom methodology. There are many different ways to teach grammar, and this chapter examines the most common, assessing their strengths and weaknesses with the aim of identifying best practices. Central to this chapter is the section on grammar and writing.
Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing, advocate teaching grammar in the context of writing. However, few recognize the difficulties and faulty assumptions inherent in this approach as it usually is applied. Emphasizing the linguistic perspective that informs the entire book, this section makes an important distinction between grammar and usage, explaining why most of the sentence errors we see in student writing are not problems of grammar but rather problems of usage.
Finally, the chapter examines existing research and explores the most pedagogically sound ways to link grammar and writing. Chapter Three. The subsequent chapters are built on this foundation, and together they will eliminate any lack of confidence readers may have about their knowledge of grammar.
The chapter begins by introducing basic grammatical terms and explaining their role in language study. It does not assume that readers have any significant knowledge of grammar at all so as to create a comfortable space for learning. Taking a standard approach, grammar is divided into two categories of analysis, form and function.
Chapter Four. Chapter 4 introduces phrase—structure grammar and explains how it emerged during the early part of the 20th century as an alternative to traditional grammar.
Because phrase—structure grammar provides the analytical basis for all modern grammars, the chapter devotes considerable attention to helping students understand phrase—structure notation. The primary focus, however, is on understanding the descriptive, as opposed to the prescriptive, nature of phrase structure and how this orientation is central to differentiating modern grammars from traditional grammar.
Chapter 5 introduces transformational—generative T—G grammar as an historical evolution of the work in phrase structure. Many students find T—G challenging, and others resist its complexities by arguing that it is irrelevant to teaching high school language arts. They often are put off by the fact that T—G grammar has undergone numerous changes over the years. The first part of the chapter examines the fundamental features of T—G grammar and explains in simple terms how transformations work.
The second part of the chapter examines the principles that underlie the latest evolution of the generative approach: This new approach has dropped many of the features that characterized T—G grammar, simplifying the rules associated with language production while simultaneously increasing the level of abstraction regarding the relation between grammar and language.
Chapter Five. Chapter Six. Advocates of formalist grammars—most importantly, Noam Chomsky—have claimed consistently that they reflect the underlying psychological mechanisms of language. That is, they have viewed the study of grammar as a means of developing a theory of mind.
This claim is powerful, but to date scholars have had little success in supporting it. Numerous studies have failed to reveal any connections between formalist grammars and underlying cognitive mechanisms, leaving them with the unhappy status of unsubstantiated theories. As a result, various scholars began developing an alternative approach.
What emerged was cognitive grammar, the subject of chapter 6. This grammar draws heavily on work in cognitive science to develop a PREFACE xiii model of language processing that is more congruent with mental operations and that can provide important insights into teaching grammar and writing.
As a result, the need for teachers to have some knowledge of dialects and English as a second language is greater than ever before. Chapter 7 is designed to provide an introduction to the critical issues related to teaching these students. As such, it offers a solid foundation for additional studies in dialects and English as a second language. Chapter Seven. I greatly appreciate the comments and suggestions of the following reviewers: Stuart C.
They offered valuable advice for this second edition. I could not have completed this work without the help of my assistants, Lynn HamiltonGamman and Ceclia Ocampos. And I am ever grateful for the support of my wife, Ako, and my son, Austin. And English teachers know very well what the response will be when they tell anyone what they do for a living: Many years ago, Hartwell , pp. A set of formal patterns in which the words of a language are arranged to convey a larger meaning. The branch of linguistics concerned with the description, analysis, and formulation of formal language patterns.
Linguistic etiquette. School grammar, or the names of the parts of speech. Grammatical terms used in the interest of teaching writing. Nevertheless, it can be confusing.
Also, it does not tell us much about the differences between spoken and written language, nor does it tell us anything about dialects. Grammar is the formal study of the structure of a language and describes how words fit together in meaningful constructions. This definition is not complete, and perhaps no single definition can be.
Being generic, it does not, for example, take into account the fact that there are multiple ways—and therefore multiple grammars—to study the structure of a language. Nevertheless, this definition is essentially congruent with how specialists in language study—linguists—use the term. Indeed, grammar is an important area in linguistics, which includes not only grammar often referred to as syntax but also several other features of language, such as meaning semantics , sound phonology , dialects, pragmatics, and language acquisition.
Furthermore, this definition has the advantage of linking grammar to education, which is important because this book is designed for teachers and because grammar has been such an important part of education throughout Western history.
Even now, we often refer to elementary school as grammar school. However, the emergence of grammar study may not have occurred if the ancient Greeks had not already placed a high value on language. In earlier times, education was in the hands of parents, with mothers educating their daughters and fathers educating their sons.
The government did not require attendance, but education was highly valued among all classes, and it seems that even poor parents somehow found the means to provide tuition.
Young students were taught by a grammatistes, who provided instruction in the alphabet grammata , reading, writing, and grammar. A grammatistes also gave instruction in other subjects, such as music and mathematics. When students were proficient readers and writers, they were deemed grammatikos, or literate. At this point, they began studying literature in earnest. The study of Homer was a central part of elementary education in Greece because his poems contain moral messages that were deemed vital for children.
Greeks of 6th century Athens obviously knew that their language was different from what Homer used. The language had changed, as all living languages do.
This troubled the Greeks greatly, because they viewed the Homeric period as a golden age. Change necessarily meant decline. And although it may seem ironic to us because we honor the great contributions to civilization that Greece made from about to BC, the Greeks of the period often saw themselves as living in the dark ages after a fall from the golden age of their legendary heroes.
They appear to have responded, in part, by initiating the study of language in an effort to understand its structure and stem the tide of change.
As intellectuals began pondering the nature of the world around 1 Glenn and Kolln argued a different view. Glenn, for example, proposed that the ancient Greeks viewed grammar as being related to style rather than correctness. This view, however, does not seem entirely congruent with the realities of Greek education; grammar was taught to children as part of their elementary education and style was taught to older students as part of rhetoric.
In addition, the rise of democracy and public debate of civic issues exerted a significant influence on all facets of Greek life, especially in Athens. Power was linked to speaking ability, which was the result of study and practice. Thus, the careful study of language, both grammatical and rhetorical, grew to paramount importance and formed the basis of Greek education. During their first 3 years of classes, from about age 6 to 9, students studied the alphabet, reading, spelling, and the beginnings of writing.
At around age 9, they began studying grammatical terminology and relations: By age 12, students were focusing on literature, memorizing long passages that celebrated moral virtues, courage, duty, and friendship, and they were introduced to the fundamentals of rhetoric. A majority of young boys finished their formal education at age 14 and began working, either with their fathers or as apprentices.
Those from families with the means went on to secondary education, concentrating on rhetoric, music, and mathematics. All males were required to complete 2 years of military duty at age 18, and afterwards it was possible to participate in advanced studies—what we might think of today as college—with a private tutor.
The most well-known private tutors, called Sophists, focused their teaching on rhetoric, although their courses of study included other topics. Even though this book is about grammar, a brief discussion of rhetoric is necessary here. Rhetoric, like grammar, has many different definitions today, but in the ancient world it was understood primarily to be the art of persuasive public speaking.
The court system also demanded speaking skill, for all persons appearing in court were required to represent themselves. There were no attorneys. The most famous example of this system at work is the trial of Socrates, reported by his student Plato, in which we see the philosopher answering the charges against him and arguing his case.
Rhetoric was a highly organized field of study in the ancient world. Invention may be best understood as a process of developing 2 The two major powers during the classic period of Greek history were Athens and Sparta.
Athens and its allies were democracies, whereas Sparta and its allies were aristocracies. Spartan society was dedicated wholly to military prowess, and Spartans never developed the love of language that characterized Athens. In fact, Athenians commonly mocked the Spartans for being inarticulate. Although we have no way of accurately assessing their relative speaking abilities, the Athenian view prevails even today.
The term laconic, which describes brief, pithy speech, comes from Lacedaemonians, another name for the Spartans.
When students in a literature class interpret a novel, for example, they must practice invention not only to develop an interpretation deciding what to write but also to find ways to support it. Arrangement involved how best to organize a speech, whereas style was related to the tone or voice of the speech, whether it would be formal or informal, sophisticated or plain.
Memory was very important because speakers did not use notes or talking points but had to give the appearance of speaking extempore; also, their speeches were usually quite long—1 or 2 hours—so developing the ability to memorize was crucial to success.
Delivery was related to style but focused more on gestures and postures. Many handbooks on rhetoric during the Renaissance, for example, provided numerous illustrations of hand gestures and postures intended to evoke specific responses from audiences. Dialectic, however, was not pragmatic but rather sought to discover truth.
Plato claimed that philosophical rhetoric would convince the gods themselves Phaedrus, e , and his Socratic dialogues are examples of dialectic. Over the centuries, the understanding of both rhetoric and, especially, dialectic changed, gradually moving closer together. By the time of the late Roman period, St.
By the Middle Ages, dialectic had changed again and was understood primarily as logic, which was considered a part of grammar. Both Plato and his student Aristotle wrote about grammar, but the first complete grammar book we know about was written around BC by Dionysius Thrax, a native of Alexandria who taught in both Athens and Rome. His Art of Grammar Techne grammatike set the standard for all grammar books until the 20th century. The following excerpt illustrates how his influence exists even today and should seem very familiar: As Rome grew in power and size, it assimilated numerous Greek customs and practices, including the educational system.
Dykema noted that Romans, like the Greeks, believed that knowledge of grammatical terms was fundamental to correct language use. Indeed, the influence of Greece ran throughout Roman education. Students studied both Greek and Latin poets, following the Greek tradition of basing grammar study on literary texts. The most influential grammars of the Roman period were written by Donatus Ars grammatica in the 4th century AD and Priscian Institutiones grammaticae in the 6th century AD.
These writers were so popular that their texts became the basis for grammar study throughout the Middle Ages. One of the foremost teachers during the Roman period was Quintilian circa 35—95 AD , who wrote The Education of the Orator Institutio de oratoria , a collection of 12 books on education from childhood through adulthood. Quintilian described an educational program that was clearly Greek in almost every respect, with grammar instruction in the early years, followed by logic and rhetoric.
This three-part taxonomy came to be called the trivium. Education was not compulsory, but, as in Greece, nearly every child, regardless of status, attended school. In an age without electricity, all work, including school work, began at dawn and ended around 2 p. The length of the school year is uncertain, but we do know that classes began toward the end of March and may have ended around the time of the Saturnalia religious festival on December From ages 6 to 12, students studied the alphabet, reading, writing, and arithmetic.
At the elementary level, students began studying Greek, and this study intensified at the secondary level. Educated people in Rome were expected to be bilingual. The emphasis on grammar—both Latin and Greek—increased as a result, and Quintilian reported that the secondary teacher should be prepared to address the parts of speech, declensions, conjugations, inflections, pronunciation, and syllables I.
Quintilian was a strong advocate for correctness in language, and he argued that the study of grammar would enable students to produce error-free speech and writing. Some women from wealthy families apparently did study with private tutors, however, and became quite well educated.
When the Roman Empire collapsed around AD, the educational system that had been in place throughout the Mediterranean for a thousand years disappeared. Within two generations, near universal illiteracy replaced near universal literacy.
The significance of the Greco-Roman education system with respect to grammar was at least twofold. As the Empire expanded, it provided schools or modified curricula in existing schools to meet Roman standards.
Grammar instruction throughout Europe therefore had a coherent orientation that emphasized adherence to a literary norm. However, after the Empire collapsed, the fragmented European societies had a new Golden Age—the time of the Empire—and Latin was their bridge to a more civilized and sophisticated past.
The Church emerged from the collapse of civilization not only as the most powerful social force in Europe but also as the sole repository of classical knowledge. Soon it found itself in a difficult position. For at least years before the fall of the Empire, the Church had been a fierce opponent of education. But rampant illiteracy was an obstacle to priesthood; a priest who could not read could not instruct parishioners in the lessons of the Bible. In this context, knowledge of Latin also became a source of power.
Although the Venerable Bede translated portions of the Bible into English as early as the end of the 7th century, vernacular translations were rare and essentially uncirculated.
Nearly all copies of the Bible existed only in Latin. Thus, even as the Latin language was changing rapidly into Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese, the Church schools continued to use Latin as the basis of instruction and continued to teach Latin grammar.
When Latin ceased being a living language—that is, when it no longer had any native speakers—the only way to learn it was through mastering its complex grammar. In the Middle Ages, then, we see a fundamental shift in the nature of education from the secular to the religious.
The focus was not on providing universal education but rather on providing a religious education to a select few. Moreover, the goal was not to develop more enlightened and productive citizens but rather to maintain a steady flow of literate priests.
Even many kings were illiterate. Latin became the prestige language, much as Greek had been during the Empire, and educated people—that is, members of the priesthood—were expected to be bilingual, with Latin as their second language. Nevertheless, Church leaders saw no need to reinvent the wheel. The system of religious education that developed drew heavily on the Roman model. The 8 CHAPTER 1 course of study continued to be divided into the elementary trivium and the more advanced quadrivium; the trivium, however, was altered to include a heavier emphasis on the study of literature.
Rhetoric no longer dealt exclusively with the means of persuasion but now included the study of law. More striking is that the trivium no longer was limited to elementary education; instead, it was expanded greatly, encompassing elementary, secondary, and college education. Completion of the trivium entitled students to a bachelor of arts degree. The quadrivium still included arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, but geography and natural history, as well as astrology, were added to the curriculum.
Music study, on the other hand, was reduced almost completely to signing and composing hymns. When students finished the quadrivium, they were awarded a master of arts degree. Throughout the Middle Ages, the study of grammar maintained its important place in education. It is easy to understand why. When a language has no native speakers, nuances of expression and structure are easily lost and difficult if not impossible to retrieve. Consequently, students and teachers during the Middle Ages had to rely on the Latin grammars produced by Donatus and Priscian to understand the form and function of the language.
Written in the 4th and 6th centuries, respectively, these grammars were comprehensive and authoritative but difficult to understand because they were written for native speakers of Latin and were not intended to teach Latin as a second language. Consequently, teachers and students alike faced a dual challenge: Scholars during this period did not write new grammar books—rather they wrote glosses, or explanatory commentaries, on Donatus and Priscian in an effort to understand the nuances of the language R.
Hunt, These commentaries usually referred to classical literary texts to illustrate difficult points. The approach to instruction was similar in many respects to the grammar-translation method still used today in some schools to teach foreign languages. Students would study Latin grammar and vocabulary and then apply their knowledge to translating and in some cases explaining the text of an ancient author, such as Cicero. By the end of the 13th century, the curriculum began to change.
Throughout the Greek and Roman periods and during the early Middle Ages, grammar and logic were distinct areas of study. Logic and grammar often were studied and taught together as language scholars connected the two areas in an attempt to approach language with the orderliness found in logic. For many years, Latin was viewed as the logically normal form of speech, but the growing influence of mathematics led to more formal logical structures that increasingly became the norm by which to measure language.
Scholars began comparing the natural language of speech to the artificial languages of math and logic and asserted that natural language should conform accordingly. The appeal of order may have been the result of fundamental changes in the way Europeans viewed the world. Before AD, people viewed reality in qualitative terms.
For example, the cardinal directions were not viewed merely as points on a map—they had a more profound signification. As Crosby noted: South signified warmth and was associated with charity and the Passion of Jesus. East, toward the location of the terrestrial paradise, Eden, was especially potent, and that is why churches were oriented east-west with the business end, the altar, at the east. World maps were drawn with east at the top. We know that during this same period scholars produced a variety of general grammars that were different from their predecessors in that they attempted to show how linguistic structure was based on logical principles.
Grammar study, therefore, was believed to improve the quality of mind. The Renaissance, however, with its celebration of the human as well as the divine, gave rise to a sense of individualism that had been absent in Medieval society. Perhaps more important for societies and civilization was the significant increase in commerce, which grew almost without interruption after the early s.
By creating a middle class, which had not existed since the fall of the Roman Empire, commerce altered the very structure of Medieval society. For example, the law of primogeniture required transfer of property from parents to their firstborn sons. As a result, large numbers of young men who were not firstborn had for centuries turned to the Church and priestly orders for their livelihood.
Commerce offered opportunities where none had previously existed: These second sons could look forward to a future in business. Thus, the middle class recognized that literacy had value that extended beyond commerce, and private secular schools, often sponsored by wealthy burghers, were opened throughout Europe and North America to meet the needs of family and enterprise.
For 1, years, the Church had insisted that priests were spiritual mediators who alone could explain the Bible. Most people were illiterate and knew no Latin, so this role went unchallenged. Martin Luther — and John Calvin — preached that spiritual mediation was unnecessary and that faith and biblical knowledge should be in the hands of the individual believer, not the priesthood or the religious hierarchy.
Such a personal relationship with God was not possible, however, as long as the Bible existed only in Latin, so Luther translated the Bible into German to give the common people access to all priestly authority: The invention of the printing press in ensured this access. The printing press altered this situation completely. Eisenstein reported that by there were 1, printing shops in Europe, an estimated 35, titles, and 20 million books in print.
The first English grammar book, explaining Latin grammar, was published in Germany took the lead, establishing compulsory education in John Locke 4 Illiteracy was still a problem, however.
The Biblia vulgare proved so popular that it went into six editions in 15 years, no doubt in part because the pictures helped people learn how to read through matching words and pictures. Grammar study was believed helpful in both regards, an idea with roots in ancient Greece, as already noted. Grammar study was seen as the foundation for literacy, and literacy allowed students to read literature rich in moral lessons. During the 18th century, the spread of education and industrialization created greater socioeconomic mobility, which in turn led to a mingling of people from different backgrounds that had not been possible for more than 1, years.
Increasing numbers of people from the growing middle class started having regular contact with the upper class.
Although in England both upper-class and middle-class people spoke the same language, there were noticeable differences in pronunciation, structure, and vocabulary—what we term dialect—much like the differences we notice in the United States between speakers from different parts of the country. Because the upper-class dialects identified one with prestige and success, mastering the upper-class speech patterns became very desirable, and notions of grammar became more normative than ever.
Not surprisingly, Lowth based his discussion of English grammar on Latin. What distinguished his book, however, was that he moved beyond the view that grammar study disciplined the mind; he sought to provide a guide to those who wanted to use correct English. It was Lowth who first claimed that infinitives in English cannot be split and that sentences cannot end with a preposition.
According to Lowth, the following sentence is ungrammatical: The italics identify the part of the sentence that is supposedly problematic. The phrase to go is an infinitive verb phrase and is separated by the word boldly. In Latin, however, infinitive verb phrases are single words, not two words. We can use Spanish to illustrate this principle because Spanish is a Latin-based language.
In Spanish, the infinitive verb phrase to speak is hablar, one word. It is not possible to split the infinitive, and any attempt to do so would be both impossible and ridiculous.
But because English forms the infinitive verb phrase using two words, it is possible to split the infinitive, and, indeed, speakers and writers do so all the time. In claiming that the infinitive in English should not be split, Lowth and his often witless adherents were trying to force English to fit the structure and grammar of Latin. Language scholars during this time suffered from a fundamental confusion that had its roots in the notion of linguistic decay first formulated by the Greeks.
They noted that well-educated people wrote and spoke good Latin; those who were not so well educated, on the other hand, made mistakes. These scholars did not recognize that reproducing a dead language is an academic exercise, and they applied their observation to modern languages.
In this view, those without education and culture corrupt the language with their deviations from the prescribed norm. Accordingly, the discourse forms of books and upper-class conversation represented an older and purer level of language from which the speech of the common people had degenerated.
Although industrialization is often cited as the most significant social change during this century, equally important was the population explosion in Europe and the United States that industrialization set off.
As Greenword, Seshadri, and Vandenbroucke indicated, industrialization had the greatest influence on poor farmers. The material improvement was modest, but it was enough to trigger a population explosion.
Greenword et al. Census data reflect the extent of the baby boom. England experienced similar growth. Aldrich reported that the population of England and Wales doubled between and Understandably, concern in England and America over the proper education of the multiplying poor escalated in the first half of the century. Civic and corporate leaders saw the need to instill moral and social values in the young to maintain stability and a reliable workforce.
But the baby boom children were from families who could not pay private school tuition, and even if they had been able, there simply were not enough schools for everyone. In an effort to meet the sudden need for mass schooling, communities everywhere transformed their Sunday schools to include the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
These schools comfortingly ensured that rowdy poor children received lessons steeped in morality and civic virtue.
They provided the added benefit of keeping these youngsters busy all day every Sunday—the only day that most were not at work. This approach could not serve over the long term, however, and politicians began exploring options. Although Massachusetts had decreed in that any settlement of 50 families must have a grammar school and all states had encouraged universal education, Massachusetts did not implement compulsory education laws until Most of the other states soon followed suit, and by the end of the 19th century, America essentially had nationwide compulsory education.
Mass education led to a reconceptualization of how grammar was taught. Elementary schools retained the first function, linking grammar and reading to provide students access to important moral lessons. Even more popular were the McGuffey readers, first published in These books were used throughout the United States until World War I and were noted for their moral lessons. As Cmiel noted, the ability to speak correctly became a matter of class distinction, in part as a result of the Civil War and the demonization of Southern dialects.
Soon, failure to follow the prescriptions for correct speaking was deemed not only an error in logic but also a sign of moral inferiority. The 18th century had seen grammar instruction alter its focus from the study of Latin to include prescriptive notions of what constituted correct English.
Another change was related to the connection between grammar and rhetoric. Throughout much of Western history, grammar and rhetoric were distinct areas of instruction.
Grammar was concentrated at the elementary level and was used to develop basic literacy, whereas rhetoric was for advanced students and provided facility in speaking. The study of logic usually was part of the study of rhetoric, following Aristotle, who provided a lengthy discussion of logic as a method of argumentative proof in his Art of Rhetoric.
Starting in the Middle Ages, grammar was studied at the advanced level, but primarily to further the understanding of Latin. However, rhetoric had been undergoing a transition since the 4th century, when St.
This shift accelerated during the Middle Ages. He argued that rhetoric should be subsumed under logic, rather than the reverse, and that rhetoric itself involved nothing more than style and delivery.
Bartholomew ensured that his ideas were disseminated throughout Europe. The consequences of their influence become clear when we consider that invention in rhetoric had always provided the content of discourse. If rhetoric has no content and no means of developing content, all that remains is style.
In addition, the close connection between logic and grammar inevitably led to a perception that style—that is, rhetoric—was largely about the study of grammar. Teaching rhetoric ceased being about public speaking and became all about teaching writing. Furthermore, as Crowley noted, the focus on style ended the centuries-long emphasis in rhetoric on generating knowledge—its epistemic function—and rhetoric became a vehicle for merely transmitting knowledge, what was already known.
Adams Sherman Hill developed the composition courses at Harvard in this context, after two thirds of the freshman class failed the writing exam that the school required for the first time as a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. Although today we think of Harvard as being an elite institution with a history of educating the children of wealthy and influential parents, it was a different place in the 19th century.
Many of its students certainly came from affluent families, but it also had a fair number of students of middling means. Moreover, as Geiger , p. Indeed, most professors saw their students as intellectual midgets with little knowledge of and even less appreciation for the liberal arts, so there was no expectation that they could actually produce anything worth reading.
Teachers did not have to concern themselves with how to teach content or with how to help students generate content on their own. Instead, the question that teachers had to answer was this: How do we teach style? The answer lay in pedagogical structures that already were in place—the study of literature and grammar. If literature represented an older and purer level of language, and if grammar provided a set of prescriptive rules for producing such language, writing instruction necessarily must focus on reading literature and studying grammar.
Reading literature would edify the spirit, making students better persons, and studying grammar would improve student writing, making it clear, concise, and error free. I will note, however, that the 19th century witnessed two important events related to the study of grammar: Chapter 4 relates this story in detail, but suffice it to say that scholars investigating the languages of American Indians discovered that Latin-based rules could not be made to fit 16 CHAPTER 1 what was being observed and recorded on reservations.
What followed was a major reassessment of grammar and the development of new grammars that provide insight not only into the structure of language but also into how people use language. But the new grammars also created a paradox. Today, language scholars use the new grammars and fully embrace their descriptive orientation. Language teachers, on the other hand, continue to use the prescriptive, Latinbased grammar of the 19th century, as though the world has stood still for more than a hundred years.
Because performance expectations are high, prospective teachers face several challenges before they enter the classroom. They must know English grammar exceptionally well. Meeting this basic requirement is hindered by the fact that nearly all language arts teachers receive a degree in English, which inevitably focuses on literature, not grammar.
Most future teachers take one college-level grammar course before obtaining their credentials, but these courses have been criticized as being mere introductions to a complex subject that do not adequately prepare teachers for the task ahead. In some instances, the content may not be current. In others, the course may focus on what is called traditional grammar the subject of chapter 3 rather than modern grammars, in which case the syllabus will slight or even ignore developments that have occurred since the early s.
Such textbooks tend to give 1 This chapter deals with teaching grammar to native speakers of English. Some observations and principles do not apply to those for whom English is not the home language. From a practical perspective, the decision to base a college-level grammar course on traditional grammar is understandable, for this is the pedagogical orientation of most schools. My view, however, is that all language arts teachers need to know as much about grammar as possible.
For this reason alone, limiting instruction to traditional grammar is problematic. For most people, these memories will be dim—and essentially useless. When we consider grammar pedagogy in our schools, one fact should strike us as both bizarre and unacceptable: Grammar instruction begins in third grade and continues unabated through high school, and yet our students graduate knowing very little about grammar.
Think about this for a moment. Is there any other single subject in the curriculum that students study as long? There are several reasons for such woeful results. The idea that grammar is just too complicated is not one of them. We explore some of these reasons shortly, but at this point one should begin to suspect that perhaps the grammar instruction we provide year after year is not very effective and that a new approach is warranted see Williams, b.
The content of instruction also presents a challenge. Everyone may agree that grammar includes the parts of speech, but what about punctuation and spelling? We have different conventions that govern both. Moreover, punctuation is often viewed as a matter of writing style, and spelling is not related to sentence structure at all.
Are they really part of grammar? Of course, the number of experienced teachers who faithfully adhere to district guidelines is notoriously small, but for beginners the thought of modifying established practice can be daunting.
The students themselves present another challenge. Even the best teacher using a sound approach must face the resistance students have to grammar. Society does not make our job easier when, in the name of anti-elitism, we see Standard English ridiculed in the media and nonstandard English, with its vulgarisms and slang, celebrated.
Learning outcomes specify what students will know or be able to do after instruction, and they require that we match instruction to expected outcomes. Learning outcomes always are linked to outcomes assessment. When teaching children addition, teachers commonly use objects such as blocks to introduce the idea of putting items into groups.
Instruction might involve asking students to take two red blocks, put them with two yellow blocks, and then count the total number of blocks. If the instruction is well grounded and successful, students will, indeed, learn addition, which we would assess by asking them to add some numbers.
But there are many ways to teach addition, and we can easily imagine some that are ineffective because they are based on flawed theory or faulty assumptions about what contributes to learning how to add. For example, a teacher might propose that understanding the shapes of numbers is related to addition.
In such a case, we probably would find this hypothetical teacher asking students to engage in activities related to number shapes, tracing 2s and 4s or looking at them from different angles.
Because outcomes always must be tied to instruction, we would have to ask in this scenario whether studying the shapes of numbers leads to student mastery of addition. It should be obvious that the answer is no for the simple reason that the shapes of numbers are unrelated to the nature of addition. We must apply this kind of critical analysis when teaching grammar.
We must decide in advance what we want students to know and be able to do after studying grammar, and we must plan lessons that enable them to achieve objectives. More evidence follows, but at this point we need to consider why years of instruction might not produce students who have much knowledge or understanding of grammar. One factor is that the long history of grammar instruction has instilled in us certain pedagogical assumptions that are difficult for most teachers to challenge and that make developing viable learning outcomes extremely difficult without a radical change in perspective.
The most influential assumptions are the following: Grammar and Speech. The most common approach to teaching grammar is drill and exercise. Students drill on grammar terminology—noun, verb, preposition, and so on—and then complete exercises in which they are required to identify the various parts of individual sentences.
Given enough encouragement and practice, students can become very good at these activities. But it should be obvious that there is no match between such activities and speaking and that the fundamental requirement of learning outcomes is not met. Somehow, the ability to identify nouns in workbook sentences is supposed to transfer to speech. This hope is ill-founded. Consider the following: Nearly all young people today use the word like repeatedly when speaking, and the expression goes like has in most instances replaced the word said.
As a result, sentence 1 below typically appears in current speech as sentence 2: To influence speech, instruction would have to focus on speech. Grammar and Logical Thinking. A similar situation exists with regard to the second assumption. Some people believe that certain logical mental operations are innate.
For example, if someone tells us that a friend fell into a pool of water, we seem to understand intuitively that the friend will be wet. We do not have to see the person to reach this logical conclusion.
But scholars who study logical mental operations, such as Johnson-Laird , , have suggested that logic is based on experience. In other words, we can logically conclude that the person who fell into the water got wet because we have experience with water and its properties.
This model posits that our logical performance depends on a grasp of how the words in statements relate to the world. Stated another way, our ability to reason logically depends on our ability to develop a mental model of the relations expressed in logical statements. On this basis, we can see why it is rather easy to process syllogisms of the following type: All men are mortal.
However, if we change the wording of a syllogism slightly, such that it is difficult to develop a mental model of the real-world relations, logical operations become nearly impossible. Johnson-Laird found that none of the subjects in his research could arrive at a valid logical conclusion for the following two statements: All of the students are athletes.
None of the writers is a student. The question of transfer is central to the assumption. What the research suggests is that logical reasoning is situation specific, in which case it is not readily transferable. But the ease with which we process simple syllogisms makes it appear as though exercises in syllogistic reasoning will increase our logical abilities overall. Furthermore, the history of grammar instruction, as well as the folk psychology that informs much of what we do in education, inclines us to believe not only that grammar is an exercise in logic but also that logical reasoning is as innate as breathing.
If we can do it at all, we can do it anywhere. This is probably an illusion. Running is involved in both cases, but yard dashes will do little to prepare one for a marathon. It will affect only their logical thinking with regard to grammar.
The situation-specific characteristic of logical reasoning suggests that students may fully master grammar and still reason illogically on a regular basis.
At this point, our analysis of the first two assumptions indicates that a significant disconnect exists between grammar instruction and learning outcomes.
To the best of my knowledge there is no supporting evidence for this claim. Also, what Pinker described here is merely a mnemonic, not a logical operation. Consequently, it warrants special consideration. What follows cannot possibly be comprehensive but covers some of the central issues. First, it is important to recognize that our approach to teaching writing has changed very little since the first composition classes were offered at Harvard in The Harvard model was adopted quickly at colleges across the country, and high schools with any ambition of getting their graduates admitted to institutions of higher learning had to follow suit.
As noted in the previous chapter, this model is predicated on the idea that students are empty headed, so the focus of instruction is on the structure, or form, of writing.
Today, labeling students empty headed is not acceptable or tolerated. Nevertheless, the writing curriculum in most schools treats them as though they are. The modern application of the Harvard model is congruent with two powerful beliefs in English education. The first is that the study of literature does not involve content beyond plot summaries and character descriptions. Instead, it emphasizes reactions to literature. As a result, our language arts classes typically focus on personal experience or reaction papers.
The same principle applies to personal experiences. Everything is relative. It also has the perceived benefit of helping to equalize evaluations by removing a significant criterion from assessment. This sentiment is so strong that even after identifying the problem, Haussamen et al.
Instead, we have to turn to a keener observer, David 5 See Williams a for fuller discussion of the Harvard model and its influence on contemporary writing instruction. If instruction and evaluation do not address content, then the only legitimate factor in assessment is form, or style. This is where grammar instruction comes in. However, the stress on style forces us to adopt a peculiar view of what constitutes good writing—form without substance, the mechanically correct essay that contains absolutely nothing worth reading.
Writing becomes a form of confession and the teacher a voyeur. Private writing is made public by the misguided authority of the classroom. College teachers of 1st-year composition see the consequences of such writing instruction every year: Students who received good grades in high school English, where personal experience writing served them well, are stunned when they get their first papers back with low grades largely because the writing is vacuous.
One unfortunate result is that college teachers in all disciplines complain bitterly that high school writing instruction fails to teach students how to produce academic discourse. They blame high school teachers. It therefore seems that current practices in the public school language arts curriculum may minister to certain intangible goals, such as convincing large numbers of students that they are reasonably good writers and thereby artificially enhancing their self-esteem, but they do not appear to have any beneficial effect on actual writing performance.
They show that writing skills among our students at all levels have been in steady decline for more than 20 years. A assessment of writing in grades 4, 8, and 12 found that the percentages of students performing at the basic below average level were 84, 84, and 78, respectively.
Department of Education, Good writing—and thus good teaching—should focus on content, on having something worthwhile to share with readers. The focus on form, on grammar, therefore seems fundamentally flawed. Equally important, we should begin to recognize that the unrestrained emphasis on private writing, on personal experiences, fails mightily to help students master the kind of writing that will be demanded of them in college and the workplace.
A Comment on Errors That people sometimes make mistakes whenever they use language is a given. We are all familiar with slips of the tongue and malapropisms. Because speech is transient, we tend to let these mistakes pass by and to focus on the substance of what is being said. Any mistakes in writing, therefore, are much more apparent and annoying, so the world expects writers to demonstrate control over their work by making it largely error free.
When writers cannot produce essentially error-free writing, they are viewed either as incompetent or as having no regard for readers. Neither judgment is desirable, so we rightly devote a vast amount of effort in our schools to produce competent, if not good, writers.
An Empirical Question. Without a doubt, underlying this effort is the most pervasive assumption in language arts—that grammar instruction improves writing and reduces or even eliminates errors.
Chapter 1 traced the roots of this assumption, and now we need to examine it closely. An important first step is to understand that this is an empirical question: It can be tested. Moreover, informal testing has been going on for countless years and takes place daily in our schools. Operating under the grammar-improves-writing assumption, teachers instruct students in grammar terminology and rules, and they do an admirable 6 At the time of this writing, the NAEP report is the most current available.
There are obvious exceptions. President George W. The governing expectation is that when teachers ask students to write an essay in a week or two, they will see fewer errors and greater clarity.
Yet when they collect those essays for grading, they find that the papers are riddled with errors of all kinds: In other words, assessment of student performance indicates that the outcomes have not been achieved.