Background to the world-wide collection on grammar teaching

 

The information listed on this webpage was sent to me by colleagues – mostly academic linguists – in response to two queries on the Linguist List (which, completely by chance, were exactly 20 years apart). (For guidance on sending me further information, please see the foot of this page):

  • September 11 1997: I’d like to know of any national (or smaller) educational systems in which the normal curriculum (most probably in first-language classes) includes the grammatical analysis of sentences.
    • By `grammatical analysis’ I mean any of the following:
      • the classification of words (as noun, verb, etc),
      • the idenfification of grammatical functions (subject, object, etc),
      • diagramming of sentence structure.
    • Also:
      •  At what age does it start?
      • How successful is it?
    • I’ll summarise back to the list if there’s anything to summarise.
  • September 18 1997:I recently posted a query about countries where grammatical analysis of sentences is regularly taught as part of the school curriculum. I’ve had quite a lot of responses (for acknowledgements see the end of the message), but the flow has slowed down so here’s a preliminary summary.
    • Q1. Which national (or regional) school systems include sentence analysis in the normal curriculum? (I glossed sentence analysis as recognition of word classes and grammatical functions, and possibly diagramming.) The following countries/regions do include it; I’ve classified them according to the national language, and risked wild generalisations to encourage research!
      • Germanic: Germany (some Laender: Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony), Norway, maybe Denmark – i.e. everywhere except where English is the language?
      • Romance: France, Quebec, Italy, Catalonia, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico – i.e. everywhere?
      • Slavic: Russia, Czech Republic – i.e. everywhere?
      • Semitic: Israel – i.e. everywhere????
      • Chinese: China.
    • I.e.
      • A. I think it would be fair to say that the English-speaking countries wheregrammatical analysis is no longer part of the normal curriculum (UK, USA, Australia, NZ?) are out of step.
      • B. There seem to be some myths around. One correspondent thought school grammar might be a characteristic of small countries with local languages; but what about China? Another correspondent saw a link to prescriptivism,but in Norway anti-dialect prescriptivism is illegal and (fascinating!!) twoyears of linguistics is one of the options at high school.
      • C. In at least some countries where it is part of the national curriculum it really is part of the curriculum for every school and every level of academic ability. No hang-ups about it being too hard for all but the most academic.
      • D. The teaching in some countries goes well beyond what I mentioned. E.g. in the Czech Republic 14-year olds can talk (explicitly) about the palatalization of alveolar consonants before front vowels!
      • E. Not many countries teach diagramming, but some do – e.g. they learn to draw trees (beneath the words!) in Spain at age 12.
    • Q2. Age: Variable. I think the prize goes to Russia, where word-classes areintroduced in the first or second grade (= age 7-8?).
    • Q3. Success: I asked how successful it was – a badly worded question. All I wanted toknow was whether the kids could apply the analysis after the teaching. I think the answer is yes in all countries, though presumably there’s theexpected range of success as in maths etc. The other kind of success that I might have been asking aboutinvolves the reasons for teaching grammatical analysis. This would have been much harder to assess. However all my English-speaking respondents were convinced that the Anglo-Saxon system of grammar-free schooling is *not* successful in producing literate citizens.Thanks to: Richard Alderson, Isabelle Barriere, Belinda Bicknell, Marc Brunelle, Maria Filomena Capucho, John Dienhart, Joseph Hilferty, James Kirchner, Natasha Kondrashova, Kristine Jensen de Lopez, Ingrid Piller, Emilce Rees, Fabio Rinaldi, Geirr Wiggen, Marina Yaguello, Ren Zhang, Yael Ziv
  • June 29 2017: Do you know of any country where school children learn some kind of formal system for showing the grammatical structure either of words or of sentences? I already have quite a lot of information about a few countries at http://dickhudson.com/sentence-diagramming/, but even in Western Europe I know nothing about most countries. I’m especially keen to hear about Eastern Europe, but I’m interested in every country.
    • What I’d like, if possible, is concrete examples, e.g. scanned pages from exercise books. Unfortunately I don’t read most languages so I’d value translations for key passages.
    • Anything you send me will go on my website, so this is a kind of international archive of information. Of course I’d also be delighted to know of any similar collections elsewhere.
  • September 18 2017: Some months ago I asked listers to tell me whether grammar (i.e. grammatical analysis) is taught in their country, and if so, how. I received a number of answers which have allowed me to expand the information at http://teach-grammar.com/geography, which now includes some information about 19 countries. Some of the information is rich, but most is sparse and short of details such as sample pages from textbooks or exam questions. If you would like to expand the collection further to enrich any of the current entries, please email me (dickling.ucl.ac.uk).

 

 

 

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