I still need wrap up my Structured Word Inquiry series (from last November!) with at least one more post, but some of the more recent twitter chatter on SWI has brought up a broader issue that I thought I’d address first. That would be the question of which aspects of grammar actually need to be taught to students who are native English speakers.
To address this question, it’s useful to draw a distinction between “basic grammar” and “school grammar.”
Basic grammar is the stuff that native speakers, assuming they don’t have language impairments/autism, pick up incidentally without formal instruction. This includes everyday vocabulary, word order, and word endings (morphology), and syllabification. Absent language impairments, native speakers, do not, for example, need to be taught that “crumb” and “crumbs” and “do” and “does” are related, or that we say “no bananas” rather than “no banana”–contrary to what some SWI proponents have suggested on twitter:
It really is uncanny.
After I discovered that Coursera doesn’t offer a stylistics course and left it at that, Google Master surfaced English Grammar and Style at EdX.
That sounds right up my alley. Looking at the syllabus now.
By the way, there are some online courses offered in stylistics, or were a couple of years ago when I looked
I’ll try to get those links posted at some point.
(Add that to the list — )
An amazing trip down memory lane from Mom of 4:
When I was at my flagship state college, in the 60s, every English major in the College of Arts and Sciences had to earn at least a B in (1) Structure of the English Language and (2) Stylistics, in that order. The professor was outstanding, demanding – I had her for another class – and widely considered to be the toughest grader in the department. I don’t think re-taking the class was possible, and I had a number of English major friends. I do know that many prospective majors bolted to the ed school, over the requirement. The ed school required neither class, although some of the top students did take Structure.
Back in the 80s, my younger kids had a new grad (different state flagship) who practically boasted – as an English teacher – that she had never diagrammed a sentence and thought it both useless and ridiculous. She might have been a better writer if she had; I was tempted to correct her communications and send them back, and my major was not even in the humanities. I spent a lot of time supervising my kids’s work…
I don’t have an answer to that, but I do have an opinion: English teachers need to have taken at least one linguistics class somewhere along the line, and probably a traditional grammar class to boot.
We’re a long way from that standard:
A few years ago, Syntax in the Schools ran a series of articles on main and subordinate clauses — is the main idea in a sentence usually embedded in the main subject and verb? I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised when a number of subscribers told me that the series was, for them, incomprehensible because they cannot identify clauses. And these were teachers who want to teach grammar and even belong to ATEG.
On Learning Those Pesky Parts of Speech – Dr. Ed Vavra