A Case for Teaching Communicative Functions of Certain Grammatical Categories

Topics: Grammar, Past tense, Linguistics Pages: 9 (2079 words) Published: September 2, 2012

A Case for Teaching Communicative Functions of Certain Grammatical Categories

Gaurav Deep, lecturer Dept. of English, Sobhasaria Engineering College, Sikar


Grammar can be narrowly defined to include only morphology and syntax. Structural linguists held this view of grammar. Grammar can be widely defined so as to include phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Grammar then under such a view will be concerned with the principles and processes of sentence construction. Transformational Grammarians held such a view of grammar. Grammar can be still more widely defined so as to include phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and rules of communicative competence is defined as the study of context in the interpretation of utterances. Dell Hymes, widdowson, Keith Brown, Wilkins etc. hold such a view of grammar.

Then, our concept of what is grammatical is dependent upon our view of grammar. Linguists who include only morphology and syntax under grammar will regard syntactically well formed sentences as grammatical. So as sentence like ‘The tree married the girl’ will be grammatically well formed for them.

However, in Chomskyian type of grammar, the sentence would be considered semantically deviant and hence will be out.

In yet wider view of grammar, not only syntactic and semantic deviance but also communicative deviance will matter. By communicative deviance is meant the utterances that are not appropriate. The following utterance will be out because they are formally inappropriate:

1) a. What happened to the books?

b. The moths destroyed them (formally inappropriate)

The functionally inappropriate utterances will also be out:

2) a. What’s this? (In a context where the listener and speaker both know the object.)

b. It’s a book.

The utterance could be stylistically inappropriate:

3) Extinguish the fags, chaps.

Depending upon the purposes for which a grammar is written, a grammar can be classified into a linguist’s grammar a teacher’s grammar and a pedagogic grammar. The purpose of a linguist’s grammar is to construct a scientific theory of a language. It not only describes the linguistic facts but also tires to account for them. A teacher’s grammar, on the other hand, helps the teacher to teach his students. The purpose of a pedagogic grammar is to teach the learner how to use the language correctly.

Most of the pedagogic grammars that are being used in class-rooms in India today concentrate on teaching form in isolated sentences followed by exercises in isolated sentences, too. These grammars include Pit Corder’s, Stannard Allen’s, F.T. Wood’s and Wren and Martin’s. An example from Stannard Allen’s here will not be out of place. One of the exercises on articles in the book is to read the following into plurals.

4) a. A garden has a tree.

b. A potato is a vegetable.

Notice sentence (4-a) is funny and (4-b) will be funny when made plural. Further, these grammars do not teach value’ (Widdowson: 1972) but only ‘signification’. As a matter of fact, a pedagogic grammar must teach a learner not only the syntactic and semantic rules but also rules of communicative competence so that one can communicate more effectively. For this purpose, new types of pedagogic grammars will have to be written which will be based on a combination of syntactic, semantic and communicative rules.

Justification for the Rules of Communicative Competence in Pedagogic Grammars:

Linguistic facts can be adequately accounted for if we include a combination of syntactic, semantic and communicative rules in pedagogic grammars. Purely syntactic rules may work for certain areas of grammar but they wouldn’t work for others.

Then, there are certain linguistic facts that defy syntactic or semantic explanation. They can be explained in terms of rules of communicative competence. These rules will include linguistic...

References: Austin, J.L. 1962. How to Do Things with words. New York: Academic press.
Leech, Geoffrey and Jan Gvartivik. 1975. A communicative Grammar of English. London: Longman.
Quirk, Randolph, et al. 1984. A Comprehensive Grammar of English. London: Longman.
Quirk, Randolph and Sidney Green baum 1973. A Concise Grammar of Contemporary English New York: Harcourt Brace Inc.
Thomson, A.J. and A.V. Martinet. 1986. A Practical English Grammar. Delhi: OUP
Widdowson, Henry. 1972. Teaching English as Communication London: OUP
Wood, F.T. 1968. A Remedial Grammar for Foreign Students London: Macmillan.
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