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The Evolution of Linguistics
Transcript of The Evolution of Linguistics
Linguistics is a continuously evolving component in English/Language Arts curriculum and instruction.
Alexander, M. (1985). On retirement.
The English Journal, 74
Denby, R. V. (1968). NCTE/ERIC report: Linguistics instruction in secondary school classrooms.
The English Journal, 57
James, C. (1970). Applied institutional linguistics in the classroom.
The English Journal, 59
Kolln, M. (1996). Rhetorical grammar: A modification lesson.
The English Journal, 85
Lamberts, J. J. (1960). Basic concepts for teaching from structural linguists.
The English Journal, 49
Long, R. B. (1968). Linguists, grammarians, and purists.
The English Journal, 57
Ney, J. (1982). Evaluating the linguistic components of secondary language arts textbooks.
The English Journal, 71
Perry, T. & Berg, N. S. (2006). Taking time: Correctness: An evolutionary practice.
The English Journal, 95
Whitaker, S. (2008). Finding the joys of language in authentic wordplay.
The English Journal, 97
Youmans, P. (1965). Practicing linguistics.
The English Journal, 54
What is linguistics?
Over the years, the definition of linguistics has remained mostly the same. While often used as an umbrella term for various components of language, linguistics "includes general linguistic theory, phonology, lexicography, semantics, grammar, dialectology, and linguistic history" (Long, pg. 380).
Essentially, linguistics encompasses language and its forms of communication.
However, teaching students to become masters of linguistics has evolved and will continue to evolve as long as our language is living (Ney, pg. 36).
In the 1960s, there was great tension between Structuralists, Grammarians and Purists. These educators with opposing viewpoints argued about the best linguistic practices and pedagogies.
Structuralists believed that in order to know a language, one would have to know the grammar constructs involved in that language. However, understanding these constructs did not necessarily come from traditional grammar instruction emphasizing "correctness".
Grammarians had "a genuine interest in the grammatical system" (Long, pg. 382).
Ralph Long, a grammarian, explained that he was glad the pronunciation of various words such as "grievous" and "mischievous" were not necessarily a part of grammar knowledge.
Such complex relationships would overcomplicate the "simplicity of the system" (pg. 384).
Long then continued, explaining that it is not the ear that distinguishes between tenses and homophones, but our processed understanding of these spoken words that allow us to derive meaning.
Purists defended the traditional system of grammar and linguistic instruction, though during this time a large movement of individuals began moving away from the Purist argument.
In 1965, Peter Youmans explained how linguistics was practiced in the classroom. During this time period the notion of "correctness" in grammar instruction was practiced.
Often teaching students how to determine the function of words by considering their phonology, morphology and syntactic arrangement, Youmans utilizes Robert Allen's "boing" example.
According to Youmans, students could be taught to arrange the word "boing" and its variations to create sentences. While he credited Robert Allen with this idea, Youmans discussed how such exercises would benefit students. Through these examples, students could practice the English grammar structure.
For example, "A boinger has boingized the boingians" helped students understand that "a boinger" was a noun, "boingized" was the verb and that "the boingians" served as the receiving object of the "boinging" (pg. 331). Through this exercise, students also learned about morphology by understanding singular and plural nouns and well as verb tenses.
Toward the end of the 1960s, curriculum began to teach linguistics from a more structural approach.
When reading Martha Kolln's views about the changes in linguistic curriculum and instruction, she points out the importance of research being conducted during the 1970s.
Elley's 1976 study concluded that "grammar has virtually no influence on the language growth of typical secondary students" (pg. 28).
One must consider the researcher's assumptions and expectations at this time:
Students should already understand basic linguistic structures
Most likely, these structures would have been taught toward the end of the 60s as curriculum was changing
Students could automatically "transfer" this linguistic knowledge to all forms of communication, especially writing.
Kolln concluded that the implications of research in the 1970s changed curriculum by no longer requiring formal grammar instruction to the extent that "correctness" had previously been demanded.
So far, the evolution of linguistic curriculum and instruction has indicated movement away from isolated grammar instruction and drills with emphasis toward more embedded linguistic teaching opportunities.
Marion Alexander, a teacher on the brink of retirement discussed problems with curriculum and pedagogies of the 1980s.
Alexander explained how most teachers abandoned traditional grammar instruction in favor of teaching the "best use of language available" (pg. 68).
approval of informal instructional language
"'Ninety-five percent of everything is trash.' The awesome burden is choosing among the five percent" (pg. 68).
At this time, textbooks were shifting to include more basic, easily accessible vocabulary for students. Meaning that linguistics instruction was not only shifting away from its rigid grammar instruction, but also away from direct instruction in other linguistic facets such as morphology.
In his report for the NCTE Committee on Evaluating Linguistic Components of Elementary and High School Textbooks, Jim Ney listed many factors that teachers should consider when selecting appropriate textbooks (1982).
Some of the factors included in Ney's report were:
determining text adequacy (pg. 36)
texts that include phonology and semantics (pg. 36)
texts that cover morphology and grammar (pg. 37)
The purpose of the report was to help provide educators guidelines to "evaluate the linguistic components of elementary and high school textbooks" (pg. 36). These uniformed guidelines helped streamline linguistic curricula.
In 1996, the NCTE modified its definition of, and expectations regarding, linguistics instruction.
Referred to as language awareness, the NCTE stated that "Language awareness includes:
examining how language varies in a range of social and cultural settings
examining how people's attitudes vary toward language across culture, class, gender, and generation
examining how oral and written language affect listeners and readers
examining how 'correctness' in language reflects social=political=economic values
examining how the structure of language works from a descriptive perspective
examining how first and second languages are acquired" (Kolln, pg. 30)
This modification of grammar was expanded to include people's attitude toward social and cultural settings (Kolln, pg. 30).
The NCTE's expanded definition was more thoughtful of ELLs and the linguistic learning processes they may encounter.
As a result of the NCTE's broadened and more positive definition of grammar, language arts curriculum evolved to begin teaching functional grammar.
At the beginning of Perry & Berg's article, Perry reminisces being a junior high students in Mrs. K's class. Mrs. K was a rigid advocate for grammar "correctness", a linguistic practice over implemented in the 50s and 60s (pg. 98).
While Perry learned grammar rules and became passionate about her quest to inspire correct writing and literacy in her students, she acknowledged that some students just went through the motions as a "survival mechanism" (pg. 98).
Years later as an English teacher, Perry found that her students' writing became more "cold, contrived, and dull" over time (pg. 100).
Reflecting on this, she noted that her own teaching played a large part in their products. Lists of words that could not be used in writing such as "stuff" and "I" restricted students so much that they too began to go through the motions in order to accomplish the task and attain a passing grade.
Perry & Berg's words grapple with some of the current trends in our language arts curricula. While the intent is to improve student linguistics and increase their metacognition through writing, it is important for us as educators to ensure that we do not discourage students from their own creativity.
...but what if they couldn't?
Grammar taught for correctness
Isolated drill and practice
No longer taught for "correctness"
Began moving away from formal grammar instruction
Textbooks and instruction became more accessible
Less structured, more embedded linguistic instruction
Continued to embed linguistic instruction in curriculum
Most linguistic instruction taught through writing
Begin considering the implications of too much embedded writing instruction focused on linguistics
Very structured, instruction given via a chalkboard
Students were taught linguistic content in a fun way!
More accessible, less structured linguistic instruction