Thursday, August 10, 2023

A Short History of Failing English Grammar Instruction

Grammar has long been regarded as the result of centuries of logical improvements in the systematic organization of language. Grammar has been held up as one of the defining criteria elevating mankind above mere animals.

Begun by well meaning researchers looking to improve mankind, Prescriptive Grammar and the rote drills to perfection became a practice to be ridiculed, ignored and then discarded.

In the 1920s and 1930s, two great promoters of the descriptive linguistics tradition, Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield, both wrote influential books that elevated the primacy of speech over writing and the importance of a descriptive approach to language study.

The publication of Syntactic Structures in 1957 by Noam Chomsky of MIT began a revolution in linguistics. This began the on-going widespread belief that language acquisition is considered an autonomic process dependent upon unconscious interactions between an innate, internal language acquisition device and the quality of the raw input material of the child's linguistic environment.

Chomsky's "Naturalist Theory" core premise was that in order for children to be able to learn a spoken language with such rapidity and thoroughness, children must be born with large portions of the universal grammar of language already hardwired into their head.

By the 1980's these Naturalist theories and subsequent transformational-generative grammar additions gained momentum and pushed regulators, education faculties, teacher trainers, educators and textbook editors to eliminate traditional grammar instruction.

It is unfortunate that Chomsky was only right about initial language acquisition.

Babies are born with an excess of neural connections, many of which are lost through lack of use over time. Beginning at about the age of nine or ten and continuing until kids are around the age of fourteen, the internal mechanisms for intuiting syntactic, phonological, and morphological structures start breaking down.

Education theory promoters need to stop preaching the half-truth that grammar develops naturally through simple exposure to language. They need to admit that the internal language-learning mechanism is imperfect and that this ability degrades as students age.

It is interesting to note that some USA states have used 1930's Grade 6 English tests as a benchmark to show that most of the 1990's and 21st century first year college students could not even pass. Historical comparisons have revealed that education tests and standards have been deliberately reduced to disguise the failures of the "Modern public English education curriculum".

The second challenge is the elementary school students who had not formally learned English grammar are now teaching English. Many of these "modern English teachers" have never been exposed to the traditional grammar books of the 1940s and '50s, so when questioned cannot explain many of the rudimentary grammatical forms.

These facts should provide language program designers with clear road maps. Program designers have to recognize that they have a window of opportunity in which to expose students to syntactically rich language. Educators should prioritize technical grammar learning early and often.

Teachers must recognize that older students will not learn grammar simply by reading and writing. Teachers must correct grammatical errors that students have acquired during their early years. For older students language learning is not autonomous. Grammar structures and mechanics have to be explicitly taught.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Using BING AI Chat to search for ESL Teaching Resources


Definition and Examples of Corpora in Linguistics

By Richard Nordquist Updated on February 12, 2020

In linguistics, a corpus is a collection of linguistic data (usually contained in a computer database) used for research, scholarship, and teaching. Also called a text corpus. Plural: corpora.

The first systematically organized computer corpus was the Brown University Standard Corpus of Present-Day American English (commonly known as the Brown Corpus), compiled in the 1960s by linguists Henry Kučera and W. Nelson Francis.

Notable English language corpora include the following:

The American National Corpus (ANC)

British National Corpus (BNC)

The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA)

The International Corpus of English (ICE)

Advantages of Corpus Linguistics

"In 1992 [Jan Svartvik] presented the advantages of corpus linguistics in a preface to an influential collection of papers. His arguments are given here in abbreviated form:

- Corpus data are more objective than data based on introspection.

- Corpus data can easily be verified by other researchers and researchers can share the same data instead of always compiling their own.

- Corpus data are needed for studies of variation between dialects, registers and styles.

- Corpus data provide the frequency of occurrence of linguistic items.

- Corpus data do not only provide illustrative examples, but are a theoretical resource.

- Corpus data give essential information for a number of applied areas, like language teaching and language technology (machine translation, speech synthesis etc.).

- Corpora provide the possibility of total accountability of linguistic features--the analyst should account for everything in the data, not just selected features.

- Computerised corpora give researchers all over the world access to the data.

- Corpus data are ideal for non-native speakers of the language.

Additional Applications of Corpus-Based Research

The following practical applications may be mentioned.

Lexicography - Corpus-derived frequency lists and, more especially, concordances are establishing themselves as basic tools for the lexicographer. . . .

Language Teaching - The use of concordances as language-learning tools is currently a major interest 

in computer-assisted language learning (CALL)

(Hans Lindquist, Corpus Linguistics and the Description of English. Edinburgh University Press, 2009)

Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Corpora in Linguistics." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020,

Monday, July 03, 2023

Education is Freedom

I do not want my students thinking that knowledge is hidden or only passed on to a chosen few.

I do not want to produce co-dependent or charismatic personality followers out of my students.

I do not want my students running after me for years and years begging for "interpretations" or "patterns we use".

I share how to use skills, tools and methods.

I share what I know and where to find more.

I share how to apply, modify and invent.

Yes I teach logic, coping skills, reasoning, how to verify truth and detect manipulation.

Students learn how to use multiple reference sources to gain more accurate knowledge.

Students learn how context, situations, history, environment, audience and politics change perceptions.

Students learn to communicate with the core organization of language using grammar and vocabulary.

Students learn how to test, modify and improve their inputs, outputs and communications.

My students become confident then independent and go out on their own.

The ability to learn whatever you want, without chains holding you back is exhilarating.

Education is freedom


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