r N T. it' v M E . ED 033 152 - . TE 500 441 By-Wolfe. Don M. Crammar and Linguistics: A Contrast in Realities. National Council .of Teachers of English. Champaign. III. Pub Date Feb 64 Note-7p. t. .. ,. Journal Cit -The English Journal: v53 n2 p73-78. 100 Feb 1964 EDRS Price MF -$025 HC-$045 Descriptors -*College High School Cooperation. College Instruction. Composition(Literary). Composition Skills (Literary). English Instruction. Generative Grammar. Graduate Study. Imitation.Instructional Improvement. Language Styles. Secondary Education. Structural Grammar. Structural Linguistics.Teaching Techniques. Traditioni.! Grammar An appeal for a reappraisal of the role of linguisticsand traditional grammar in the secondary school is made in this article. Acase is made for a return to traditional grammar in the teaching of English at all levels prior to graduate school. Fivewriting models with student assignments basedon creative imitation illustrate the kind of stylistic achievement which is attainable with theuse of traditional grammar. The importance and possibility of achieving good literary style andpunctuation habits through grammar study are stressed incontrast with the limitations of linguistics in this domain. Structural linguistics in the classroomis criticized for its lack of simplicity. consistency. and stability. (AF) LIN From: The English Journal, Volume 531 Number 2, February 19611 P11 rt\ c,Grammar and Linguistics: W A Contrast in Realities Don M. Wolfe No battlefield is more vital, perhaps, to the English teacher than that on which the grammars are arrayed. This article is an argument that traditional grammar is more useful in teaching than structural linguistics. Dr. Wolfe, a well-known author of language textbooks, is a professor of English at Brooklyn College and general editor of The Complete Works of John Milton, now in preparation for the Yale University Press. OR MANY years leaders in the Nationalit was grammar that defined the student's Council deplored the emphasis givenattitudetowardEnglish,not themes to formal grammar throughout the na-which opened the deep streams of his tion. Almost every teacher knew gram-life and let them flow into burning im- mar; very few teachers felt the com-ages. Life seldom invaded the classroom; petence or the enthusiasm or the energyit was a separate Compartment of cars to teach writing. The very schedule ofand girls and friends and midnight hours. English teachers, five or six classes daily, Nevertheless, many giftedteachers two hundred pupils a week, made writingcombined expert teaching of grammar assignments impossible to cope with. Thewith remarkable power to draw forth fault with the teaching of grammar wasthe student's deep thoughts. They saw the failure to apply grammatical knowl-that once a grammatical concept was edge to punctuation and style. Manytaught, the student should immediately critics felt, indeed, that no great amountuse his own prepositional phrases in a of grammar teaching could be appliedstory, his own predicate adjectives to to style. Hence the teaching of grammarexpress his moods, his own participles, as such was discouraged. To such an ex-infinitives, and adverbial clauses. When tent as the leaders of the Council held tothus taught, grammatical constructions a party line, it was a hard position againstbecame personal possessions that found formal grammar; indeed the teaching ofcontinuing expression from theme to any grammar was in the minds of manytheme. Many teachers assigned grammati- somewhat suspect. Grammar appealed tocal autobiographies to combine mastery a small intellectual part of a student only;of grammatical concepts with self- expres- it did not take into account his need forsion.' Meanwhile they assigned themes letting his deep feelings and thoughtsfrom week to week which tapped the flowintolanguage. When grammarexplosive powers of self-expression about flourished in the classroom, the sym-those topics that the student, not the pathies of both teacher and studentsteacher, defined as experience with deep- somehow dried up; before such a limitedest meaning. In such a teacher's class- analysis of the power of language theroom, learning grammar was not in- student stood alien and hostile to theconsistent with theflowoforiginal teacher's idea of English. The deep andthoughts and feelings. To such a teacher violent emotional life of the high schoolthe relation between the teaching of student found in many if not most Eng-grammar and the teaching of writing lish classrooms no link to expressive real- 'Sec Don M. Wolfe, "A Grammatical Auto- ity as encouraged by the teacher. The biography," English Journal, 49 (January 1960), more grammar, the less self-expression; pp. 16-21. );
74 THE ENGLISH JOURNAL was not one of mutual hostility and re-yses of great books to those students pre- jection; the student accepted both. In-paring for college. If the old grammar deedthemore personal becamehisbrought lethargy and boredom to the weekly themes, the more grammar tookclassroom, the new grammar to some on new and vital significance. teachers brought sickness of spirit and Then came linguistics, or a new zeala more colossal waste of precious time for linguistics, an interest in which wasthan the old grammar had ever mustered. fostered by outstanding college profes-Meanwhile, where was English? What sors and leaders within the Nationalnew insight did linguistics bring to an Council. To almost every enthusiast forappreciation of style, to the rhetoric of linguistics, traditional grammar had failedbeautifulsentences?Where was the todegcribethe language with thosevisualization of the incandescent moment minute and accurate qualifications neces-from a great gook, from the student's sary to scientificanalysis. Unlike thelifea moment of fear, hope, happiness, traditional grammar, the new sciencedespair, discovery? incorporated the sounds of language as My own view is that those who be- well as the function of each element oflieveinstructurallinguisticsfor the structure.Insteadofeightpartsofaverage classroom must show how the speech, the linguists followed Fries innew science can be used to improve both defining four parts of speech as Class 1,punctuation and style:the same tests Class 2, Class 3, and Class 4 words andthat they justly believed should be ap- denominating fifteen to seventeen groupsplied to the teaching of grammar. I be- of structure words. In the midst of pro-lieve that traditional grammar hasa hun- liferating linguistic theory, Paul Robertsdred times more potential for improving and others attempted in a series of bookspunctuation and style than has structural to bring linguistics within reach of thelinguistics. I wish to present againsome average classroom teacher. Lou La Brantconcreteprinciples by which formal in her exciting series, Your Language,grammar can be used by the average adopted and expanded the new linguisticteacher. I am not defending grammar as terminology. If the terminology of thea wholly economical resource; I am de- old grammar was antiquated and in-fending it as a resource of limited bene- exact, the terminology of structural lin-fits that no person of professional training guistics was so extensive and so difficultcan afford to dispense with. Consider the to define that ;;ven those teachers mostfivesentence patterns below and the eager to comprehend the new scienceclassroom assignments based on them. found it impossible to adopt in the class-Traditional grammar can help the stu- room or teach with any degree of assur-dent to understand these patterns. Crea ance, especially in the midst of a newtiveimitationof thesesentences can surge of the writing and usage assign-enhance the student's comprehension of ments to college-bound students. Whengrammar while improving his apprecia- an eager classroom teacher tried to teachtion and command of literary diction. linguistics to a class oriented in tradi-PatternI.IntroductoryPrepositional tional grammar, he more often thanPhrases for Background not found the task baffling and fruitless. On the pleasant shore of the French Indeed he was now taking a dozen-foldRiviera, about halfway between Mar- as much time to teach a new grammar asseilles and the Italian border, standsa he had taken to teach the old, mean-large, proud, rose-colored hotel. while neglecting his far more important F. Scott Fitzgerald, from Tender Is task of assigning college essays and anal- the Night GRAMMAR ANDLINGUISTICS... Is Assinment: Describe a building youthe blast of cold wind, gasped like men know in a sentence constructed like theplunged into icy water. one above. Begin with a background Joseph Conrad image in a prepositional phrase naming Assignment: Write a sentence with state or country or town; then, as Fitz-grammatical elements parallel to the one gerald does, use another prepositionalabove, opening with a participle as Con- phrase to identify the place more exactly.rad does, using two verbs as visual and Finally, use the verb and subject of thedynamic as swarmed and gasped. Con- sentence, with the subject at or near theclude your sentence with a simile as end. intense in diction as Conrad's. Example: Among the mountains of Example: Shivering with cold,I West Virginia, on a steep road betweenjumped into bed, and wrapping myself Elkins and Parsons, stands a lonely, roof-in the warmth of the blanket, drew my less house of gray stone. head under it like a turtle shrinking back Pattern 2. An Adjective Following theinto its shell. Subject A half moon, dusky-gold, was sinkingPattern 5. Adverbial Clause Followed by behind the black sycamore tree. an Absolute Phrase D. H. Lawrence, from Sons Even as she was falling asleep, head and Loversbowed over the child, she was still aware of a strange wakeful happiness. Assignment: Write a sentence like this Katherine Anne Porter, from "Maria one in construction and intensity of dic- Concepcion" tion. In your imitation use two color adjectives following the subject, as Law- Assignment: Opening with an as clause, rence does; also use one other color inas in the sentence above, use an absolute your sentence. phrase to give an image of the person, as Katherine Porter does. Example: A high sail, chalk white, was dipping toward the blue water. Example: As he stood before the class, head tilted toward the window, the Pattern 3. A Past Participle Following thesunlight brightened the brown of his Subject freckles and the blue of his eyes. The lazy October afternoon, bathedBy analyzing these five patterns and then in a soft warmth of a reluctant sun, heldwriting sentences containing for each pat- a hint of winter's coming chill. tern the same sequence as in the original, Ruth Firorthe student is required to use grammati- Assignment: Describe an afternoon, ak al elements in a way that makes them morning, a house, a yard. In your imita-memorable. The principle of creative imi- tion try for personifying words such astation, a highly neglected art of explosive lazy and reluctant. possibilities, relies here upon a realistic Example: The raw December air,knowledge of "rammatical elements. showered with gusts of swirling snow,They become memorable to him because swept down the long alley. they are combined with intense diction. In order to do well, the student must Pattern 4. Two Participles; Two Verbs;use a verb or an absolute phrase or a a Simile participle as electric as the original words. Streaming with perspiration, weThe teachers who have tried this method swarmed up the rope, and coming intoknow that each sentence imitation in- .1.*,,
76 THE ENGLISH JOURNAL stantly shows both the good taste andThe student perforce extends his com- the grammatical knowledge of the pupilmand of grammar for style in imitating at work. Is there any element of struc-this sentence: by the use of three paral- tural linguistics that makes such a directlel verbs in the first independent clause application of thedry to style as is foundas electric as those of Hardy; by the use in this application alone of traditionalof parallel prepositional phrases in each grammar? clause. Meanwhile he tries in his own diction for a combination of consonant The principle applied above to shortsounds as beautiful as the l's, m's, and sentences may be further extended to pas-n's in "innumerable tawny and yellow sages like the one below from Thomasleaves" or the use of the s sound in such Hardy: words as passages, scratch, skirts, and SPHERES OF THISTLEDOWN visitors. The beginning of the achieve- And in autumn airy spheres of thistle-ment is the student's ability to imitate down floated into the same street, lodgedthe structure of the sentence; the end is upon the shop fronts, blew into drains;beauty of rhetoric and diction. and innumerable tawny and yellow leaves skimmed along the pavement, and stole This approach to style we have de- through people's doorways intotheirscribed presupposes a long apprentice- passages with a hesitating scratch on theship in the elements of grammar. This floor, like the skirts of timid visitors. apprenticeship is often wasteful of time Thomas Hardy, Mayor of Casterbridgeand energy that might be devoted to Merely analyzing this passage for its re-writing experiences without emphasis on markable resources,itsuse of back-variety of sentence structure or punctu- ground, middleground, and foregroundation according to grammatical rules. images, its use of the blending elementsHowever, for that increasing proportion of the spheres of thistledown and theof students who intend to go on to col- flying leaves, its images of color andlege, the knowledge of grammatical con- sound and touch, its simile at the end:structions for both style and punctuation all of this is not enough. The teacheris in the opinion of many college teachers must then ask the class to write a sen-indispensable. The more the student as- tence similar step by step in grammaticalpires to attend college or prepare for a construction to Thomas Hardy's origi-profession, the more he needs a knowl- nal. Once a student has used his ownedge of elementary grammar in both diction, his own visualization, in con-speech and writing. If the student is not structing a sentence exactly like Hardy'sgoing on to college and does not expect in grammatical order, he has appliedto enter a profession, certainly he does grammar to style in the most realisticnot need a knowledge of grammar. He way possible: can get along perfectly well in con- IN THE WINTER DUSK: IMITATION versation. Even though he punctuates OF HARDY incorrectly, he can write letters well And in the winter dusk, long gusts ofenough to make himself understood. He wind whispered secrets to the windows,can, indeed, make his meaning clear with- wailed under the door, sighed across theout punctuating sentences. The growing carpet to the fires; and delicate purple-acceptance, however, of the necessity of white snowflakes danced aroundthe treetops, pitted the roof, and trickledsome college work in addition to high down the cottage with wistful resigna-school for the average student makes a tion, like the tears of silent lovers. knowledge of elementary grammar in- Frances Dyllercreasingly vital as the years pass. GRAMMAR AND LINGUISTICS... 77 Value of Traditional Grammar linguistics, Fries' The Structure of Eng- lish (p. 183): For whatever 'purposes the teacher uses grammar, whether or not the time she The subject itself is simply that Class 1 word that is bound to a Class 2 word spends on itisjustified, she needs a to form the basic arrangement of the stable and consistent description of the sentence, and it is identified and distin- language. Traditional grammar provides guished from other Class 1 words not such a classification, however weak and by meaning but by certain contrastive inconsistent much of its terminology and arrangements. applications. Traditional grammar pre- Charles Carpenter Fries, sentsa crude and ofteninconsistent The Structure of English classification of word function. As Verna Newsome points out in Structural Gram-How anyone involved in a classroom mar in the Classroom, the word brother'ssituation could explain to the class such in such a phrase as "My brother's class-a sentence as this, or paraphrase the sen- mate" defies exact analysis in terms oftence in understandable diction, I cannot formal grammar. Certainly fundamentalsee. Fries, it is true, did not intend this grammar is a crude instrument. It de-sentence to be used in a high school class- pends for definition now upon meaning,room. He was writing for scholars who as in definition of nouns, and now uponwould, in turn, translate his principles structure, as in definitions of adjectivesinto comprehensible terms. Nevertheless, and adverbs. Nevertheless, despite suchthe very nature of the principles involved weaknesses this grammar does functionin structural linguistics, of breaking down better than any other because it is sim-the old terminology and substituting new pler, it has fewer terms, it has a longterms for old conceptions, makes it dif- history of pragmatic effectiveness. More-ficult for the scholar to devise a nomen- over, its Latin-derived description of lan-clature as simple and easy to use as the guage is used not only by teachers ofold one. English, but also by teachers of French, Is there any teacher in a practical class- German, Spanish, and Italian. Each ofroom situation who prefers the term, these languages has roughly the same"Class 1 word," to the word noun or formalclassificationof thepartsofthe word pronoun? Is there any teacher speech. So far there is no attempt inin a practical teaching situation who any of the European countries to makeprefers the term, "Class 2 word," to the a new science of structural linguistics aword verb? Whatever may be the de- substitute for formal grammar in theficiencies of such terms as noun, pro- secondary schools. This fact alone shouldnoun, verb, or adverb, are they more give pause on the American scene tovague or difficult to teach than such those scholars now attempting to maketerms as "Class 1 word," determiner, in- structural linguistics a consistent systemtensifier? Each time the structural lin- of language analysis to replace formalguist adds a new term to his description grammar on the high school level. of the language, he may be adding new One of the curious deficiencies of someknowledge to the world of subtle and sophisticated scholars. Necessarily, how- structural linguists is their refusal to rec-ever, he is reducing the area of funda- ognize the intricate difficulties of descrip-mental communication of language prin- tions of structure in which scholars ofciples in the average classroom situation. the new science take refuge. May I callWhereas structural linguistics shows the attention, for example, to a sentence inweaknesses of the simple classification one of the great works on structuralof parts of speech, at the same time it
4 78 THE ENGLISH JOURNAL provides a dramatization of the dangersof phonetics which is virtually useless in of a complex, highly rarefied nomencla-the average high school classroom. It in- ture which only a few scholars can bevolves a comparative evaluation of speech expected to understand fully. sounds in various languages, an evaluation Whatever the weaknesses of formaltotally foreign to the problems of the grammar, the terminology is at presentaverage English teacher. Indeed there is to many teachers more consistent andno department of structural linguistics stable than the terminology of structuralthat the average high school teacher can linguistics. If it is uneconomical of timetake hold of and make practical in her and energy to apply formal grammar to own classroom. style, as many of its critics claim, then it is many times more uneconomical toProblem of Terminology apply structural linguistics to style. In- Those who have, like Mr. Roberts, ap- deed I have not found, among the manyplied structural linguistics to classroom proponents of structural linguistics, any claim that it can be applied realisticallyteaching have been most successful in to classroom writing for college-boundthiseffort when they have returned students. Every new book on structuralbluntly to traditional grammatical terms. linguistics presents the teacher with newThey have been most unsuccessful when terms, often new terms for old concepts,they have been drawn into strange ter- new terms which she is forced to trans-minology for old principles. Almost all late into terms provided by traditionalthe vocabulary of structural linguistics grammar. All the objections that thecan be translated into the traditional vo- opponents of traditional grammar havecabulary of grammar. Why, then, do we made to a nomenclature barren of stylis-need a new vocabulary at all? We need tic fruitfulness can be applied a hundred-rather to simplify the terminology of fold to the nomenclature of structuraltraditional grammar and agree upon no- linguistics in terms of the average highmenclature, as has been done in France. school classroom. One cannot find in theInstead of reducing the nomenclature, history of English teaching on the Ameri-however, to a minimum number of terms can scene so many conceptions on a highagreed upon by publishers, scholars, and intellectual level set forth and describedtextbook writers, we are expanding with solittleeffective application togrammatical nomenclature by leaps and classroom writing problems asin thebounds. The proliferate nomenclature of many books written on structural lin-structural linguistics alone is sufficient guistics. This does not mean that thereason why it cannot become an effective study of structural linguistics is barreninstrument of classroom teaching on the or fruitless for advanced students of lan-American scene. Only in the teaching guage. Indeed this is where the study ofof traditional English grammar is it pos- linguistics belongsin the comparativesible to prepare the student for his in- study of language on the graduate level.creasing need to learn foreign languages. The nomenclature of structural linguis- Structural linguistics belongs to thosetics has no counterpart in the teaching of scholars who have a profound knowledgeFrench, Spanish, German, or Italian. This of the roots of English in Anglo-Saxondoes not mean that structural linguistics and Norman French and Latin, to thoseis a useless pursuit. It is extremely useful, teachers who have lived for years inas I have suggested, for advanced scholars each of several European countries, mas-of comparative languages. tering the spoken tongue. Structural lin- There is more waste of time and ener- guistics involves inherently a knowledge 100 gy in the teaching of grammar than inIn some excellent New England high any other aspect of American education.schools years ago, grammar was taught Our problem, however, is not to abolishas a separate subject to those going on traditional grammar in favor of a rarefiedto college. The basic course should new science, but to devise new ways ofalways be a separate subject. We have dramatizing the parts of speech and thethe resources to make traditional gram- grammar of the simple sentence in dailymar a workable reality. Meanwhile, let lessons of one year or one semester. Letthose scholars who believe in structural us have the help of a gifted cartoonist, an artist of the quality of Bill Mauldin,linguistics continue their quest, not to to help us dramatize grammar. Let usmake the new science a high school re- have dedicated teachers who know theysource, but to trace on the postgraduate can make grammar stick. Each of us canlevel a more complete and accurate de- call back a time when one teacher andscription of the language, spoken and one classroom made grammar become awritten, than any group of scholars has reality-. Only one such teacher is needed.thus far created.
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