a query about sentences

Dick Hudson dick at LINGUISTICS.UCL.AC.UK
Fri Apr 11 07:20:50 UTC 2003

Dear Jo,
Good question. Here in the UK, as you know, grammar has got quite well
embedded in the school curriculum, especially in primary schools. One of
the many achievements of the people who have introduced it as part of
government strategy is to introduce it in the context of a very basic
theoretical framework which deliberately takes the focus of sentence
structure. It divides grammar into three levels:
1. word-level grammar - word classes, inflectional and derivational
morphology, 'word families' = lexical relations, spelling, some punctuation
2. sentence-level grammar - phrases, clauses, sentence types, most of
3. text-level grammar - cohesion, coherence, especially tense, person and
information flow (not presented in those terms).
In my opinion it's just as important to include word-level stuff as
text-level; but the main point is that grammar is not just sentence
structure, as some people assume.
         To see how it pans out concretely, you might like to look at some
training material (for year 7-9 teachers) that I've almost finished putting
on my web site at http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/dick/tta/KS3.htm, where
the index follows this three-way division. This material is meant to follow
on from the "Grammar for Writing" materials for earlier years (which you've
seen); that followed the same three-way structure.
         Hope this helps,
                 Dick Hudson

>Hi folks,
>I'm participating in a discussion on another list about what the best
>starting point for instruction in grammar (in the context of writing or
>composition instruction) in K-12 schools is; the current debate is about
>whether the sentence is a good starting point or not.
>We've gotten into a discussion about the privileged status of the
>sentence in both traditional grammar and generative syntax. One
>participant has argued, for example, that the sentence is a basic-level
>linguistic category (I guess THE basic-level linguistic category, since
>he argues for starting there).
>My notion is that a focus on the sentence is too neglectful of the role
>of sentences in texts, and especially of the role of text-level
>imperatives in determining the structure of sentences.
>What are your opinions on the traditional privileging of the sentence
>as the basic unit of language over larger or smaller units?
>Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
>Johanna Rubba   Associate Professor, Linguistics
>English Department, California Polytechnic State University
>One Grand Avenue  San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
>Tel. (805)-756-2184    Fax: (805)-756-6374 Dept. Phone.  756-2596
>E-mail: jrubba at calpoly.edu   Home page: http://www.cla.calpoly.edu/~jrubba

Richard (= Dick) Hudson

Phonetics and Linguistics, University College London,
Gower Street, London WC1E  6BT.
+44(0)20 7679 3152; fax +44(0)20 7383 4108;

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