LINGUIST List 5.1023

Wed 21 Sep 1994

Disc: Teaching of Syntax

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Directory

  1. "P. K. W. Tan, Teaching of Functional Grammar
  2. , Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax
  3. "Philip Johnson-Laird", Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax
  4. , Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

Message 1: Teaching of Functional Grammar

Date: Tue, 20 Sep 1994 09:14:52 Teaching of Functional Grammar
From: "P. K. W. Tan <elltankwleonis.nus.sg>
Subject: Teaching of Functional Grammar

I was most interested to see the reactions summarised
by Larry Trask to his question on GB syntax teaching.
I wonder if I could ask the same question of those
involved in teaching (Hallidayan) functional grammar
in the U.K. and Australia. (I assume that this is
not taught in the U.S.) Many thanks.

 Peter Tan
 Singapore
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Message 2: Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

Date: Tue, 20 Sep 1994 13:06:05 Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax
From: <00dgchurmabsuvc.bsu.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

Hi, again,

Just one further remark from a non-syntactician, re your (?) suggestion
that intro students not be taught GB: Fromkin and/or Rodman apparently (now)
agree -- one change from the 4th to the 5th ed. is the de-X'-ification of
syntax. (Alas, they also managed to really MANGLE the phonology in the
updating. _I_ de-X' 'd it when I taught intro from the 4th ed.)

Don Churma
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Message 3: Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

Date: Tue, 20 Sep 94 13:51:55 EDRe: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax
From: "Philip Johnson-Laird" <philclarity.Princeton.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

VERY interesting!
P
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Message 4: Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

Date: Tue, 20 Sep 1994 20:34:09 Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax
From: <Frits.Stuurmanlet.ruu.nl>
Subject: Re: 5.1011 Sum: The teaching of syntax

> Finally, in response to my original question "Do you teach GB in this
> way, and, if so, how do you justify it?", I received one rather engaging
> reply, as follows: "I could justify it, I hope, but I'm afraid I'm too
> busy to do so just now. I will try to find the time at some point." I
> hope this respondent will indeed manage to find the time.
>
I can see why my reply deserves to be made some mild fun of alright, but
still I don't of course really like it. What with a pretty rough divorce and
other private problems on my hands, as well as a fairly substantial teaching
task, I still do not really have the time. So unless you feel you have to, I
suppose I am asking you to take this as a first approximation and not quote
me on this.

Essentially my justification would be the inverse of the idea that kids are
little linguists. Since the core-idea about GB -or more accurately any
version of Chomskyan syntax- is that kids start from general principles (UG)
and manage to abduce a grammar from the data on that basis, therefore I
seriously believe that we would misinform students about the nature of the
Chomskyan enterprise, and would do them a misservice, if we taught them syntax
by asking them to approach the data with just their general intelligence and
experiences of problem-solving. I am not saying that such teaching is bad, or
even worse than teaching them Chomskyan syntax. All I am saying is that if you
want to educate field-workers, then you shouldn't teach them Chomskyan lx. And
conversely, if you want to teach them Ch lx, then you should not teach them
field-workers' lx. I have a great admiration for somebody like Dixon, who - as
Dixon reports that Bolinger commented - approached English as a "linguistic
wilderness, backpacking your way through - the only way to do what other
descriptions, conducted at 20,000 feet using a camera without a focus, have
failed to do" (Dixon, _A New Approach to English Grammar, on Semantic
Principles", 1991:xvi). But, as the reviewer for _The Year's Work in English
Studies_ Vol 72 wryly remarks, Dixon thus "approaches English as if it were
newly discovered, as yet unexplored territory, and the effect is predictably
primitive" (significantly - to me- the reviewer then goes on to my own _Two
Models ..._, via "Dixon's inductive stance classifies his work as 'old
grammar' if looked at through the eyes of Frits Stuurman ..."). Anyway, the
point I am trying to make is that I am not interested in teaching my students
to come up with "predictably primitive" results. But Bolinger is (that is:
was) a very clever man. Of course, I do not want my students to come up with
results from 20,000 feet up, without a focus, either. But that is precisely
the point: by teaching them about the principles of Chomskyan lx first they
should obtain the focus that allows them to come up, from the lofty 20,000 foot
heights of Chomskyan broad vision, with truly new insights and results.

I hope this clarifies somewhat. Even if it does not convince.

Very best wishes.

frits
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