LINGUIST List 8.1330

Sun Sep 21 1997

Sum: School Grammar

Editor for this issue: Anita Huang <>


  1. Dick Hudson, School Grammar

Message 1: School Grammar

Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 16:13:16 +0100
From: Dick Hudson <>
Subject: School Grammar

I recently posted a query about countries where grammatical analysis of
sentences is regularly taught as part of the school curriculum. I've had
quite a lot of responses (for acknowledgements see the end of the message),
but the flow has slowed down so here's a preliminary summary.

Q1. Which national (or regional) school systems include sentence analysis in
the normal curriculum? (I glossed sentence analysis as recognition of word
classes and grammatical functions, and possibly diagramming.) The following
countries/regions do include it; I've classified them according to the
national language, and risked wild generalisations to encourage research!

Germanic: Germany (some Laender: Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony),
Norway, maybe Denmark - i.e. everywhere except where English is the language?

Romance: France, Quebec, Italy, Catalonia, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico -
i.e. everywhere?

Slavic: Russia, Czech Republic - i.e. everywhere?

Semitic: Israel - i.e. everyewhere????

Chinese: China. 

A. I think it would be fair to say that the English-speaking countries where
grammatical analysis is no longer part of the normal curriculum (UK, USA,
Australia, NZ?) are out of step.
B. There seem to be some myths around. One correspondent thought school
grammar might be a characteristic of small countries with local languages;
but what about China? Another correspondent saw a link to prescriptivism,
but in Norway anti-dialect prescriptivism is illegal and (fascinating!!) two
years of linguistics is one of the options at high school.
C. In at least some countries where it is part of the national curriculum it
really is part of the curriculum for every school and every level of
academic ability. No hang-ups about it being too hard for all but the most
D. The teaching in some countries goes well beyond what I mentioned. E.g. in
the Czech Republic 14-year olds can talk (explicitly) about the
palatalization of alveolar consonants before front vowels!
E. Not many countries teach diagramming, but some do - e.g. they learn to
draw trees (beneath the words!) in Spain at age 12. 

Q2. Age
Variable. I think the prize goes to Russia, where word-classes are
introduced in the first or second grade (= age 7-8?). 

Q3. Success
I asked how successful it was - a badly worded question. All I wanted to
know was whether the kids could apply the analysis after the teaching. I
think the answer is yes in all countries, though presumably there's the
expected range of success as in maths etc. 
 The other kind of success that I might have been asking about
involves the reasons for teaching grammatical analysis. This would have been
much harder to assess. However all my English-speaking respondents were
convinced that the Anglo-Saxon system of grammar-free schooling is *not*
successful in producing literate citizens.

Thanks to: Richard Alderson, Isabelle Barriere, Belinda Bicknell, Marc
Brunelle, Maria Filomena Capucho, John Dienhart, Joseph Hilferty, James
Kirchner, Natasha Kondrashova, Kristine Jensen de Lopez, Ingrid Piller,
Emilce Rees, Fabio Rinaldi, Geirr Wiggen, Marina Yaguello, Ren Zhang, Yael Ziv

Richard (=Dick) Hudson
Department of Phonetics and Linguistics,
University College London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
work phone: +171 419 3152; work fax: +171 383 4108
 home page =
 unpublished papers available by ftp =
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