LINGUIST List 9.1629

Tue Nov 17 1998

Disc: UK National Literacy Strategy

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. A.F. GUPTA, UK National Literacy Strategy

Message 1: UK National Literacy Strategy

Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 14:04:52 GMT
Subject: UK National Literacy Strategy

The British government has launched a massive 'National Literacy 
Strategy' which has wide reaching implications for primary school 
teaching. I have just read it's 'framework' (1998, Department for 
Education and Employment). There are a number of issues it raises, 
some of which appear to be addressed by a recent book by Brian Cox et 
al. But I would like to draw LINGUIST list members to the model 
(model???) of grammar it embodies. It is aimed at 5-11 year olds.

The strategy demands a certain amount of metalinguistic knowledge 
from 11 year olds, who are expected to (p3):

* 'understand the sound and spelling system and use this to read and 
spell accurately'

* have an interest in words and their meanings and a growing 

* have a suitable technical vocabulary through which to understand 
and discuss their reading and writing.

There is a checklist (p69) of the 'main technical terms used', which
are listed in order of the year in which they first occur. 'Most of
these terms should also form part of pupils' developing vocabulary
for talking about language'. These terms appear in three columns,
WORD, SENTENCE, and TEXT. Here are the terms under WORD that are
introduced in the reception year (year of 5th birthday):

Alphabet, Alphabetical order, Grapheme, Letter, Onset, Phoneme, Rime, 
Sounds (first, middle, end/final), Word.

A tall order.....

There is also a glossary of terms intended for teachers. It has 
organisational problems, with terms used under definitions (e.g. 
CASE) which are not themselves described. Some of the definitions 
appear to revert to early 19th century traditions of grammar, or are 
simply wrong. Examples include:

* claiming, under APOSTROPHE, that 'originally the possessive form 
was shown by a noun and the word _his_: _Andrew his bath_. This 
became contracted; the apostrophe marks the missing _hi_.

* identification of 2 past tenses (I ate, I have eaten), 3 present 
tenses (I am eating, I eat, I do eat) and 2 future tenses (I will 
eat, I will be eating). This under VERB. Under PARTICIPLE we learn 
that 'verbs using the present participle are said to be in the 
continuous tense'.

*a double negative is 'the use of two negative forms which 
effectively cancel each other out, as in _I never took nothing_.

*standard English 'contrasts with dialect, or archaic forms or those 
pertaining to other forms of English, such as American/Australian 

I could continue (sentence types, conjunctions, coordination are all 
quite fascinating).

At the moment most students who start studying linguistics know 
little grammar. In 15 years we could start getting people who know 
this kind of woolly terminology. This is another example of 
linguistics being passed over in an area where they could reasonably 
be expected to have input.

Any comments?


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Anthea Fraser GUPTA :$staff/afg
School of English
University of Leeds
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