LINGUIST List 24.4489

Mon Nov 11 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics: Granzow-Emden (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 27-Aug-2013
From: Daniel Walter <>
Subject: Deutsche Grammatik verstehen und unterrichten
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Matthias Granzow-EmdenTITLE: Deutsche Grammatik verstehen und unterrichtenSERIES TITLE: bachelor-wissenPUBLISHER: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KGYEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Daniel Walter, Carnegie Mellon University

SUMMARY“Deutsche Grammatik verstehen und unterrichten” (“Understanding and teachingGerman grammar”) is an instructional textbook primarily intended for thoseteaching German grammar to first language German students. It is particularlywell designed as a course book for teacher education programs, whose studentsmay not have extensive explicit knowledge of German grammar.

This book is divided into fourteen chapters, laying out problems withtraditional grammar instruction in German language classrooms and providingalternative explanations and teaching methods for different grammaticaltopics.

The first chapter, “Wege zur Grammatik” (“Paths to Grammar”), dispels commonmyths about what people see as “good” versus “bad” German, emphasizingdifferences in language forms in different social contexts. This allows theauthor to discuss “Standard” in a way that highlights its importance inacademic contexts without disregarding the importance of local dialects andnatural speech. Finally, the author outlines his plan for instruction builtnot on semantic definitions to explain syntactic elements but rather the useof word groups and their syntactic relations to explain the grammaticalmake-up of German.

The second chapter, “Das Verb als Schlüssel zum grammatischen Verstehen” (“TheVerb as the Key to Grammatical Understanding”), places the understanding ofthe importance of the verb at heart of German grammar instruction. First, theauthor describes why the common description of a verb as an “action” word isincorrect and leads learners down the wrong path. Instead, the authordescribes the verb in terms of valence theory and shows its role in connectingdifferent sentential elements. This syntactic-relational explanation helpsteachers and students avoid a semantic definition for the syntactic functionof the verb.

The third chapter, “Grammatische Modellbildung” (“Grammatical ModelConstruction”), describes the importance of using exemplars to explaingrammatical concepts and highlights the idea that these examples are moreeffective than grammatical “rules” which often come with so many exceptionsthat they are often hardly worth conveying.

The fourth chapter, “Die Feldgliederung als zentrales Muster der deutschenSprache” (“Field Grouping as the Central Template of the German Language”),provides a five-unit model for the construction of German sentences. Theseunits, in order from left to right, consist of the pre-field, left verb field,middle field, right verb field, and post-field. By describing the normalGerman paradigm as consisting of a two-part verb field with left and rightpositions, movement and placement of German verbs can be better described thanin the standard left verb field base model.

The fifth chapter, “Formen und Funktionen von satzverbindenden undverweisenden Einheiten” (“Forms and Functions of sentence combining andreferential elements”), focuses on the parts of speech that serve discursiveand deictic functions. For example, the importance of conjunctions in creatingrational relationships between clauses and how deictic elements refer across adiscourse or discourses (e.g. he, she) and within a particular context (e.g.there, here).

The sixth chapter, “Eine neue Satzlehre fuer die Schule” (“A New SentenceModel for the School”), explains problems with current instruction based onthree traditional sentence types: commands, questions, and declaratives. Afterproblematizing current teaching methods, the author shows how his fielddescription can overcome pitfalls of the traditional approach.

The seventh chapter, “Starke und schwache Verben und die verschiedenenVerbarten” (“Strong and Weak Verbs and Different Verb Types”), outlines thedifferent verb types in German. The author proposes that usingsocio-historical explanations for the development of different verb types canhelp students understand the seemingly arbitrary nature of different verbforms.

The eighth chapter, “Formen und Funktionen des Verbs im Satz” (“Forms andFunctions of the Verb in the Sentence”), discusses the effects of person andnumber on verb conjugation, as well as the verb’s relationship to time andaspect. This chapter also introduces the participle II form and the differentverb forms in indicative and subjunctive moods.

The ninth chapter, “Übersicht zu den Verbformen: Aktiv- und Passivformen imIndikativ und Konjunktiv” (“Overview of Verb Forms: Active and Passive Formsin Indicative and Subjunctive”), provides detailed tables for each of thedifferent verb combinations with a description of the requisite parts and anexplanation of the semantics behind the use of these different combinations.

The tenth chapter, “Nomen, Nominal- und Präpositionalgruppen” (“Nouns, NominalGroups and Prepositional Groups”), differentiates the noun as a lexical,semantically central element of language from its role as a syntactic element.Like the verb, the noun can also be split into two fields. The author arguesthat the left noun field plays an important role in linguistic pointing, i.e.which previously discussed information is being referenced, and the right nounfield, on the other hand, is important in naming, i.e. indicating newinformation.

The eleventh chapter, “Attribute” (“Attributes”), discusses additionallinguistic elements that complement the nominal group. These includemorphological elements, like adjective endings, in addition to genitive,prepositional, relative, adverbial, infinitival, verb-final, and accusativeattributes.

The twelfth chapter, “Kasus, Numerus, Genus” (“Case, Number, Gender”),discusses the interaction of case, number, and gender. The author takes astance against the typical “Fragemethode” (“question method”), in whichstudents pose questions using the question words Wer, Wen, and Wem in order toteach case. The author cites evidence that this method leads students to makefalse conclusions about case and pushes for instruction that looks at thegovernment of different parts of speech over case, such as prepositions,verbs, adjectives, and nouns.

The thirteenth chapter, “Die Deklination der Nominalgruppe” (The Declension ofthe Nominal Groups”), provides detailed tables which show the differentdeclension patterns in German across its four cases, three genders, and twonumber possibilities.

The fourteenth and final chapter, “Die traditionelle Satzgliedlehre” (“TheTraditional Model of Parts of Speech”), reaffirms why this approach is usefulin instructing students in German grammar, and notes the difficulty any newapproach to grammar will meet once these students begin teaching. They willface the challenge of conforming to the traditions and norms of their school,as well as balancing what they know and think is right for their ownclassrooms, and it is up to each individual teacher to make decisions aboutwhat is best for their students.

EVALUATIONOverall, this book does an excellent job of explaining German grammar in aneasily accessible way. The numerous examples, practice sections, and thoroughexplanations behind this specific approach to grammar instruction make it anobvious choice for students and teachers with a limited amount of instructionin linguistics. In addition, this book balances the grammatical explanationsnecessary to help future teachers understand the grammatical conceptsthemselves with methods aimed at helping those future teachers to be able toteach those grammatical concepts in a classroom.

While this book, on the whole, is well suited for people with fairly limitedexplicit knowledge of German, it would not necessarily be appropriate for anupper level linguistics course. The explanations are clear, but there islittle theoretical context on the different mechanisms driving these differentlinguistic forms. Some references for further reading on linguistic theory areincluded, such as Steven Pinker’s “The Language Instinct” and Vygotsky’s“Thinking and Speaking”, but this is not a major topic of the book. Inaddition, some of the theories cited differ significantly with regard tolanguage development (e.g. usage-based vs. innate), but there is noexplanation of this dichotomy.

For professors in German-speaking teacher education programs, this textbookcan provide a clear approach to helping students understand and be able toteach different grammatical concepts could help to facilitate real change infuture grammar instruction.

REFERENCESPinker, S. (1994). The Language Instinct. New York: Harper Perennial ModernClassics.

Vygotsky, L. (2002). Denken und Sprechen. Psychologische Untersuchungen.Weinheim; Basel: Beltz.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERDan Walter is a Ph.D. student in Second Language Acquisition at CarnegieMellon University. His interests include German as a second language,grammatical gender, and emergentist approaches to language learning.

Page Updated: 11-Nov-2013