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The Politics of Grammar
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The Politics of Grammar

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This presentation explains the connection between using Edited Standard Written English for academic writing assignments and being taken seriously by the audience. This presentation is intended for my …

This presentation explains the connection between using Edited Standard Written English for academic writing assignments and being taken seriously by the audience. This presentation is intended for my Fall 2011 ENG 1113 class.

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Transcript

  • 1. The Politics of Grammar and the Importance of UsingEdited Standard Written English in College and Professional Writing
  • 2. What isgrammar? Who cares? (We’ll get back to this.)
  • 3. Definition of GRAMMAR1a : the study of the classes of words, their inflections, and theirfunctions and relations in the sentenceb : a study of what is to be preferred and what avoided in inflectionand syntax2a : the characteristic system of inflections and syntax of a languageb : a system of rules that defines the grammaticalstructure of a language Source: merriam-webster.com
  • 4. Definition of INFLECTION1: the act or result of curving or bending : bend Source:2 merriam-webster.com: change in pitch or loudness of the voice3a : the change of form that words undergo to mark such distinctions as those of case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, or voiceb : a form, suffix, or element involved in such variation
  • 5. Definition of SYNTAX Source:1 merriam-webster.coma : the way in which linguistic elements (as words) are puttogether to form constituents (as phrases or clauses)b : the part of grammar dealing with this2: a connected or orderly system : harmonious arrangement ofparts or elements <the syntax of classical architecture>3: syntactics especially as dealing with the formal properties oflanguages or calculi My over view: the term The part of grammar The part of grammar “grammar” refers to the concerned with word concerned with the order way we use language and usage, of what form of a of words in language is our rules for using word to use in a given syntax. Non-native language. Grammar has language situation, is speakers/writers t wo parts: inflection and called inflection. When to struggle with syntax syntax. use “who” and “whom” is more often than native a matter of inflection. speakers.
  • 6. Which is correct?Which features errors in syntax?Which features errors in inflection?She and I went to the store.Me and her gone to the store.Went store to she I and the.The second sentence does not reveal its meaning as precisely as the first. Thethird group of words cannot be considered a sentence at all because it does notcommunicate a thought.The difference between the first and second sentences is a difference of degree.One is considerably more effective than the other, but both communicatemeaning. The third does not.
  • 7. 1. So now we know what grammar is and what kind of errorswe’re most likely to have in our writing...if both the first andthe second sentences in the previous slide communicatemeaning, what does it matter?2. Why should someone fail ENG 1113 for using languageconsistent with sentence two if it conveys meaning?This is where it grammar becomes political. I recently foundpart of a speech (we will listen to in the next slide) in a bookthat I am reading about teaching writing (Engaging Ideas byJohn C. Bean). It illustrates the politics of grammar. It is froma speech by Civil Rights Era political activist, Stokely (My answers)Carmichael. 1. The two sentences differ in how precisely and effectively theyThe slide following the speech will analyze the content and convey meaning.presentation of Carmichael’s message in order to illustrate thepoint that speaking and writing in the standard of the language 2. For one’s writing to have credibility and tois most advantageous to anyone wanting to compel and convincean audience. earn the serious consideration of academic and professional readers, it must be presented in Edited Standard Written English. To pass the course, students not only have to demonstrate skill in writing effective content, but also establish the ability present that content in Edited Written Standard English.
  • 8. Stokely Carmichael *He shared the view that grammar instruction was an “exercise of power and little else” *He coined the terms “black power” and “institutional racism” *He was active in the Black Panther Party *He worked with Martin Luther King Jr. on several occasions but ultimately disagreed with King’s non-violent approach to change and pursuit of an integrated society Listen to him here (then go to the next slide to read the text of his speech): http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=plz0vb2Qczo
  • 9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plz0vb2QczoWe are an African people, nothing else. We have always been an African people.We have always maintained our own value system, and I will prove that to you.As much as he has tried, our people have resisted for 413 years in this wilderness,and they resisted for this generation to carry out what must be done. We cannotfail our ancestors. We cannot fail our ancestors. We cannot fail our ancestors.We resisted in every way you can point to. Take the English language. There arecats who come here from Italy, from Germany, from Poland, from France. In twogenerations they speak english perfectly. We have never spoken English correctly.Never have we spoken English correctly. Never. Never.Never.And that is because our people consciously resisted a language that did notbelong to us. Never did. Never will. Anyhow they try to run it down our throats, weain’t gone have it. We ain’t gone have it. You must understand that as a level ofresistance. Anybody can speak that simple honkeys language correctly. Anybodycan do it. We have not done it because we have resisted. Resisted.NOTICE: Carmichael’s speech is, with only the exception of minor and clearlyintentional deviations, STANDARD ENGLISH.
  • 10. SO, why doesn’t Carmichaelpractice what he preaches? He wants his message to carry the most power and influence possible. He knows that using Standard English gives his words more credibility, more power to convince his audience. Presenting your thoughts in Edited Standard Written English is a matter of credibility. If you want to be taken seriously, use Standard English in your academic and professional writing.
  • 11. In the real world, who cares?instructors andprofessorsbosses andprospective employerscoworkerscustomersemployees
  • 12. Ways of looking at grammar instructionat the college level: The rules of “The teaching of grammar must be grammar is the taught explicitly to exercise of power and produce improved skill in writing little else; we should grammatically turn to more correct sentences in important Standard English. matters.” (Patrick Hartwell, 1985)
  • 13. The unfortunate reality is that a high percentage of studentscontinue to struggle with the formal rules of English and are notwell prepared to present their thoughts in Edited Standard WrittenEnglish.However, the fact that the majority of students who enroll in thecourse continue to struggle with prerequisite skills does not changethe focus of the course to the remedial study of the basic rules ofgrammar and mechanics. The focus of the course remains onimproving students ability to write well organized, detailed, andsophisticated content that illustrates evidence of critical thought.So, it is very important, as we begin this course, for each one ofyou to think about your prerequisite skills and to each determinefor yourself a plan for improvement that includes attention to therelevant chapters and pages of your textbook or resources availableonline, such as the online writing lab for Purdue University knownas The OWL. (Google OWL Purdue and you will find a treasure troveof resources for correct usage.)
  • 14. Study after study, dating back to thesixties, demonstrates that theteaching of grammar rules does notresult in better student writing.Hartwell uses this analogy: baseballcoaches dont sit their players downand have them learn the extremelycomplex scientific formula forcatching a fly ball before they putthem on the field and have themcatch fly balls. Furthermore, couldany of the players figure out thecomplex formula, that would in noway indicate that the same playerwould be the best among his peers atcatching fly balls. Simply put, Hartwelland many other scholars haveconcluded that the teaching ofgrammar does not improve writing.
  • 15. Therefore, for these two reasons, there will beno formal grammar instruction in this course:1. The ability to use "correct" In this course, your final papersEnglish is a prerequisite for the are expected to be presented incourse, not a focus of the course. Edited Standard Written English.2. Teaching the rules of grammar Rely upon The Wadsworthdoes not result in better student Handbook for guidance: Part 10writing. (533)-Part 13 focuses on grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.3. The best way to learn to writemore effective sentences is to The next slide illustrates why itpractice writing effective matters.sentences. (Compare to the skill ofcatching a pop fly in baseball.)
  • 16. Compare grammar to fashion: consider the occasion and dress appropriately. If you showed up for work or a job interview looking like this character, you’d be dismissed. You would not make it past the front door. DRESS APPROPRIATELY. Likewise, if your academic and professional writing is as sloppy, it does not merit serious consideration. EDIT FOR STANDARD ENGLISH.
  • 17. Check out these sites for further proof: http://www.copyblogger.com/5-common-mistakes-that-make-you- look-dumb/ http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10things/10-flagrant-grammar- mistakes-that-make-you-look-stupid/320 http://www.you-can-teach-writing.com/grammar_websites.htmlThis last one is forprospective middle schoolteachers and points outtop status markingerrors that everyoneshould strive to avoid.The key is to realize thatlanguage use=status.
  • 18. Overview:Grammar is the way we use language and is it is a system of rules for using language.Studies show that teaching grammar at the college level does not result in improvedwriting. In this course, using correct grammar is a revision issue, and should be consideredwhen editing your writing for presentation.Using correct grammar in academic writing is a matter of style and credibility, and theability to do so is a pre-requisite skill of this course.It is smart to follow the rules of grammar for professional and academic occasions; makeyour own call for other occasions.For this class, the only assignments that will be graded for Edited Standard WrittenEnglish are final drafts of papers and examination essays. The rubric I will use to gradeyour papers is located in Course Documents. Your final papers are expected to have fewerthan three deviations from Edited Standard Written English per page (or per 300 words).Papers with more errors than this are not eligible for passing grades.