Research report traditional grammar vs functional grammar and teaching of grammar
Limitations of Traditional
The measures to implement functional
grammar in ELC in true letter and spirit
Supervisor: Pr. Riaz Qadeer
Supervise: Mr. Shoaib AU515170
This research report is submitted in requirement of the degree of Post
graduate diploma TEFL. The Department of English Language and
applied linguistics Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad
Grammar (Definition and a short history)
What is traditional grammar
Traditional grammar includes
Advantages of traditional grammar
Limitations of traditional grammar (reasons for emergence of functional
What is systematic functional grammar(SFG)
Comparative study of TG vs SFG
Uses of TG& SFG
Chapter no 2
Teaching of grammar (measures to implement SFG in English language class room)
Strategies for Learning Grammar
Developing Grammar Activities
Using Textbook Grammar Activities
Assessing Grammar Proficiency
Resources for further study
TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR VERSUS FUNCTIONAL
Grammar (Definition and a short history)
Early grammar was that of Sanskrit compiled by Indian grammarian Panini 400 BC
aimed at the preaching of their religious book “Vedas” and for the translation of their
“Buddha religion”. Word grammar is derived from Greek word “Grammatica or
“Grammatical Techne” means “The art of writing” And this Greek concept lasted till middle
ages where it became “A set of rules usually in the form of a text book dictating correct usage
“. Grammar is the branch of linguistics dealing with the form and structure of words
(morphology), and their interrelation in sentences (syntax). The study of grammar reveals
how language works; other definition of grammar says that grammar is rule and regulations
of a language governing the sounds, words, sentences, and other elements, as well as their
combination and interpretation. The Romans adopted the grammatical system of the Greeks
and applied it to Latin. Except for Varro, of the 1st century BC, who believed that
grammarians should discover structures, not dictate them, most Latin grammarians did not
attempt to alter the Greek system and also sought to protect their language from decay.
Whereas the model for the Greeks and Alexandrians was the language of Homer, the works
of Cicero and Virgil set the Latin standard. The works of Donatus (4th century AD)
and Priscian (6th century AD), the most important Latin grammarians, were widely used to
teach Latin grammar during the European Middle Ages. In medieval Europe, education was
conducted in Latin, and Latin grammar became the foundation of the liberal arts curriculum.
Many grammars were composed for students during this time. Aelfric, the abbot of Eynsham
(11th century), who wrote the first Latin grammar in Anglo-Saxon, proposed that this work
serve as an introduction to English grammar as well. Thus began the tradition of devising
English grammar according to a Latin model. The Modesta, grammarians of the mid-13th to
mid-14th century who viewed language as a reflection of reality, looked to philosophy for
explanations of grammatical rules. In 17th-century France a group of grammarians from PortRoyal were interested in the idea of universal grammar. The 20th-century linguist Noam
Chomsky has called the Port-Royal group the first transformational grammarians
Traditional Grammar is the speculative work of the medieval and the
prescriptive approach of the 18th Century grammarians basically it refer back to the
Aristotelian orientations towards the nature of language as it is shown in the work of the
ancient Greeks and Romans. There are ideas about sentence structure deriving form Aristotle
and Plato ideas about the parts of speech deriving from the socio-grammarians.A traditional
grammar is a framework for the description of the structure of language. Traditional
grammars are commonly used in language education.
Concepts treated in traditional grammars include
Adverbial and adjunct
James D. William in his book (The Teacher's Grammar Book. Routledge, 2005) says
about traditional grammar:
"We say that traditional grammar is prescriptive because it focuses on the distinction
between what some people do with language and what they ought to do with it, according to a
pre-established standard. . . . The chief goal of traditional grammar, therefore, is perpetuating
a historical model of what supposedly constitutes proper language."
David Crystal says in his book (The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English
Language.Cambridge University Press, 2003):
"Grammarians of the 2000s are the inheritors of the distortions and limitations imposed
on English by two centuries of a Latinate perspective."
In light of the above Traditional grammar is the Aristotelian orientation of Greek and
Romans this was a vehicle of mastering many languages for centuries and it is full of short
Advantages of traditional grammar
The primary purpose of speaking and writing is to communicate with others.
Grammar is simply the commonly accepted methods of organizing and expressing words and
phrases so that the intended meaning is easily and successfully communicated. As long as
accepted grammar rules are followed, the communication can be successful. However, when
the grammar rules are not followed fairly closely, it can become awkward for the listener to
hear the intended message. It is as if they have to walk through a verbal obstacle course to
reach the destination, the meaning of the communication. Misuse of grammar can also
convey to the reader or listener that the communicator is not educated or not intelligent.
Improper use of grammar is used by writers when they are attempting to show a lack of
refinement in their characters.
Limitations of traditional grammar(reasons for emergence of functional
o Firstly, it is prescriptive in nature, attempting to lay down rules for speakers of a
o Secondly, its grammatical categories are merely based on European languages and are
found inadequate in describing other languages.
o Thirdly, it lacks a theoretical framework and thus fails to account for the nature of
o It has given a distorted view of what language is, placing priority on rules rather than on
functions of communication.
o Language is not a math. (Is there such a thing a 'traditional grammar'?) Though grammar
can help, in the same way math‟s can help in Biology or other sciences.
o The grammar of English is constantly changing (oxymoronically). Though, one could
argue that there is a universal grammar, as was thought in the Baroque and Classical eras,
more esp. with music.
o In one respect traditional grammar is a set of rules on which the English language is based
on the other hand it is a pile of an inappropriate rules and short coming because if this
type of grammar was perfect and appropriate then there would be no need for so many
models of modern grammar.
o Traditional Grammar is basically structured on Indo-European classical languages. So, it
is a poor model for the grammars of languages that differ from Greek, Latin and Sanskrit.
o It does not discern between all linguistic level such as phonetic, morphology, syntactic
o In its essence it is normative and prescriptive rather than explicit and descriptive. As
Frank Palmer says “most of the rules of grammar have no real justification and there is no
serious reason condemning the errors they prescribe. What is correct and what is not
correct is ultimately only a matter of what is accepted by society, for language is a matter
of conventions with in society. If everyone says, “It is me” then surely “it is me” is
correct English its rules are not rational, it is inconsistent and in adequate as description
of actual language in use.
o It rejects not only the contemporary usage but also the functional and social varieties of
o In its approach it is diachronic (Historical) rather than synchronic. It tries to incorporate a
living language like a dead one. Fries in his book, “the structure of English” challenges
traditional grammar by the calling them not insightful, pre-scientific, prescriptive and
having a literary bias.
o There may be about two hundred definitions of the sentence, yet they are not able to
The girl is weeping.
The weeping girl.
o According to rules of the traditional grammar “noun” is the name of a person, place or
thing yet it can not include pink, blue and purple in the list of nouns although there are the
names of color.
o It is also noticed that traditional grammar gives importance to the written form of
language and it rejects the facts that spoken form is prior to the written form. On the other
hand it does not cover even the whole range of the written language but it is bound to
specific kinds of writing, the more formal styles, in particular it gives a general
conception of the nature of language in essentially aesthetic terms.
o Traditional Grammar uses meaning as the primary tool of linguistic analysis. Total
meaning of a language utterance can not be analyzed in the present stage of our
knowledge. Meaning is a complex entity to understand of which a forma description of
language should form the base. Similarly it is going to treat because there is a various
categories of meaning there are two major types of meaning (1) Social Meaning (2)
Linguistic Meaning and Linguistic meaning is divided into tow sub-categories (1) Lexical
meaning (2) Structural meaning similarly lexical meaning is divided into three subdivisions(1) notional meaning (2) referent ional meaning (3) contextual meaning.
Systemic functional grammar (SFG) is a form of grammatical description originated by
Michael Halliday. It is part of a social semiotic approach to language called systemic
functional linguistics. In these two terms, systemic refers to the view of language as "a
network of systems, or interrelated sets of options for making meaning"; functional refers
to Halliday's view that language is as it is because of what it has evolved to do (see
Metafunction). Thus, what he refers to as the multidimensional architecture of language
"reflects the multidimensional nature of human experience and interpersonal relations
Functional Grammar (FG) is a general theory of the organization of natural language
as developed by Simon C. Dik and others. In the theory functional notions play essential and
fundamental roles at different levels of grammatical organization. The theory is based on data
and descriptions of many languages, and therefore has a high degree of typological adequacy.
FG offers a platform for both theoretical linguists interested in representation and formalism
and descriptive linguists interested in data and analysis. The Renaissance approach to
grammar, which based the description of all languages on the model of Greek and Latin, died
slowly, however. Not until the early 20th century did grammarians began to describe
languages on their own terms. Noteworthy in this regard are the Handbook of American
Indian Languages (1911), the work of the German American anthropologist Franz Boas and
his colleagues; and the studies by the Danish linguist Otto Jespersen,A Modern English
Grammar (pub. in four parts, 1909-31), and The Philosophy of Grammar (1924). Boas's work
formed the basis of various types of American descriptive grammar study. Jespersen's work
was the precursor of such current approaches to linguistic theory as transformational
generative grammar.Some grammarians are more concerned, however, with determining how
the meaningful arrangement of the basic word-building units (morphemes) and sentencebuilding units (constituents) can best be described. This approach is called descriptive
grammar. Descriptive grammars contain actual speech forms recorded from native speakers
of a particular language and represented by means of written symbols. Descriptive grammars
indicate what languages—often those never before written down or otherwise recorded—are
like structurally.Boas challenged the application of conventional methods of language study
to those non-Indo-European languages with no written records, such as the ones spoken by
Native North Americans (see Native American Languages). He saw grammar as a description
of how human speech in a language is organized. A descriptive grammar should describe the
relationships of speech elements in words and sentences. Given impetus by the fresh
perspective of Boas, the approach to grammar known as descriptive linguistics became
dominant in the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century.We have now discussed both
type of grammar in full detail ,now let us have a look on their features then it would be then
easy for us to decide what tupe of grammar is needed nowadays.
COMPARATIVE STUDY OF TRADITIONAL AND FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR
It is old and is declined after It is developed newly mainly in the twentieth
the eighteenth century.
It is pre or unscientific.
It is scientific.
It is illogical, inconsistent It is logical, consistent and methodological.
Subjective or intuitive.
Objective and verifiable.
Studies language as they Studies language as a mirror of culture, since
were all alike.
no cultures are alike, no two languages are
Gives priority to written Gives
form, especially literary form contemporary, actual usage.
and Is full of precision and economy.
Is a set of prescriptive or Is
unit‟sphoneme, morpheme phrases, clauses
Based on Greek and Latin Based on factual study of language.
linguistic Separation of all linguistic levels.
and Observational and descriptive or functional.
and Empirical science.
It could not express gesture It could express gesture and feelings.
considerate Since language is constantly in change it
accepts new trends.
It emphasizes rules.
It observes native speakers.
It is deductive.
It is inductive.
It has long history.
It has short history.
It ignores speaking.
It emphasizes speaking.
USES OF TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR
USE OF TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR AND REASON
Phraseology of second language could be easily explained.
It is useful for adults as they can follow rule and can produce good language.
It is in use in our schools as our education system is mainly based on grammar
translation method (GTM). Moreover many teachers are also not trained for
It is in use as we cannot produce native like situation in our schools.
USES OF FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR
USE OF FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR AND REASON
It„s use is helpful in classes as it produce native like speaking.
It emphasizes native like use of language therefore students learn language
It is student centered and in our country it cannot be used due to nonavailability of trained staff.
Language could be learnt easily therefore now it is much emphasized.
Despite the fact that traditional grammar is informal, unscientific full of
contradictions and inconsistencies, inexplicit, inadequate, and prescriptive uneconomical and
unwholesome and it ignores spoken language, language change, contemporary usage and all
the varieties of language. T is still crucial unit of English language. It is not in so much what
traditional grammar actually tells us about language that is the real worrying factor as what it
does not tell us. Thus there is no need for whole scale change, it surely needs to be mended
rather than ended. This is what palmer has to say in his book “Grammar”. “Provided we are
aware of the problem, we can use the traditional parts of speech and their terminology as the
basis for word classification
Inspite of focusing on functional grammar Traditional grammar being full of short comings
is still in use because of our system being based on it and. To sum up I would like to quote
Fries who says about Traditional grammarians thus:
“Not insightful, prescientific, prescriptive and having a literary bias, they are full of
inadequacies there may be about 200 definitions of a sentences yet they are not able to
differentiate between “The dog is barking and The barking dog.” ”
Teaching of grammar
(measures to implement SFG in English language class room)
Grammar is central to the teaching and learning of languages. It is also one of the more
difficult aspects of language to teach well.
Many people, including language teachers, hear the word "grammar" and think of a fixed set
of word forms and rules of usage. They associate "good" grammar with the prestige forms of
the language, such as those used in writing and in formal oral presentations, and "bad" or
"no" grammar with the language used in everyday conversation or used by speakers of
Language teachers who adopt this definition focus on grammar as a set of forms and rules.
They teach grammar by explaining the forms and rules and then drilling students on them.
This results in bored, disaffected students who can produce correct forms on exercises and
tests, but consistently make errors when they try to use the language in context.
Other language teachers, influenced by recent theoretical work on the difference between
language learning and language acquisition, tend not to teach grammar at all. Believing that
children acquire their first language without overt grammar instruction, they expect students
to learn their second language the same way. They assume that students will absorb grammar
rules as they hear, read, and use the language in communication activities. This approach
does not allow students to use one of the major tools they have as learners: their active
understanding of what grammar is and how it works in the language they already know.
The communicative competence model balances these extremes. The model recognizes that
overt grammar instruction helps students acquire the language more efficiently, but it
incorporates grammar teaching and learning into the larger context of teaching students to use
the language. Instructors using this model teach students the grammar they need to know to
accomplish defined communication tasks.
Strategies for Learning Grammar
Language teachers and language learners are often frustrated by the disconnect between
knowing the rules of grammar and being able to apply those rules automatically in listening,
speaking, reading, and writing. This disconnect reflects a separation between declarative
knowledge and procedural knowledge.
Declarative knowledge is knowledge about something. Declarative knowledge enables a
student to describe a rule of grammar and apply it in pattern practice drills.
Procedural knowledge is knowledge of how to do something. Procedural knowledge enables
a student to apply a rule of grammar in communication.
For example, declarative knowledge is what you have when you read and understand the
instructions for programming the DVD player. Procedural knowledge is what you
demonstrate when you program the DVD player.
Procedural knowledge does not translate automatically into declarative knowledge; many
native speakers can use their language clearly and correctly without being able to state the
rules of its grammar. Likewise, declarative knowledge does not translate automatically into
procedural knowledge; students may be able to state a grammar rule, but consistently fail to
apply the rule when speaking or writing.
To address the declarative knowledge/procedural knowledge dichotomy, teachers and
students can apply several strategies.
1. Relate knowledge needs to learning goals.
Identify the relationship of declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge to student goals
for learning the language. Students who plan to use the language exclusively for reading
journal articles need to focus more on the declarative knowledge of grammar and discourse
structures that will help them understand those texts. Students who plan to live in-country
need to focus more on the procedural knowledge that will help them manage day to day oral
and written interactions.
2. Apply higher order thinking skills.
Recognize that development of declarative knowledge can accelerate development of
procedural knowledge. Teaching students how the language works and giving them
opportunities to compare it with other languages they know allows them to draw on critical
thinking and analytical skills. These processes can support the development of the innate
understanding that characterizes procedural knowledge.
3. Provide plentiful, appropriate language input.
Understand that students develop both procedural and declarative knowledge on the basis of
the input they receive. This input includes both finely tuned input that requires students to
pay attention to the relationships among form, meaning, and use for a specific grammar rule,
and roughly tuned input that allows students to encounter the grammar rule in a variety of
contexts. (For more on input, see Teaching Goals and Methods.)
4. Use predicting skills.
Discourse analyst Douglas Biber has demonstrated that different communication types can be
characterized by the clusters of linguistic features that are common to those types. Verb tense
and aspect, sentence length and structure, and larger discourse patterns all may contribute to
the distinctive profile of a given communication type. For example, a history textbook and a
newspaper article in English both use past tense verbs almost exclusively. However, the
newspaper article will use short sentences and a discourse pattern that alternates between
subjects or perspectives. The history textbook will use complex sentences and will follow a
timeline in its discourse structure. Awareness of these features allows students to anticipate
the forms and structures they will encounter in a given communication task.
5. Limit expectations for drills.
Mechanical drills in which students substitute pronouns for nouns or alternate the person,
number, or tense of verbs can help students memorize irregular forms and challenging
structures. However, students do not develop the ability to use grammar correctly in oral and
written interactions by doing mechanical drills, because these drills separate form from
meaning and use. The content of the prompt and the response is set in advance; the student
only has to supply the correct grammatical form, and can do that without really needing to
understand or communicate anything. The main lesson that students learn from doing these
drills is: Grammar is boring.
Communicative drills encourage students to connect form, meaning, and use because
multiple correct responses are possible. In communicative drills, students respond to a prompt
using the grammar point under consideration, but providing their own content. For example,
to practice questions and answers in the past tense in English, teacher and students can ask
and answer questions about activities the previous evening. The drill is communicative
because none of the content is set in advance:
Teacher: Did you go to the library last night?
Student 1: No, I didn‟t. I went to the movies. (To Student 2): Did you read chapter 3?
Student 2: Yes, I read chapter 3, but I didn‟t understand it. (To Student 3): Did you
understand chapter 3?
Student 3: I didn‟t read chapter 3. I went to the movies with Student 1.
Developing Grammar Activities
Many courses and textbooks, especially those designed for lower proficiency levels, use a
specified sequence of grammatical topics as their organizing principle. When this is the case,
classroom activities need to reflect the grammar point that is being introduced or reviewed.
By contrast, when a course curriculum follows a topic sequence, grammar points can be
addressed as they come up.
In both cases, instructors can use the Larsen-Freeman pie chart as a guide for developing
For curricula that introduce grammatical forms in a specified sequence, instructors need to
develop activities that relate form to meaning and use.
Describe the grammar point, including form, meaning, and use, and give examples
Ask students to practice the grammar point in communicative drills (structured output)
Have students do a communicative task that provides opportunities to use the grammar point
For curricula that follow a sequence of topics, instructors need to develop activities that relate
the topical discourse (use) to meaning and form.
Provide oral or written input (audiotape, reading selection) that addresses the topic
Review the point of grammar, using examples from the material (structured input)
Ask students to practice the grammar point in communicative drills that focus on the topic
Have students do a communicative task on the topic (communicative output)
See Teaching Goals and Methods for definitions of input and output.
When instructors have the opportunity to develop part or the entire course curriculum, they
can develop a series of contexts based on the real world tasks that students will need to
perform using the language, and then teach grammar and vocabulary in relation to those
For example, students who plan to travel will need to understand public address
announcements in airports and train stations. Instructors can use audiotaped simulations to
provide input; teach the grammatical forms that typically occur in such announcements; and
then have students practice by asking and answering questions about what was announced.
Using Textbook Grammar Activities
Textbooks usually provide one or more of the following three types of grammar exercises.
Mechanical drills: Each prompt has only one correct response, and students can complete the
exercise without attending to meaning. For example:
George waited for the bus this morning. He will wait for the bus tomorrow morning, too.
Meaningful drills: Each prompt has only one correct response, and students must attend to
meaning to complete the exercise. For example:
Where are George‟s papers? They are in his notebook.
(Students must understand the meaning of the question in order to answer, but only one
correct answer is possible because they all know where George‟s papers are.)
Communicative drills, described in Strategies for Learning Grammar
To use textbook grammar exercises effectively, instructors need to recognize which type they
are, devote the appropriate amount of time to them, and supplement them as needed.
Before the teaching term begins, inventory the textbook to see which type(s) of drills it
provides. Decide which you will use in class, which you will assign as homework, and which
you will skip.
When deciding which textbook drills to use and how much time to allot to them, keep their
relative value in mind.
Mechanical drills are the least useful because they bear little resemblance to real
communication. They do not require students to learn anything; they only require parroting of
a pattern or rule.
Meaningful drills can help students develop understanding of the workings of rules of
grammar because they require students to make form-meaning correlations. Their
resemblance to real communication is limited by the fact that they have only one correct
Communicative drills require students to be aware of the relationships among form, meaning,
and use. In communicative drills, students test and develop their ability to use language to
convey ideas and information.
If the textbook provides few or no meaningful and communicative drills, instructors may
want to create some to substitute for mechanical drills. See Developing Grammar Activities
Assessing Grammar Proficiency
Just as mechanical drills do not teach students the language, mechanical test questions do not
assess their ability to use it in authentic ways. In order to provide authentic assessment of
students‟ grammar proficiency, an evaluation must reflect real-life uses of grammar in
context. This means that the activity must have a purpose other than assessment and require
students to demonstrate their level of grammar proficiency by completing some task.
To develop authentic assessment activities, begin with the types of tasks that students will
actually need to do using the language. Assessment can then take the form of communicative
drills and communicative activities like those used in the teaching process.
For example, the activity based on audiotapes of public address announcements (Developing
Grammar Activities) can be converted into an assessment by having students respond orally
or in writing to questions about a similar tape. In this type of assessment, the instructor uses
achecklist or rubric to evaluate the student understands and/or use of grammar in context.
(See Assessing Learning for more on checklists and rubrics.)
Mechanical tests do serve one purpose: They motivate students to memorize. They can
therefore serve as prompts to encourage memorization of irregular forms and vocabulary
items. Because they test only memory capacity, not language ability, they are best used as
quizzes and given relatively little weight in evaluating student performance and progress.
Resources for further study
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Brian Brooks, James Pinson, and Jean Gaddy Wilson, Working with Words.Macmillan,
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John Lyons (introduction to the theoretical linguistics).
Fries ( the Structure of English)
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