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Cognitive Grammar: teaching the verb 'to be'


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Using CG in teaching the English verb 'to be' in an EFL classroom

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Cognitive Grammar: teaching the verb 'to be'

  1. 1. Emelia Effendy Med TESL University of Malaya
  2. 2. This paper is presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course General Linguistics for TESL Faculty of Education University of Malaya Dr. Jessie Grace U. Rubrico, Facilitator PBGS 6304, Semester 2, AY 2009-2010 April 2010
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION LINGUISTICS the scientific study of human language. COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS  the branch of linguistics that interprets language in terms of concepts.  is closely associated with semantics.
  4. 4. Generative Grammar Cognitive Grammar 1) Linguistic structure 1) Language is not an can be studied autonomous cognitive independently of faculty. meaning. 2) Grammar is 2) Grammar is fully conceptualization. compositional. 3) Knowledge of language 3) Grammar is modular. emerges from language 4) Grammar is innate. use. Croft & Cruse (2004)
  5. 5. COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS : GRAMMAR AND LEARNING  cognitive grammar extends the notion of symbolic units to the grammar of languages  linguistic structures are motivated by general cognitive processes  draws analogies between linguistic structure and aspects of visual perception. Source: Unger & Schmid (1996)
  6. 6. THE RATIONALE  Focus: structure, function, and meaning.  Language is presented in a more meaningful way.  This leads to meaningful learning.
  7. 7. Why SYNTAX?  Need to have a structuralized form of writing sentences.  Most writing books do not specify what comes after the verbs.  Most present the subject + verb structures in teaching simple sentence structure.  Some present the SVO or SVC or SVE. But these seem to be vague to the students.  Some just define complements are ‘the rest of the sentence’.  There seems to be a missing link between grammar, writing and meaning
  8. 8. SYNTAX AS VIEWED BY CG  Conceptual and linguistic completeness  Event schema  Agent Patient
  9. 9. TYPES OF EVENT SCHEMAS Schema Label  “Being” schema Who or what is some entity (like)?  “Happening” schema What is happening?  “Doing” schema What is someone doing? What does he or she do?  “Experiencing” schema What does someone feel, see, etc?  “Having” schema What does an entity have?  “Moving” schema Where is an entity moving? Where does an entity move?  “Transferring” schema To whom is an entity transferred?
  10. 10. LEARNERS’ BACKGROUND  Low-intermediate level students.  Multi-national language speakers.  Mostly young adults and a few mature adults.  Have less than a year of English instruction.
  12. 12. FORM SUBJECT BE VERB Contraction EXAMPLE 1st person I am I'm I'm here. 2nd person you are you're You're busy. 3rd person he is he's He's a friend. 3rd person she is she's She's a doctor. affirmative sentences (+) 3rd person it is it's It's cold today. 1st person pl. we are we're We're hungry. 2nd person You're you are you're pl. beautiful. They're 3rd person pl. they are they're asleep.
  13. 13.  The primary concern in the above and in most grammar books is ‘subject-verb agreement’.  What come after the verbs are not clearly defined.
  16. 16.  Subject + Verb + Object  Subject + Verb + Complement  Subject + Verb + Expansion
  17. 17. So, what’s the solution??
  18. 18. The “being” schema in CG  Function: to relate a characteristic or any other conceptual category to a given entity which does not apply a dominant role in the relationship.  The role of the main participant is described as a Patient, whereby the role of the patient is defined as the role which is least involved in any type of relationship.  The Patient in “being” schema can be related with different ways of “being”: Dirven & Verspoor (2004)
  19. 19.  It can be linked o to an identifying element (1a) o to a category or class (1b) o to a characteristics (1c) o to a given place (1d) o to the notion of mere experience (1e) 1a) The place on the map here is the Sahara. Identifier 1b) The Sahara is a desert. Class membership 1c) The Sahara is a dangerous (territory). Attribution 1d) The desert is in the North Africa. Location 1e) There is a desert (in North Africa). Existential Dirven & Verspoor (2004)
  20. 20. How do we go about using this in the classroom?
  21. 21. Identifier (to identify something) These puppets are my favourite ones. The place on the map here is the Sahara.
  22. 22. Class membership (being part of something) A mule is not a horse and not a donkey. A university is a learning institution.
  23. 23. Attribution (the condition of something) Jason is two years younger than his sister. New York is a busy city.
  24. 24. Location (where something is) The Taj Mahal is in India. The cats are in the sink.
  25. 25. Existential (to be present) There are nine planets in our solar system. There are far too many problems around the globe.
  26. 26. Presenting the language Subject Predicate (NP) (VP) Subject Verb Identifier Class Attribution Locatio Existential membership n NP V NP NP NP/ PP NP AP The is a desert Sahara The is in the Sahara North Africa The is a dangerous Sahara territory
  27. 27. Design 1: Deductive Approach Presentation  Teacher presents the language structure  Teacher gives explicit explanation of the grammatical rules Practice  Students are given sets of tasks to complete  E.g. word ordering  Write sentences based on the structures presented
  28. 28. Communicative Practice • Students are given a picture & an 8-part sheet • Students have to describe the picture using the structures they have learnt e.g.
  29. 29. Design 2: Inductive Approach Pre-task  Get students copies of newspaper articles  Students are to find sentences which consist of the “be-verb” construction While Doing Task  Teacher write the sentences on the board  Students try to guess the relationship between the subject and predicate (the link presented in the sentences) – hypothesis testing  Teacher presents the “rules” Post-task  Application of the form in students writings  Write sentences using the structures learnt
  30. 30. Conclusion  Presenting the be-verb using the ‘being schema’ is more helpful for students in understanding the concept of the verb ‘to be’.  Students can grasp this part of grammar better as they know what the focus is and what it is about.
  31. 31. References Croft, W. & Cruse, D.A. (2004) Cognitive Linguistic. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press Dirven, R. & Verspoor, M. (2004) Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics. (2nd Ed). Amsterdam : John Benjamins Publishing Company Robertson, P. and Ellis, N.C. (eds.). (2008). Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. NY: Routledge Townsend, C. E. (2000) Linguistics and Language Teaching SLING2K Workshop retrieved from on March 20,2010. Unger, F. & Schmid, H. J. (1996) An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. London : Longman