Topic 12 – The concept of grammar: Reflection on language and learning.

Topic 12 – The concept of grammar: Reflection on language and learning.



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. On the origin and nature of grammar.

2.2. On defining the term ‘grammar’.

2.3. A historical approach to grammar.


3.1. On terminology: approach and method.

3.2. A brief definition of grammar models.

3.3. Normative Grammar.

3.3.1. Definition.

3.3.2. Historical background. Early educational systems. Ancient Greece. Ancient Rome. The Middle Ages (A.D. 400-1400s). The Renaissance (late 1400s -1600). The seventeenth century and beyond.

3.3.3. Main approaches.

3.3.4. Main methods. The Grammar-Translation Method.

3.4. Descriptive Grammar.

3.4.1. Definition.

3.4.2. Historical background. The early descriptivists. Historical and comparative linguistic studies. The early reformers.

3.4.3. Main approaches. In Europe: The Reform Movement. The behaviorist approach.

3.4.4. Main methods. The Direct Method

3.5. Structural grammar.

3.5.1. Definition.

3.5.2. Historical background.

3.5.3. Main approaches. In the United States: American Structural Linguistics. In Europe: the Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching.

3.5.4. Main methods. The Situational Method. The Audiolingual Method.

3.6. Transformational-Generative Grammar.

3.6.1. Definition. The notion of transformational. The notion of generative: indefinite, explicit, discovery vs. evaluation,

competence vs. performance.

3.6.2. Historical background. Syntactic Structures (1957). Revisions of Syntactic Structures Model. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965).

3.6.3. Main approaches. A rejection to behaviourist approaches. Psycholinguistics and cognitive approaches. Natural approaches to second language acquisition research.

3.6.4. Main methods. The Natural Method: Krashen’s Monitor Model. The Total Physical Response. The Silent Way. Counseling Learning. Suggestopedia.

3.7. Communicative grammar.

3.7.1. Definition.

3.7.2. Historical background.

3.7.3. Main approaches. The Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach. Other approaches: direct developments of CLT.

3.7.4. Main methods.


4.1. Educational implications of communicative grammar.

4.2. Future directions on the teaching and learning of grammar.




1.1. Aims of the unit.

Unit 12 is intended as an introductory survey on the concept of grammar and its relationship with the use of language, as well as with language learning. Moreover, since the development of English grammar systems has a long and continuing history, the aim of this study is to trace that history within the linguistic scene from its earliest beginnings to the current situation, or in other words, from normative grammar to a grammar system based on language use and communication.

Therefore, this study shall be divided into six main sections. Chapter 2 provides an account of the concept of grammar from the proper philosophy about human nature and human use of language which have reflected the culture and intellectual climate of the moment. Chapter 3 provides the reader with a historical and theoretical approach to grammar in language and language learning, which will account for English grammar in step from traditional English grammars to present-day grammar systems based on language use and communication.

Chapter 3, then, is intended to present five major English grammar systems in their historical, chronological order so as to offer the entire history of language study: Normative Grammar, Descriptive Grammar, Structural Grammar, Transformationa-l Generative Grammar, and finally Communicative Grammar. In order to consider how grammatical models have developed from prescriptive, descriptive, structuralist, and generative approaches towards less formalistic grammars, commonly known as communicative, this section offers (1) definition, (2) historical background, (3) main approaches, and (4) the various methods to linguistics.

Chapter 4 examines the role of communicative grammar within our current educational system and presents future directions regarding communicative grammar. In Chapter 5 a relevant discussion shall be drawn from the considerable information gathered in this study, and in Chapter 6 all the books and sources which have been involved to carry out this study are presented in alphabetical order.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

Numerous sources have contributed to provide an overall basis for the development of the unit. A valuable introduction to the study of language, still indispensable, is given by Otto Jespersen, Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin (1922); David Crystal, Linguistics (1985); and Baugh and Cable, A History of the English Language (1993). For a historical overview of the tradition of language teaching, see Howatt, A History of English Language Teaching (1984); Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers, Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (1992); Lydia White, Universal Grammar and Second Language Acquisition (1989); and Frederick Newmeyer, Grammatical Theory: Its Limits and Its Possibilities (1983).

Among the many general works that incorporate an introduction to grammar, as well as a historical background, we may find the still influential work of Lyda E. LaPalombara, An Introduction to Grammar (1976), where we are presented the history of grammar from its earliest beginnings to the current linguistic scene. Furthermore, other general works are Frank Palmer, Grammar (1971); Geoffrey Horrocks, Generative Grammar (1987); Riley and Parker, English Grammar: Prescriptive, Descriptive, Generative, Performance (1998); and more recently, Kolln & Funk, Understanding English Grammar (1999).

The most complete record of current publications on new directions in teaching grammar is published by B.O.E. RD Nº 112, 13 September (2002); and van Ek & and Trim, Vantage (2001). Moreover, Three good places for grammar research on the Internet are: (1); (2); and (3) Bibliography is fully presented at the end of this work.


This section accounts for the concept of grammar from the proper philosophy about human nature and human use of language which have reflected the culture and intellectual climate of the moment, and which later on, would have considerable influence on the main models on language teaching. Therefore, we shall divide this section in (1) the origin and nature of grammar, (2) a definition of ‘grammar’, and (3) a general historical approach to ‘grammar’, which will provide us with a relevant framework for the next section, that is, the link between the concept of ‘grammar’ and language learning.

2.1. On the origin and nature of grammar.

In order to examine the origin and nature of grammar, we must trace back to the notion of communication and language. Palmer (1971) states that for centuries men have been interested in the language they speak, with the premise that language is a communication system where we find ‘a complex set of relations that link the sounds of the language (or its writ ten symbols) with the ‘meanings’, that is, the message they have to convey. This complex set, called grammar, is what makes language so essentially a human characteristic.

Hence, there are three main characteristics of language that are important for the understanding of the nature of grammar: it is complex, productive and arbitrary. First, complex in the sense that up to now it has not proved possible to translate mechanically from one language to another, with really satisfactory results; second, productive in the sense that we can produce millions of sentences that we have never heard or uttered before; and third, arbitrary in the sense that there is no one -to-one relation between sound a meaning.

Yet, every culture has something to communicate and they all have their own ways of communication. When compared, the main difference is the enormous complexity in structuring the systems from language to language, and it is within this complexity that we must look for grammar, since they namely differ in their grammatical structure. This is why languages are different. Therefore, grammar is said to refer to ‘that complex set of relations between sounds and meaning’, and according to Palmer (1971), ‘a device that specifies the infinite set of well-formed sentences, and that assigns to each of them one or more structural description’.

Moreover, Jespersen (1933) adds that since language consists of words, the way in which these words are modified and joined together to express thoughts and feelings differs from one language to another, for instance, English and French have many words in common but treat them in a totally different way (i.e. excuse ). Hence, since grammar deals with the structure of languages, the grammar of each language constitutes a system of its own, where each element stands in a certain relation to, and is dependent on, all the others. Finally, he states that ‘ language is nothing but a set of human habits, the purpose of which is to give expression to thoughts and feelings, and especially to impart them to others’.

2.2. On defining the term ‘grammar’.

The concept of grammar emerges from the major concern of early Greek and Roman scholarship on thought about language. In fact, the term ‘grammar’ comes from the Greek word grammatike, meaning ‘to write’ or grammatike techne, meaning ‘the art of writing’. Greeks developed an alphabet different in principle from previous writing systems, and considered to be the forerunner of most subsequent alphabets. As we shall see, their permanent contribution in this area is nicely indicated by the history of the term ‘grammar’, which in this early period implied understanding the use of letters, that is, having the skill of reading and writing (Crystal 1985).

Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics devoted a great deal of time to the development of specific ideas about language, and in particular, to grammatical analysis. Hence, Plato was called by a later Greek writer ‘the first to discover the potentialities of grammar’’ and his conception of speech (logos) as being basically composed of logically determined categories. This fairly study of the language, part of the more general study of ‘dialectic’, was taken over by the Romans with very little change in principle, and, through the influence of Latin on Europe, was introduced into every grammatical handbook written before the twentieth century.

As we have seen, the Greek definition of grammar restricted the term to the written language, although this connotation was to be changed by the Romans since the spoken language also has a grammar. Hence, grammar was defined in popular Latin as ars bene dicendi et bene scribendi, that is, ‘the art of speaking and writing well’ (Crystal, 1985). Indeed, there are still hundreds of languages in the world that have no written form although they all have spoken grammars in the sense in which we are interested in the term

There is, however, an implication here that the written form carries the grammar because it, unlike speech, lasts over the centuries. Jespersen (1933) claims that in our so-called civilized life many educated people forget that language is primarily speech while the written word is only a kind of substitute. Also, elements that give expression to emotions, such as stress, pitch, and colour of the voice, disappear in the medium of writing or are rendered by such means as italicizing, underlining and punctuation.

For him, it should be remembered that this linguistic intercourse takes place not in isolated words but by means of connected communications, namely in the form of sentences, which are mainly found in writing, and even ‘on that of everyday speech’. As we may see, his words are still relevant within our current educational framework, as nowadays grammar is considered from a communicative approach.

Before providing a current definition of grammar, we must point out that this term can be understood in a number of ways in everyday use . First, (1) grammar as ‘something that can be good or bad, correct or incorrect’, or in other words, a whole lot of rules which would tell people on what they should do or not. In this sense, grammar is understood as ‘the art of speaking and writing a language correctly’, or as we shall see later, prescriptive grammar. A recent example is drawn from the Beatles: “I used to get mad at my school,/ the teachers who taught me weren’t cool,/ holding me down, turning me round,/ filling me up with your rules …”.

(2) Second, grammar as ‘a book on grammar’. In this sense, the grammar of the language is no more than the grammar as presented by the author of the book. And third, (3) grammar ‘as the science of describing how language is used’ or descriptive grammar as we shall see later. In other words, when grammar is used in the technical sense within the linguistic field, and at the level of analysis in linguistic structure dealing with the organisation of words into sentences.

Contemporary linguists define grammar as the rules of a language governing the sounds, words, sentences, and other elements, as well as their combination and interpretation. In fact, it refers to the underlying structure of a language that any native speaker of that language knows intuitively, that is, as Jespersen (1933) stated, an implicit body of knowledge about how a language works that each person has in his or her mind since grammar is part of each person’s mental capacity, and it allows the person to know implicitly the rules of that person’s language.

The word grammar also denotes the study of these abstract features or a book presenting the rules since it contains information about the lexicon (vocabulary and the meaning of words), the languages’s phonological system, syntactic structures and information about the semantics and pragmatics of the language

2.3. A historical approach to ‘grammar’.

After defining the term, we shall approach, broadly speaking, the concept of grammar in historical terms. Our discussion traces back to those days when the history of language was bound up with religious thought in its widest sense. In fact, it was the language of worship which triggered off the preserving of early states of language from the effects of time by means of grammar. This decision took place in ancient India around the 5th century B.C. when the Hindu priests realized that the language of their oldest hymns, Vedic Sanskrit, was no longer the same, either in pronunciation or grammar, as the contemporary language.

For an important part of their belief was that certain religious ceremonies, to be successful, needed to reproduce accurately the origina l pronunciation and text of the hymns used. So, the solution adopted was to determine exactly what the salient features of Vedic Sanskrit were, and to write them down as a set of rules. The earliest evidence we have of this feat is the work carried out by Panini in the fourth century B.C., in the form of a set of around 4,000 aphoristic statements about the language’s structure , known as sutras.

Also, there were other ways in which religious studies and goals promoted language study, since later on, still under the aegis of the Church, missionaries often introduced writing by stating the first grammars of languages, and priests and scholars translated works such as the Bible and the Scriptures. Up to this point, with the background knowledge from the previous sections in hand, we should be ready to explore the fascinating link of grammar to language teaching.


In this chapter we shall offer a general overview of grammar in language and language learning from normative to communicative grammar. In order to discuss the concept of grammar within a theory of language, we shall review the different approaches throughout history, and within a language learning theory, we shall review the different methods proposed over the years to the ones in use today.

Therefore, our study will be approached from a historical and theoretical point of view since they both are interrelated. Thus, a historical approach will help us establish a chronological sequence of events that will lead us to a description of the five major models of grammar from a theoretical point of view, concerning approaches and methods. In so doing, we shall offer a general overview of the underlying structures of language up to present-day, and the issues of using, learning, and teaching out of which contemporary theories of language have been produced.

In order to clarify the description, analysis, and comparison of the five main models of gramma r, this chapter considers how learning and teaching methods and approaches to linguistics have developed from prescriptive, descriptive, structuralist, and generative approaches towards less formalistic grammars, that is functional grammars based on language usage and communication.

Special attention is given to functional grammar (also called communicative, competence, pedagogic, teaching, and linguistic grammar), as functionally oriented approaches to linguistics (Widdowson, 1978; Halliday, 1985 ) are nowadays a good basis for discussing the link between linguistics and models of language learning and language acquisition, a further focus of our present work.

Therefore, the present chapter on models of grammar and language learning shall include in each section (1) definition, (2) historical background, (3) main approaches, and (4) teaching methods. In order to do so, we shall mainly follow Jespersen (1933), Chomsky (1957), Hymes (1972), LaPalombara (1976), Krashen (1983), Halliday (1985), Riley & Parker (1998), Richards & Rodgers (2001), and Huddleston (2002) among others.

3.1. On terminology: approach and method.

Before carrying on with our analysis, just a brief note on terminology between the notions of ‘approach’ and ‘method’, which refer respectively to the concepts of ‘theory’ and ‘practice’. So, when approaching the analysis of grammar models, the term ‘approach’ deals with the general principles and theories concerning how languages are learned, how knowledge of language is represented and organized in memory, or how language itself is structured. For our purposes, an ‘approach’ would deal with those principles for the selection and sequencing of vocabulary and grammar.

Closely related, the term ‘method’ refers to the practical realities of the classroom which are based on a philosophy of language teaching at the level of theory and principles. A ‘method’ is a set of derived procedures for teaching a language, that is, the level at which theory is put into practice and at which choices are made about the particular skills to be taught, the content to be taught, and the order in which the content will be presented.

The history of language teaching throughout much of the twentieth century saw the rise and fall of a variety of language teaching approaches and methods on different assumptions about how a second language is learned. Their common belief is that, if language learning is to be improved, it will come about through changes and improvements in teaching methodology. In fact, the most active period in the history of approaches and methods was from the 1950s to the 1980s, which coincides with the changing period from descriptive grammars to communicative ones, that is, from structuralist views of language teaching to more eclectic and communic ative approaches.

Therefore, in our analysis, we will present approaches before methods since a theory of language will provide us with general principles and theories in language learning so as to establish the nature of the different methods in language teaching. As stated before, the four main models are as follows.

3.2. A brief definition of grammar models.

There are four main types of English grammars in history up to present-day. Among the many definitions given, we have chosen that of Riley & Parker (1998) since it has been one of the most influential readings within this field for the last few years. Therefore, we may distinguish (1) prescriptive (also traditional, classical, vernacular and normative ) grammar; (2) descriptive (or explanatory) grammar; (3) structural grammar; (4) generative (or transformational) grammar; and (5) performance (also called linguistic or communicative) grammar. Note that details on their way of structuring language will be given in their corresponding chapters as this section is intended to be an introductory presentation.

(1) Prescriptive grammars were the first grammars in history and they refered to the Latin teaching methods of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’. However, (2) descriptive grammars claimed that a language should be described not according to a grammarian’s notion about what ‘ought to be’, but according to the language practices that actually exist among the native speakers of a language. (3) Structural grammar is an extension of descriptive grammar, but goes beyond the level of word structure straightforward into the sound system until getting to the notion of smallest phonological unit, ‘phoneme’. (4) The so-called notion of Transformational- Generative Grammar is based on cognitive factors and is made up of a set of rules which make it clear which sequences of words and sentences are possible. (5) Finally, communicative grammars, that is, grammars based on the usage of language and communication, are the ones applied to language teaching nowadays.

Once we have briefly defined the four types of grammars, we shall related them to different historical periods, approaches, and methods so as to get to the core of their origin and nature.

3.3. Normative Grammar.

3.3.1. Definition.

As stated before, prescriptive grammars, also labelled as traditional, and normative grammars, were dominant from the earliest years up to approximately the middle of the eighteenth century. This term establishes a straightforward connection between Latin and its teaching methods and the notion of what is ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’. Grammar was seen as a set of rules of correct usage in order to ‘speak and write correctly’ (Jespersen, 1933) which did not take into account usage practices.

Traditional grammars make use of a fairly wide technical vocabulary to describe the concepts they use, for instance, words like ‘noun’, ‘verb’, ‘agreement’, ‘plural’, ‘clause’ and even ‘word’ itself. Unfortunately the usual practice in this kind of grammar is to give some kind of definition of most of the words, but never to question the whole justification of their use. Also, traditional grammars restricted grammar knowledge to just written texts.

3.3.2. Historical background. Early educational systems.

The history of grammar within the framework of language learning goes back to the earliest educational systems whose main aim was to teach religion and to promote the traditions of the people. These practices trace back to the temple schools of ancient Egypt where the principles of writing, the sciences, mathematics, and architecture were taught. Grammar was, until then, part of those writing principles, and it was in ancient India that Hindu priests mentioned the concept of grammar for the first time, as a set of grammar rules called sutras. Much of this education was carried on by priests with the Buddhist doctrines that later spread to the Far East.

The ancient Jewish traditions of the Old Testament also played an important role in formation of later education systems. The foundation of Jewish education is the Torah (the Biblical books of mosaic law) and the Talmud, which set forth the aims and methods of education among Jews. Jewish parents were urged by the Talmud to teach their children such subjects as ethics, vocational knowledge, swimming, and a foreign language, where grammar was implicit. During the Middle Ages (15th-16th century), the early educational systems of the nations of the Western world emanated from the Judea -Christian religious traditions, which were combined with traditions derived from ancient Greece philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Ancient Greece.

The notion of grammar in Ancient Greece was developed under the theory of ‘natural logic’, and therefore, there were speculations about words and their meanings. Among the most relevant Greek philosophers, we shall consider Plato, Aristotle, and Thrax’s contributions. Thus, Plato concluded that ‘a given word bears an inherent, natural, and therefore logical relationship to the thing or concept for which it stands’ (LaPalombara, 1976) and, as a result, he devised what is possibly the first word-classification system in the western world. His system, based on meaning, had but two word classes: onoma and rhema , which bear a striking resemblance to traditional grammar’s noun and verb classes.

Later on Aristotle, Plato’s most gifted pupil, continued with the investigation on words and their meanings1, and among his most important contributions we find a developed system of ‘natural logic’, based on the concept of the syllogism, representing the universal system of human thinking. After Aristotle, the next important work in language study is that of the Stoics, who made their philosophical inquiries around 300 B.C. by expanding Aristotle’s word classes to four, adding articles to nouns, verbs, and conjunctions.

The Stoics were also concerned with inquiring into the nature of language, their goal being to demonstrate that the outer forms of language reveal inner truths about human nature. Thus, the present-day linguistic interest in outer and inner forms of language, what transformational grammarians refer to as surface structure and deep structure, may have its first faint beginnings with the work of the Stoics.

The last philosopher under review, Dionys ius Thrax, must be mentioned. In his book Techne Grammatike, written around the first century B.C., he still based his grammar classifications on meaning, expanding the word classes to eight2 , for which he gave a detailed definition and provided many examp les. So, Thrax was influential in two ways, first, in establishing the basis for descriptive grammars and second, in studying language in his search for universals.

In the context of language teaching and learning, a clear influence of the Greek and Latin language is present. In Greece, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics examined carefully the structure of language as part of the general study of ‘dialectic’. This study had a major influence on subsequent grammatical thinking which was taken over by the Roma ns with very little change. Ancient Rome.

In ancient Rome, we know that very large sums were often paid for the services of Greek slaves who were grammar scholars. When Roman scholars wrote their first Latin grammars, they patterned them after the earlier Greek models since they were inflected languages with many grammatical similarities. We must remember that they had as a theoretical background the idea that words in particular and language in general are natural and logical. Thus, Quintilian, a Latin scholar (around the second century A.D.) stressed the importance of including the study of grammar and rhetoric in the education of the cultured Roman. He established

Yet, Roman grammarians came to regard written classical Latin as their sacred duty to preserve the purity of Latin from whatever decay the vernacular might impose, as spoken vernacular represented

‘corrupt practices of language’. This attitude, as we shall see later, influenced language study in the centuries that followed on what is known in theoretical grounds as prescriptive grammar.

One more point should be made before we continue. It is worth noting that there was an important difference between the Greek and Roman cultures regarding grammar: whereas Greek scholars had studied grammar as a part of their larger philosophical concern with the nature of humans and the universe, the educated Roman, on the other hand, studied the grammar of languages in terms of proper usage. Thus, they studied two languages: their native Latin, to develop their oratory powers since the ability to sway people with one’s rethoric came to be highly admired, and Greek, as a foreign language since it had become a valued cultural accomplishment. The Middle Ages (A.D. 400-1400s).

The Medieval period is usually dated from about A.D. 400 until the late 1400s. It should be remembered, however, that no ‘era’ begins or ends overnight, but rather undergoes gradual changes shaped by a variety of events. Broadly speaking, scholars defined the Middle Ages as a time when respect for learning died and when no new ideas emerged. In fact, the Medieval Period was referred to as the Dark Ages.

To have a better understanding of developments in language study during this period, we should try to get at least a general impression of the times. The inevitable result of the expansion of the Roman Empire was the widespread disemination of Roman culture and, therefore customs, laws, religion, and of course the Latin language. Then, for a number of complex reasons, among which we may mention overextension, decentralization, and troubles at home, the Empire began slowly to crumble down. Conseque ntly, social organization changed, and so did values.

A new power structure emerged from war and due to the multiplying attacks, safety and security demanded personal protection in return for properties. As a result, nearly every man of the period, powerful families or peasants, became a warrior. In these new circumstances, scholarly learning was not in demand, and in fact, many feudal knights and lords were crude men with little or no education.

The only Roman institution which not only survived but indeed extended its influence during the Middle Ages was the Catholic church. The aexis of Church represented the only power greater even than that of the feudal lords and became the medium of educated discourse and communication by the end of the first mille nium. Moreover, respect for Greek and Latin learning started to increase and was preserved and nourished by the Church, namely in the monasteries scattered throughout Europe.

It is worth noting for our current purposes that two different levels of Latin co-existed: the literary Latin of the classical scholars, and the common vernacular Latin of the people. Literary Latin, according to Crystal (1985), became the official language within the Catholic Church, and therefore, the emphasis in language study was for a while almost exclusively concerned with the description of the Church Latin in the context of language teaching. On the contrary, vernacular (or Roman) Latin of the common people was carried with the Roman armies in the invasions, with two important consequences: first, Latin ‘borrowings’ affected the development of many European vernacular languages (i.e. Italian, Spanish, French ), and second, the impact of local vernaculars on common Latin made it disappear as a spoken European language.

Then, when it had come to be recognized that Latin was no longer a native language for the majority of its prospective users, the grammar books became less sets of facts and more sets of rules, and the concept of correctness became even more dominant. This approach brought about a massive codification of Latin grammars such as those of Aelius Donatus (fourth century) and Priscian (sixth century) Thus, Donatus’ grammar was used right into the Middle Ages, and became a popular grammar known as being the first to be printed using wooden type, and providing a shorter edition for children.

Therefore, throughout this period, we may observe a high standard of correctness in learning. The Benedictine Rule, for example, heavily punished the mistakes of children in Latin classes. It is worth noting that this use of grammar rules promoted the development of written skills in language teaching, as we may observe in a popular Latin definition of grammar, that is, ars bene dicendi et bene scribendi, which means ‘the art of speaking and writing well’.

Later, in the age of humanism, it was common to hear people identify the aim of learning grammar with the ideal of being able to write Latin like Cicero. A similar attitude had also characterized Greek language teaching, especially after the Alexandrian school (third century B.C.), considered to be the language of the best literature, was held up as a guide to the desired standard of speech and writing. Grammars were considered, then, to tell people authoritatively how to speak and write, in other words, this is the historical framework for prescriptive or normative grammars.

Among the Medieval scholars who have been recently considered to be precursors of current grammar theories, we may mention St. Anselm. He was a mid-eleventh century French Benedictine abbot, who wrote a treatise entitled De Grammatico , with considerable interest in grammatical distinctions such as that expressed by the concepts of ‘signifier’ and ‘thing signified’ (linked in time to Saussure’s semiotics). However, this concern was not new since other scholars before him already discussed semantic differences in word meanings.

Yet, during the last quarter of the thirteenth century, Peter of Spain (later to become Pope John XXI) was also interested in the grammatical and semantic implications of different meanings attributable to a single word or expression. Peter also detected differences between significatio and the suppositio of a word. Another relevant figure, who is said to have had a strong influence on the genesis of scholarly seventeenth century philosophical grammar, is the work of Peter Helias, a Parisian mid-twelfth century scholar. His main contribution was to stress the real significance and importance of grammar study.

It is worth pointing out that more and more work of Medieval scholars is coming to the attention of contemporary linguists since they are becoming aware, after years of neglect, of yet another important development: the growing body of written grammars of the European vernaculars languag es (LaPalombara, 1976). It has been now documented that written grammar of Hebrew, Arabic, Old Irish, and Old Norse existed before the middle of the twelfth century in contrast to other European vernacular languages which had not been written until the end of the sixteenth century.

Following LaPalombara (1976), one of the most fascinating of these vernacular grammars was the First Grammatical Treatise (mid -twelfth century ), an Old Norse grammar written in the vernacular by a now unknown scholar who has since then been called the “First Grammarian”. This work is especially interesting to modern linguists because, as has only recently discovered, many of his language study techniques (i.e. phonology in Icelandic or ‘minimal pairs’) were very much like those developed independently by nineteenth and twentieth century historical and structural linguists. The Renaissance (late 1400s-1600).

Again, it is impossible to assign exact dates for the Reinassance period, but approximately this period dates from sometime in the late 1400s up to the seventeenth century. ‘Renaissance’ means ‘reawakening’ and, therefore, it refers to the return to normality in Medieval Europe. As people’s fortunes improved, their attention could once more be turned to other matters. Gradually, interest in scholarship and in cultural things was renewed. Once again, men of leisure focused their attention on the work of earlier Greek and Roman scholars for enlightenment.

Following LaPalombara (1976), among those scholars whose work has been recently examined by twentieth century linguists, was a sixteenth century Spanish classical scholar called Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, or simply Sanctius. He was a professor of Greek and Rethoric in Salamanca and his book Minerva (around 1587) was considered the standard work on Latin grammar. As we know, in the sixteenth century the status of Latin changed from a living language that learners needed to be able to read, write in, and speak, to a dead language which was studied as an intellectual exercise (Richards & Rodgers, 1992).

Sanctius believed that all languages, in spite of their superficial differences, shared a single universal set of underlying principles which were common to all human language. However, two hundred years before those language similarites were own up to descend from the same source. More recently, Noam Chomsky suggested in Language and Mind (1968) that Sanctius already devised the theory as a method for the interpretation of literary texts.

Other influential scholars whose works are thought to have contributed to the thinking of seventeenth century philosophers and grammarians, are (1) the Spanish physician Huarte, who argued that human language has two powers: first, that it is rooted in the senses, and second, that it implies a generative or creative ability; and (2) Peter Ramus, who wrote grammars of Greek, Latin, and French, and who, in his work Scholae stressed the current usage of native speakers as the best guide to usage practices. The seventeenth century and beyond.

Moreover, the seventeenth century is characterized by a philosophical debate between the ‘rationalists’ and the ‘empiricists’. The rationalist position emerged from the philosophical writings of René Descartes who held that certain human abilities, capacities, and ideas were innate. He also argued that the acquisition of knowledge is determined by certain abstract, ‘built-in’ principles which are present in every normal person from the moment of birth, and which allow the creative use of language. We are dealing with the notion of grammar.

On the other hand, the empiricists John Locke and David Hume among others, insisted on language as a explainable, sense -oriented, and ‘learned’ behaviour. They denied the existence of innate ideas. This controversy was so important that it dominated the thinking of scholars in many disciplines, including linguistics, and therefore the notion of grammar, for several decades.

Rationalist (or Cartesian ) grammarians followed Greek philosophers, Descartes, and Sanctius in that language had both an outer and an inner form. The most important work of rationalist thinking was done by a group of monks at the Port Royal monastery in Port Royal, France, who, intrigued by the great many similarities among languages, believed that there were basic universal language principles.

Elaborating Descartes’ hypothesis of the inner and outer aspects of language, they developed two terms from the old ones: surface structures and deep structures. Since they reasoned that language is phrase-rather than word-oriented, surface structure would refer to the observable outer grammatical form of a sentence whereas surface structure represents the implicit body of abstract ideas or thought relationships which are present in the human mind. As we shall see later, these two notions were reviewed again some centuries later by generative grammar.

The mid- and late eighteenth century reflected the changing climate of the times which took place in relation to a new social situation and the rise of the English language. After years of neglect, and due to political, industrial, economical, and social reasons (i.e. colonization, immigration from rural areas to cities), English gradually became a perfectly respectable, healthy, and thriving world language by the middle of the eighteenth century.

Consequently, a new and growing merchant class felt the need for acquiring some city polish in their manners, dress, and speech in a hope of gaining social acceptance in urban circles. As prescriptivist grammars dominated, a few were written in the middle of the eighteenth century. Actually, the first widely respected English dictionary and the first detailed vernacular English grammar which were published in those years are, respectively, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), and Bishop Robert Lowth’s A Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762).

3.3.3. Main approaches.

Although Port Royal monks tried to replace Latin with French as the scholarly language in France, the analysis of the grammar and rhetoric of Classical Latin became the model for foreign language teaching from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. As the status of Latin diminished from that of a living language to that of an ‘occassional’ subject in the school curriculum, the study of Latin took on a different function.

Teaching approaches, then, were traditional and extremely rigorous when introducing Latin grammar. This was taught through rote learning of grammar rules, study of declensions and conjugations, translation, and practice in writing sample sentences. One basic proficiency was established, whereby students were introduced to the advanced study of grammar and rhetoric, and brutally punished for lapses in knowledge (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

Most traditional ‘school’ grammars began by defining and classifying English words into part-of- speech categories, and proceeded from there to more inclusive sentence components until they arrived at a discussion of the sentence itself. Although there are many drawbacks to this kind of approach, this was the kind of grammar taught in many American schools for many years, and it proved impossible to evaluate the usefulness of a particular grammar system without first examining it carefully.

Although other attempts to promote alternative teaching approaches were made (Roger Ascham and Montaigne in the sixteenth century, and Comenius and John Locke in the seventeenth century), the establishment of reforms in the curriculum and changes in the way of teaching Latin was not successful since Latin was regarded as a classical and ideal form of language.

In the eighteenth century, Latin continued to be used by European scholars to such extent that, when “modern” languages began to enter the curriculum of European schools, they were taught using the same basic procedures that were used for teaching Latin. Thus, textbooks consisted of statements of abstract grammar rules, lists of vocabulary, and sentences for translation. Those sentences illustrated the grammatical system of the language and consequently ‘bore no relation to the language of real communication’.

Moreover, as seen before, Bishop Robert Lowth stated that the most reliable grammatical authority was reason or logic, and rules of correctness based on the practices of the best educated among the language community. Meanwhile, the term “traditional grammar” came to refer exclusively to their brand of schoolroom grammar, and for more than a century, the prescriptivist approach remained basically unquestioned.

By the nineteenth century, this approach which was based on the study of Latin became the standard way of studying foreign languages in schools, and became known as the Grammar- Translation Method.

3.3.4. Main methods. The Grammar-Translation Method.

The Grammar-Translation Method was the dominant foreign language teaching method in Europe from the 1840s to the 1940s, and a version of it continues to be widely used in some parts of the world. As the names of some of its leading exponents suggest (Johann SEidenstücker, Karl Plötz, H.S. Ollendorf, and Johann Medidinger), this method was the offspring of German scholarship, and in fact it was first known in the United States as the Prussian Method.

As Richards & Rodgers (2001) points out, it is still used nowadays where understanding literary texts is the primary focus of foreign language study in order to benefit from mental discipline and intellectual development. Its main characteristics are: (1) a detailed analysis of grammar rules (translation, memorizing) in order to understand and manipulate the morphology and syntax of the foreign language; (2) a focus on reading and writing; (3) vocabulary selection from texts and words which are taught through bilingual lists or dictionary study; (4) the sentence is considered to be the basic unit of teaching and language practice; (5) emphasis on accuracy; (6) deductively teaching methods; and (7) the students’ native language as a medium of instruction.

The grammar-translation method’s main failures are that it does not sound natural to a native speaker, produces difficult mistakes to eradicate, it is a tedious experience since students’ had to memorize endless lists of unusable grammar rules and vocabulary, and finally, there was little or no stress on accurate pronunciation and oral skills.

The mid- and late nineteenth century brought about a serious opposition to this method, known as the Reform Movement, which was gradually developed in several European countries. It laid thefoundations for the development of new approaches to the teaching of languages which raised controversies that have continued to the present day.

3.4. Descriptive Grammars.

3.4.1. Definition.

Descriptive grammars claimed that a language should be described not according to a grammarian’s prescription about what ‘ought to be’, but according to the language practices that actually exist among the native speakers of a language. Jespersen (1933) defines them as those grammars which ‘instead of serving as a guide to what should be said or written, aim at finding out what is actually said and written by the speakers of the language investigated, and thus may lead to a scientific understanding of the rules followed instinctively by speakers and writers’. Spoken language, until now rejected, was included in the definition of grammar.

Descriptive grammars have always been related to traditional grammars as a binary contrast between ‘prescriptive’ and ‘descriptive’. They are considered both traditional and pre-structuralist since they were based on traditional grammar but had already envisaged in early years a description of language in terms of structure. In fact, they prepared the ground for structural linguistics. Yet, they were in vogue until the most influential school of linguistics described language as ‘structural’ in the early nineteen-thirties.

3.4.2. Historical background.

During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, prescriptive grammars were still written but, as English gained social acceptance in urban circles and language scholars became interested in etymologies of words, a major linguistic controversy was developed, that between the descriptivists and the prescriptivist writers of particular grammars. The early descriptivists.

Among the early descriptivists, we find, first, the work of Panini, an ancient Indian scholar, who had written an extremely detailed grammar of Sanskrit sometime during the fifth century B.C. Like the earliest Greek language scholars, Panini also devised a word cla ssification system but, instead of classifying words according to their meanings and semantic functions, Panini analyzed and classified words and word parts into roots, prefixeds, and suffixes. Secondly, we may mention the Port Royal grammar scholars who wrote about ‘rules’ of correct usage rather than ‘rules’ of correctness.

Some centuries later, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in western Europe, travel to foreign countries was by then relatively common, and as an inevitable outc ome of such sidening horizons, scholars began to take note of the vast number of similarities among European vernacular languages. In the 1780s and Englishman, Sir William Jones, contributed invaluable linguistic information since he came across Panini’s work. Historical and comparative linguistic studies.

Sir William Jones, a government official with the East India Company, became fascinated with Sanskrit. As Jones examined Panini’s classifications, he became convinced that the enormous number of similarities between the roots of Sanskrit and those of Greek and Latin provided strong evidence that all three of these languages were in some way related. Jones, then, hypothesized that a great many other European and Asian languages probably had hist ories which could be traced back to the same original parent language.

Hence, a great interest on these speculations aroused in many European scholars and they began to conduct their own investigations on comparative linguistics. Thus, in 1816 Franz Bopp, a German language scholar who is often called the founder of historical and comparative linguistics, published Uber das Conjugationssystem. In his comparative studies of verb inflections of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Persian, and Germanic languages, he offered convincing support that it was quite possible to recover enough empirical historical linguistic evidence to be able to reconstruct a fairly close approximation of that ancient Indo-European language which had been the source of those languages.

Also, one of the most important of these new theories had a naturalistic basis. So, in 1859 Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection , where he argued that humans had gradually evolved. In the years between the late 1810s and the early 1870s, great numbers of archeologists, anthropologists, paleontologists, and philologists spent time in the field unearthing vast bodies of evidence on the sometimes incomprehensible mysteries of language.

New methods, developed by historical and comparative linguists, became meticulous and refined, and one of the common agreements they had was on phonological aspects, that is, the view that language was a continuous, open-ended changing process that never stops so long as a language continues to be a viable spoken tongue. There was a growing interest on the sounds of language and their nature.

Some scholars revived speculations about the origin of language, such as that the first words had been imitations of animal sounds (the ‘Bow Wow Theory’) or that language had originated with song as a need to express such feelings as love, rather than by a need for practical communication. In conducting their research, they found themselves relying heavily on the comparative sounds of languages, always working chronologically backwards.

In England, the work of the historical-comparative linguists culminated in the publication of the massive twelve-volume Oxford English Dictionary, which was first planned in 1857. Not until 1888, thirty years after its conception, was the first of four volumes published. The final volume appeared in 1928, seventy years after the project had begun.

So, the interest of the great majority of nineteenth century linguists in England and Europe was focused on the exciting work in historical and comparative linguistics, and in the meantime, the prescriptive grammars of the pedagogues were becoming ever more firmly entrenched in English and American schools. The early reformers.

As seen before, towards the mid- nineteenth century the Grammar-Translation method was rejected and questionned, for instance, the American lexicographer Noah Webster (American Dictionary,

1864) spoke out against the prescriptivists’ slavish reliance on the authority of Latin. Several factors, such as the increased opportunities for communication among Europeans, created a demand for oral proficiency in foreign languages.

Initially, this created a market for private study, but language teaching specialists also turned their attention to the way modern languages were being taught in secondary schools. Increasingly, public education failed in its responsabilities, and new approaches to language teaching were developed by individual language teaching specialists, such as Claude Marcel, Thomas Prendergast and François Gouin.

The Frenchman Claude Marcel (1793-1896) emphasized the importance of meaning in learning, proposing a rational method, and referring to child language learning as a model for language teaching. The Englishman Thomas Prenderga st (1806-1886) created a mastery system on a structural syllabus to work on basic structural patterns occurring in the language. He was one of the first to record the observation of children in speaking. The Frenchman François Gouin (1831- 1896) is perhaps the best known of these reformers because of his approach to teaching based on his observations of children’s use of language.

It would be inaccurate to suppose, however, that the dominance of the prescriptivists eliminated the tradition of the descriptive grammarians, for linguists like Sir William Jones (1746-1794), Henry Sweet (A New English Grammar, 1891), and Otto Jespersen (Language, 1922) kept the tradition of scholarly descriptive grammar alive. Most of these linguists failed to gain wide public acclaim in their own time, but their work continued unabated. Their voices would ultimately be heard with great respect (LaPalombara, 1976).

3.4.3. Main approaches.

The discoveries of the European historical-comparative linguists were influential both in shedding much light on the understanding of language development and in ridding language scholars on some of their earlier ideas about the nature of language. In addition, their newly developed empirical methods paved the way for new approaches to language study within a Reform Movement which developed principles for language teaching on naturalistic principles of language learning, such as are seen in first language acquisition.

Perhaps the most significant works which made use of these new field-study methods, based on natural and sound methodological principles, were those begun in England by a group of applied linguists, and those begun in the United States by a small group of American anthropologists around the turn of the century. According to Ric hards & Rodgers (1992), this would led to what have been termed natural methods and ultimately led to the development of what came to be known as the Direct Method, and later on, to the oral approach both in Europe and in the United States. In Europe: The Reform Movement.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, teachers and linguists began to write about the need for new approaches to language teaching, and through their pamphlets, books, speeches, and articles, the foundation for more widespread pedagogical reforms was set up. This Reform Movement, as it is known, laid the foundations for the development of new ways of teaching languages within the Direct Method and raised controversies that have continued to the present day.

From the 1880s, an intellectual leadership gave greater credibility and acceptance to reformist ideas thanks to linguists like Henry Sweet (1845-1912) in England, Wilhelm Viëtor (1850- 1918) in Germany, and Paul Passy in France. Among the earliest goals of the association, we find the leading role of phonetics within the teaching of modern languages, as there is a great emphasis on the development of oral skills.

Sweet (1899) set forth principles for the development of teaching methods based on sound methodological principles (an applied linguistic approach ). For Viëtor, whose name is directly associated with a phonetic method, speech patterns were the fundamental elements of language, stressing the value of training teachers in the new science of phonetics. In general the reformers believed that grammar had to be taught inductively, translation avoided, and a language learning based on hearing the language first, before seeing it in written forms.

These principles provided the theoretical foundations for a principled approach to language teaching, one based on a scientific approach to the study of language. However, none of these proposals assumed the status of a method. They reflect the beginnings of a new discipline of applied linguistics: the naturalistic approach, which envisaged second language learning as in first language acquisition.

As we have stated before, these early reformers, who included Henry Sweet of England, Wilhelm Viëtor of Germany, and Paul Passy of France, believed that language teaching should be based on scientific knowledge about language, that it should begin with speaking and expand to other skills, that words and sentences should be presented in context, that grammar should be taught inductively, and that translation should, for the most part, be avoided.

In fact several attempts to make second language learning more like first language learning had been made throughout the history of language teaching. For instance, if we trace back to the sixteenth century, we find out that the Frenchman Montaigne described his own experience on learning Latin for the first years of his life as a process where he was exclusively addressed in Latin by a German tutor. The behaviorist approach.

Since language is not an isolated phenomenon, we are committed to relate it to other aspects of society, behavior and experience through the development of a theory between linguistics and other fields of study, such as anthropology, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, philosophical linguistics, biological linguistics, and mathematical linguistics. Among all the interdisciplinary subjects, two of them have strongly contributed to the development of the study of language teaching in the early to mid-1900s, thus, sociology and psychology.

We shall deal with the latter for our purposes in this section. Psycholinguistics focuses on how language is influenced by memory, attention, recall and constraints on perception, and the extent to which language has a central role to play in the understanding of human development. In the field of psychology, behaviorism had a great effect on language teaching as various scientists in the early to mid- 1900s did experiments with animals, trying to understand how animals behaved under certain stimulus.

Theorists as Ivan Pavlov and Skinner, believed that languages were made up of a series of habits, and that if learners could develop all these habits, they would speak the language well. Also, they believed that a contrastive analysis of languages would be invaluable in teaching languages, and from these theories arose the Audiolingual Method, examined in subsequent sections.

3.4.4. Main methods. The Direct Method.

When the emphasis on oral skills was spread as well as natural language learning principles, they both consolidate d in what became known as the Direct Method, the first of the “natural methods”, both in Europe and in the United States. In general, it was quite successful in private language schools, and difficult to implement in public secondary school education.

Among those who tried to apply natural principles to language classes in America were L. Sauveur (1826-1907) and Maximiliam Berlitz who promoted the use of intensive oral interaction in the target language. Saveur’s method became known as the Natural Method and was seriously considered in language teaching. In his book “An Introduction to the Teaching of Living Languages without Grammar or Dictionary” (1874), Saveur described how their students learnt to speak after a month on intensive oral work in class, avoiding the use of the mother tongue, even for grammar explanations.

Berlitz, however, never used the term “natural” and named his method “The Berlitz method” (1878), and it was known for being taught in private language schools, high-motivated clients, the use of native-speaking teachers, and no translation under any circumstances. In spite of his success, this method lacked a basis in applied linguistic theory, and failed to consider the practical realities of the classroom.

In Europe, one of the best known representatives of language teaching was Gouin who, in 1880 attempted to build a methodology around observation of child language learning when publishing L’art d’enseigner et d’étudier les langues. He developed this technique after a long struggle trying to learn to speak and understand German through formal grammar-based methods. However, their total failure and his turning to observations of how children learn a second language is one of the most impressive personal testimonials in the recorded annals of language learning.

According to Richards & Rodgers (1992), although the Direct Method enjoyed popularity in Europe, not everyone had embraced it enthusiastically. In the 1920s and 1930s, the British applied linguist Henry Sweet and other linguists recognized its limitations. They argued for the development of sound methodological principles as the basis for teaching techniques.

3.5. Structural grammar.

3.5.1. Definition.

Structural grammar emerges from the basis of descriptive grammar, and in fact, it is an extension of it, from at least the early nineteen-thirties until the late nineteen-fifties. However, despite describing syntax and utterances as in descriptive grammars, structural grammar goes beyond the level of word structure straightforward into the sound system until getting to the notion of smallest phonological unit, ‘phoneme’. This meant not only that the phonemes had to be found without reference o the grammar (the morphemes), but that both had to be discovered without reference to sema ntics. Yet, structural grammar is made up of a set of collected utterances made by native speakers of a particular language (Palmer, 1971).

As its name suggests, the main thesis of this school was that language had a structure . But in itself this word ‘structure’ does not mean very much. In one sense all linguists are structuralist in that they are looking for ‘regularities’, ‘patterns’ or ‘rules’. In particular, it was associated with the

‘phoneme’ as the unit of phonology which is described as ‘distinctive sounds of a language’ (the  sound system) and the ‘morpheme’ as the unit of grammar. The essential sense, however, in which the approach is structural is that the language is supposed to be actually composed of morphemes in sequence, as a string of morphemes and similarly, though at a different level, of strings of phonemes.

For many years, the most influential school of linguistics, described as structural, was mainly associated with the name of several American linguists, such as Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, and Leonard Bloomfield. These linguists attempted to record the dying languages of the Native American Indians, and analyse them by studying the patterns of phonology as well as the syntax of the utterances. But let us examine the framework for this ana lysis to take place.

3.5.2. Historical background.

The discoveries of the European historical-comparative linguists had a great influence on American anthropologists on the nature of language. However, while European scholars were mainly interested in dia chronic language studies, scholars on the American side of the Atlantic found themselves engaged in synchronic investigations of particular languages, such as those of American Indian cultures (LaPalombara, 1976).

This study on Indian cultures proved different from those of the Indo-European family, and European language-analysis methods were almost worthless in this new situation. Assumptions about word and phrase structure seemed simply not to apply. Thus, the method of analyzing the sounds of a language, which was so valuable as a tool for the historical linguists, became a practical necessity for the American anthropologists, who became the first American structuralists. Their goal was to identiy the significant sounds (phonemes) of a language, and then, determine which particular sound sequences made up the words of the language. Finally, language’s sentences were analyzed and recorded.

Therefore, structural grammar was based on syntactical analysis and attempted to describe language grammar in terms of a structure of combining systems 3 . The most important contributions of structural linguistics were in the areas of phonology (sound structure) and morphology (word structure), particularly in the former. In fact, phonology came to be regarded as the indispensable foundation upon which all of structural grammar analysis rested.

3 The structural description of English begin with an analysis of the sounds of the language in general, and then goes on to isolate mutually exclusive groups of sounds which have semantic significance, the phonemes. From there, the grammar

description proceeds to the next highest level, the word stru cture (morphology) of English, which involves the isolation of the smallest meaning-bearing units, the morphemes, which make up the words of the language. Finally, structural grammar analyzes the phrase structure, or syntax, of English. At this level, the grammarian looks for the various ways in which words can be combined to produce grammatical English sentences (LaPalombara, 1976).

On analysing Indian languages, not only did structural linguists discover that dialects had social status connotations, but also that they were based on structured and complex system with complicated grammar rules. Such discoveries modified attitudes about language use. Prior to these developments, the notions of grammatical and ungrammatical were synonymous with correct and incorrect within the teaching of Latin grammar in the schools of Europe. Yet, the structuralists were then convinced by their own research that every language has its own complex grammar rules, and that the task of the linguist is to discover what these rules are.

3.5.3. Main approaches. In the United States: American Structural Linguistics.

But let us sum up some of the assumptions of the structural linguists. Fundamental to their approach was the assumption that language is, first and above all, speech, reinforced by the discovery that most Indian languages were still spoken only. Franz Boas, and later his student Edward Sapir, established the basic framework. Boas was the first to formally propose that structural analysis should be conducted on three successive levels, beginning with the sound level, proceeding next to word structure analysis, and only then to the analysis of syntax or sentence structure. And Sapir further developed the system proposed by Boas.

Leonard Bloomfield is the linguistic scholar usually considered the major developer of twentieth- century structuralism in America. First, in his Introduction to the Study of Language (1914), and later in Language (1933), he presented a detailed outline of the principles of structural language analysis within the prescriptive grammar trend. His most important contribution was the establishment of a binary principle, that is, at any level, from simplex to complex, a sentence can be divided into a pair of units (immediate constituents), each of which applies its whole grammaticall or structural meaning to the other.

In the 1940s, another important figure was Charles Fries. His most important contributions were that (1) he devised a word-classification system based on the forms or structures of isolated words; (2) he listed five structural grammatical devices which serve, in English, to signal grammatical clues; and (3) he invented a system of grammatical analysis by means of ‘test frames’.

Among other important structuralists during the forties, fifties and beyond, we may include George L. Trager and Henry Lee Smith on the phonological field, and many others who made their own important contributions: Nelson Francis, Mary Haas, Archibald Hill, Zellig Harris, and Charles Hock. Note that many of them are still in the linguistic picture.

Regarding the teaching of foreign languages, there were many studies on the teaching of second languages. Particularly impressive were the results achieved by those structuralists who, during the period of World War II, devised effective new methods for teaching second languages to adults. It became necessary to teach the languages of the occupied countries as thoroughly and efficiently as possible in the shortest possible time. Among those who achieved notable success in this area, the name of Charles Fries especially stands out, the methods of second- language teaching he developed having since been widely adopted by foreign language teachers in America’s public schools and universities.

For nearly three decades, the structural linguists were in the forefront of language studie s. During this same period, the methods of empirical science which had originated with the nineteenth-century comparativists extended to many other disciplines as well. Sociology, anthropology, psychology, and political science, as well as linguistics, came to be referred to by many scholars as behavioral ‘sciences’. In fact, the methods of the empirical behavioral sciences dominated the American intellectual scene for almost thirty years. In Europe: the Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching.

This approach has its origins in the 1920s and 1930s and was developed from the 1930s to the 1960s by British applied linguists, as a more scientific foundation for an oral approach than the one evidenced in the Direct Method. Its most prominent figures are the British applied linguists Harold Palmer and A.S. Hornby, who developed the basis for a principled approach to methodology in language teaching.

The terms Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching are not commonly used today, but the impact of the Oral Approach has been long lasting, and it has shaped the design of many widely used textbooks and courses, including many still being used today. Therefore it is important to understand the principles and practices of this oral approach which resulted from a systematic study of the lexical and grammatical content of a language course.

This approach involved principles of selection, organization and presentation of the material based on applied linguistic theory and practice. Thus, the role of vocabulary was seen as an essential component of reading proficiency, and parallel to this syllabus design was a focus on the grammatical content, viewed by Palmer as the underlying sentence patterns of the spoken language. This classification of English sentence patterns was incorporated into the first dictionary for students of English as a foreign language, and some grammatical guides which became a standard reference source for textbook writers.

Palmer (1971) had emphasized the problems of grammar for the foreign learner. Much of his work in Japan (from 1922 until World War II) was directed toward developing classroom procedures suited to teaching basic grammatical patterns through an oral approach. His view of grammar was very different from that of the Grammar-Translation Method. However, he saw grammar as the underlying sentence patterns of spoken language.

The theory of language underlying Situational Language Teaching is referred to as a type of British

‘structuralism’ since speech was regarded as the basis of language, and structure was viewed as being at the heart of speaking ability. However, the theory of learning underlying Situational Language Teaching is a type of behaviorist habit- learning theory since it addresses primarily the processes rather than the conditions of learning.

Like the Direct Method, Situational Language Teaching adopts an inductive approach to the teaching of grammar. This is how child language learning is believed to take place, and the same processes are thought to occur in second and foreign language learning, according to practitioners of Situational Language Teaching.

This approach was the accepted British approach to English language teaching by the 1950s. One of the most active proponents of the Oral Approach in the 1960s was the Australian George Pittman. He and his colleagues were responsible for developing an influential set of teaching materials based on the Situational Approach.

3.5.4. Main methods.

By the 1920s, in the United States foreign language specialists attempted to have the Direct Method implemented in American schools and colleges, although they decided to move with caution. Largely dependent on the teacher’s skill, and on native speakers, this new approach proved counterproductive, since teachers were required to avoid using their native language, despite the fact it would have been a more efficient route to grammar comprehension.

An American study, published as the Coleman Report (1923), argued that a more reasonable goal for a foreign language course would be a reading knowledge of a foreign language, achieved through the gradual introduction of words and grammatical structures in simple reading texts. The main result of this recommendation was that reading became the goal of most foreign language programs in the United States (Coleman, 1929). This emphasis on reading continued to characterize foreign language teaching in the United States until World War II (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

These linguists systematized the principles stated earlier by the Reform Movement and so laid the foundations for what developed into the British approach to teaching English as a foreign language. This would led to Audiolingualism in the United States and the Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching in Britain. The Situational Method.

As said before, the principles and practices of this oral method which resulted from a systematic study of the lexical and grammatical content of a language course, involved principles of selection, organization and presentation of the material based on applied linguistic theory and practice. Thus, language teaching begins with the spoken language, where material is taught orally before it is presented in written form.

Similarly, new language points are introduced and practic ed situationally, and in particular, items of grammar are graded following the principle that simple forms should be taught before complex ones. Also, reading and writing are introduced once a sufficient lexical and grammatical basis is established.

In fact, the objectives of this method are to teach a practical command of the four basic skills of language, goals it shares with most methods of language teaching. But the skills here are approached through structure. Accuracy in both pronunciation and gramma r is regarded as crucial, and errors avoided at all costs.

The role of vocabulary was seen as an essential component of reading proficiency, and parallel to this syllabus design was a focus on the grammatical content, viewed by Palmer as the underlying sentence patterns of the spoken language. This classification of English sentence patterns was incorporated into the first dictionary for students of English as a foreign language, and some grammatical guides which became a standard reference source for textbook writers.

The Oral Approach was the accepted British approach to English language teaching by the 1950s, but in the sixties, another active proposal from Australia and termed situational, entered this approach developing an influential set of teaching materials based on the notion of “situation”, linking structures to situations. Its main leader was George Pittman, and its main characteristics were as follows: material is taught orally before it is presented in written form; introduced and practiced situationally; and reading and writing are introduced only when sufficient lexical and grammatical basis is established. The skills are approached through structure.

In the words of Richards & Roberts (1992), this theory that knowledge of structures must be linked to situations has been supported by British linguists, giving a prominent place to meaning, context, and situation. Prominent figures such as M.A.K. Halliday and Palmer emphasized the close relationship between the structure of language and the context and situations in which language is used. The Audiolingual method.

As stated, the origins of this method trace back to the entry of the United States into World War II since the government aimed to teach foreign languages to avoid Americans becoming isolated from scientific advances in other countries. The National Defense Education Act (1958) provided funds for the study and analysis of modern languages based on the earlier experience of the army programs such as the so-called ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program). This program was established for military personnel in 1942 in American universities, and its main objective was for students to attain conversational proficiency in different foreign languages through significant drills.

This fact had a significant effect on language teaching in America, and in fact, new approaches on language teaching were soon developed, and toward the end of the 1950s a new approach emerged under the name of Audiolingualism (term coined by Professor Nelson Brooks in 1964). It is based in structural linguistics (structuralism) and behavioristic psychology (Skinner’s behaviorism).

Therefore, it is primarily an oral approach to language teaching and there is little provision for grammatical explanation or talking about the language.

The audio- lingual method aims at teaching the language skills in the order of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and is based on using drills for the formation of good language habits. Thus students are given a stimulus, which they respond to. If their response is correct, it is rewarded, so the habit will be formed; if it is incorrect, it is corrected, so that it will be suppressed. As Rivers (1981) states, material is presented in spoken form, and the emphasis in the early years is on the language as it is spoken in everyday situations.

It was a methodological innovation which combined structural linguistic theory, contrastive analysis, aural-oral procedures, and behaviorist psychology. Therefore linguists such as Leonard Bloomfield, developed training programs within an anthropological and linguistic tradition. The best known of these programs was the “informant method”, based on a strict timetable (ten hours a day during six days a week), fifteen hours drill with native speakers and almost thirty hours of private study over nearly three six-week sessions. Statistics show that excellent results were often achieved in small classes of mature and highly motivated students.

3.6. Transformational-Generative Grammar.

3.6.1. Definition.

In 1957 Noam Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures was published and it was this book that first introduced to the world the most influential of all modern linguistic theories, that is, ‘transformational-generative grammar’, or TG for short. The theory was ashtonishingly revolutionary, but as with all revolutions, some of it had already been foreshadowed in earlier works, as for instance, that of Chomsky’s own teacher, Zellig Harris (Palmer, 1971).

The name ‘transformational-generative’ suggests that there are two aspects of the theory. The grammar it provides is both ‘transformational’ and ‘generative’. These two aspects are not logically dependent upon each other, though the theory gains plausibility from the interaction of the two. However, although the two aspects will be considered separately, we shall start by the most fundamental and perhaps more revolutionary in linguistic terms, that of transformation. The notion of transformational (1957).

Concerning the notion of transformation, we shall say that, as we have seen, the grammatical theories which we have so far been discussing are mainly concerned with the analysis of sentences in the sense that they must be divided into parts and that the functions of the various parts must be stated. However, the notion of transformation allows the linguist to show how one sentence was related to another in that their descriptions would be partly alike in meaning and partly different in syntax (i.e. from active to passive, direct speech to reported speech, paraph rasing, writing sentences in affirmative, negative and interrogative forms, etc ). In fact, it is a theory that will not merely allow us to replace one element by another or by a number of others, but also to take the sentence and completely rearrange it.

Also, transformational grammar may resolve ambiguity in sentences. Thus, in a statement like ‘The shooting of the hunters was terrible’, we cannot tell whether this means that the way in which the hunters shot was terrible or that the fact that the hunters were shot was terrible. The transformation involved here is ‘nominalizing’ a sentence into a nominal phrase. The notion of generative: indefinite, explicit, discovery vs. evaluation, competence vs. Performance (1957).

Concerning the notion of generation, we shall say that it is the second characteristic of TG. It means that grammar must ‘generate all and only the grammatical sentences of a language’ (Palmer, 1971). Note that it does not mean that a grammar will literally bring all these sentences into existence, but that the grammar must be so designed that by following its rules and conventions, we could produce all or any of the possible sentences of the language. To ‘generate’ then is to ‘predict’ what could be sentences of the language or to ‘specify’ precisely what are the possible sentences of a language.

Yet, there are two important aspects of a generative grammar both lacking, in some degree, in the previous traditional and structuralist grammars. First, a generative grammar is not concerned with any actual set of sentences of the language but with the possible set of sentences, since we can produce sentences ad infinitum (indefinitely). We must remember, however, that to say that the number of sentences may be infinite does not mean that the grammar itself is infinite. On the contrary, grammar has a finite number of rules just as a finite set of figures (from 0 to 9) allows us to generate an infinite set of numbers.

Secondly, to say that grammar is generative is to say that it is explicit, that is, it explicitly indicates what are the possible sentences of the language. This, too, is a reaction to previous approaches since a grammar that looks for patterns in a body of texts could fail to be explicit even if it allowed for considerable extrapolation. Thus, in the Latin grammar (traditional grammar), the conjugations of the verbs and the declensions of the nouns are set out in long paradigms (i.e. each conjugation taking examples from one verb or noun ).

There are two other important points that are related to the whole question of generation. The first concerns the contrast between ‘discovery’ and ‘evaluation’, and the second contrast between ‘competenceand ‘performance’. First, the structuralists were largely concerned with the problem of how to discover the phonemes, morphemes, etc. of the language, and under the requirement that in the interest of ‘empirical’ and ‘scientific’ linguistics, we must begin with the observed data from the sound system to the grammatical system, where the grammar depends on the phonology and the phonology on the grammar, so neither precedes the other. Then, a linguistic theory has to provide a set of ‘evaluation procedures’ for evaluating all the possible descriptions, and a discussion on why one solution was better than another.

The second important point concerns the distinction drawn between a native speaker’s competence and his performance, which is central to Chomsky’s approach to the study of language. The former is defined as ‘the speaker’s internalised grammar of his language, his tacit or unconscious knowledge of the system of rules and principles which underlies his capacity to speak and understand the language of his speech community’.

The latter is ‘the speaker’s actual use of language on partic ular occasions, and includes not only directly observable utterances, spoken and written, but also the speaker’s use of language to clarify his thoughts, and other phenomena ‘observable’ only by introspection, such as his ability to pass judgements on the acceptability of utterances in terms of their sound, form and meaning, and his awareness, perhaps partly subconscious, of the existence of various systematic structural and semantic correspondences between ceretain utterance types, as reflected in his ability to form questions corresponding to statements, passive analogues to active sentences, and so on.

It is important to note that competence is viewed not as a skill but as a system of knowledge which underlies various skills. It is what the speaker must know in order to be able to perform’ (Horrocks,

1987). According to the theory, the native speaker of a language would have internalized a set of rules which forms the basis of his ability to speak and to understand his language. It is the knowledge of these rules that is the object of the linguist’s attention, not the actual sentences he produces.

Yet, if we investigate what he says, this would be part of his performance. In fact, the distinction between competence and performance is important in accounting for the fact that when we speak we often do no speak ‘grammatically’, and also, for understanding the point about the infinite number of sentences in a language. Deep vs. Surface structures (1965).

Chomsky’s Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965) established the distinction between deep and surface structures to refer to the base component of a standard theory (phrase structure rules and lexicon) by which grammar generates sentences and assigns a syntactic structure to each. Chomsky proposed, then, that the phrase structure rules (and lexicon) would generate the deep structures of sentences (meaning) and that the rules of the transformational component of the syntax would place them into surface structures (phonology).

As we have seen, Transformational-Generative grammar is based on cognitive factors and is made

up of a set of rules which make it clear which sequences of words and sentences are possible where the rules of grammar are explicit, giving a structural description to each phrase. This woud allow students to generate an unlimited number of new phrases in a language, provided that the necessary vocabulary was known.

3.6.2. Historical background. Syntactic Structures (1957).

Following LaPalombara (1976), in 1957, at the height of structuralism’s influence on linguistic studies, a young professor of Modern Languages at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a book which challenged many of the basic beliefs of structuralism. The professor was A. Noam Chomsky, and his book, a 108 page monograph entitled Syntactic Structures, was soon to have a profound effect on language studies 4 since it was the first grammar to force psychologists to reconsider their whole approach to the study of language behaviour, and so heralded the psycholinguistic revolution.

This volume was a criticism to the structuralist approach to language study, as Chomsky considered the entire structuralist theory to have been built upon wrong assumptions on their methods. He felt their research should concern the logic of language regularities. In fact, Harris and his student Noam Chomsky worked together to develop a phrase-structure grammar which, although modeled along the rigorous structuralist lines, took some scholarly traditional notions.

Chomsky’s own thinking has been much more closely allied from the beginning with that of the philosophical traditional grammarians from Plato through Humboldt. In his first work (1957), he examined a number of generative grammars to demonstrate that no particular grammar thus far formulated meets his standards of adequacy. Then, he presented a new formulation, phrase structure rules plus transformational rules, which he believed to be more accurate and more useful.

Thus, he took from traditional grammarians the terminology like subject, object, complement, singular and plural. From structuralists, he took the notions of phoneme, morpheme, and so on, and his two major contributions (1957) were these: (1) he introduced a precise, mathematical method of writing grammar rules; (2) he added a third level, the tranformation level to grammar theory. Hence, his model generative grammar proposed a three-level, rule -based system: phonemic, morphemic, and phrase-structure rules.

4 According to LaPalombara (1976), Chomsky’s book was based on his Ph.D. dissertation, written in 1955 at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Zellig Harris. Revisions of Syntactic Structures Model.

After a slow start, transformational-generative grammar finally took hold. Chomsky and others worked at extending and refining the early theoretical model, since Chomsky admitted that there were certain defects in his early model. Eventually, they arrived at enough modifications and revisions on the original theory, and soon new inquiries showed that the linguist must rely on the linguistic intuitions of native speakers (LaPalombara, 1976), and therefore, cognitive theories on learning and language acquisition.

Chomsky’s answer was that, as a result of millions of years of evolution, human beings are endowed genetically with a faculty of language acquisition, and therefore, the linguistic theory of universal grammar is a model of this genetic endowment. It is because human infants enjoy the benefit of this language-acquisition faculty that they are able to acquire a highly complex system of knowledge long before they have reached intellectual maturity and on the basis of exposure to primary data that is both limited in quantity and often degenerate in quality.

Chomsky, then, claimed that native speakers have knowledge of grammatical principles that simply could not have been learned by each and every native speaker on the basis of generalisation from samples of primary data. Structuralist claimed that language learning takes place by the processes of observation, imitation, and cultural reinforcement. Chomsky, however, although he admitted the importance of such environmental influence, said that exposure alone was simply not enough to explain language acquisition processes.

Chomsky went further by saying that there exist in the mind innate structures which determine, in advance of its acquisition, certain of the specific forms of the acquired knowledge. In other words, a child must possess some kind of inherent linguistic theory that generally limits and specifies the possible form of any human language. Chomsky’s theory, then, offers an explanation of how first language acquisition is possible by attributing to the human infant as a species-specific biological endowment a language acquisition device which makes available only a very small set of possible primary data. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965).

In the decade from 1955 to 1965 the foundations of generative grammar were laid and a complex technical formalism was developed. In his book Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965), Chomsky presented the ‘standard theory’ of transformational generative grammar, whose main components were the syntactic, the semantic and the phonological, since in 1957 he failed at dealing satisfactory with the problem of meaning and meaning relationships.

Here, the syntactic component generates an infinite set of structures which are then related by the semantic and phonological components to meaning and sound. Notice first of all that the rules of the semantic and phonological components are taken to be interpretative of syntactic structures, and that the rules of syntax are at the heart of the system (phrase-structure rules, transformational rules and lexicon ).

As stated before, Chomsky proposed, then, that the phrase structure rules (and lexicon) would generate the deep structures of sentences (meaning) and that the rules of the transformational component of the syntax would place them into surface structures (phonology). The deep structure semantics approach may seem attractive, but if faces most of the criticisms of traditional notional grammar. Deep grammar, in fact, is to give a name to semantics.

So, Chomsky conceived finally a revised model with a base component called, for the first time, the deep structure, whose base component would include syntactical rules, semantic and phonological information represented by feature matrixes of lexical items, and phrase markers. All sentences would then be generated directly from the deep structure, or base, by means of various transformation operations, to become actual sentences or surface structures (LaPalombara, 1976).

By the time he wrote Aspects of the Theory of Syntax some ten years later, he had come to regard linguistics as a branch of cognitive psychology. To be sure, he still thought a grammar theory should contain a syntax as the principal mediating component, but he was no longer willing to ignore the influence of semantics.

3.6.3. Main approaches.

Transformational-Generative Grammar was a response to behaviouristic approaches to language acquisition processes. Chomsky’s view of linguistics was an important contribution to the study of the human mind, as a branch of cognitive psychology, apart from showing the weaknesses of structural grammar. Regarding the teaching of languages, the psychological approach is related to questions such as when and how children develop their ability to ask questions syntactically, or when they learn the inflectional systems of their language.

Another interdisciplinary overlap, as Crystal (1985) states is psycholinguistics. It is a distinct area of interest developed in the early sixties and in its early form covered from acoustic phonetics to language pathology. Most of its researchers have been influenced by the development of generative theory where the most important area is the investigation of the acquisition of language by children. Linguists such as R. Ellis or Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell’s contribution show an approach focusing on teaching communicative abilities and emphasizing the primacy of meaning when second language acquisition is on study.

Therefore, we shall review the behaviorist approach since cognitive approaches are considered a rejection to them. Also, we shall state the basis for naturalistic approaches which explain children language acquisition processes as an introduction to next section on communicative grammar. A rejection to behaviourist approaches.

Before the 1960s, views of how language was acquired started to change. In the behaviorist theory of stimulus -response learning, particularly the operant conditioning model of Skinner, all learning is regarded as the establishment of habits as the result of reinforcement or reward. According to this theory, infants acquire their native-language habits through different stages (i.e. babbling, making sounds which resemble appropriate words, and so on ). As they acquire more of the syntactic and morphological variations of the language, they create new combinations by generalization or analogy, sometimes making mistakes (Rivers, 1981).

However, the behaviorist view of native -language learning was rejected by a number of theorist, notably Chomsky and Lenneberg. They maintained that certain aspects of native-language learning made it impossible to accept the habit-formation-by-reinforcement theory. They also argued that child language learning does not appear to be a process of pure imit ation since it seemed to involve active selection from what is heard and personal construction of forms, according to the child’s developing system.

Lenneberg and Chomsky maintained that man has certain innate propensities for acquiring a language, and for acquiring a language with a complicated grammar by some process of imitation and generalization. Psycholinguistics and cognitive approaches.

Chomsky theorized that the innate logical structure of the child’s nervous system conforms with the abstract universal categories and organization underlying language. Consequently, children identify the basic syntactic system of the language to which they are attending, and mastery of the language from identification and not from repetition and reinforcement. This theory of language learning, then, was approached from a psycholinguistic and cognitive view to learning processes, such as habit formation, induction, inferencing, hypothesis testing, and generalization.

Chomsky’s view of linguistics is another important contribution to the study of the human mind, as a branch of cognitive psychology. Apart from showing the weaknesses of structural grammar, Chomsky demonstrated that creativity and individual sentences’ formation were fundamental characteristics of language, not part of the structural theories of language. His approach provides a humanistic view of teaching where priority is given to interactive processes of communication.

He maintained that human beings come into the world with innate langauge- learning abilities in the form of a langauge acquisition device which proceeds by hypothesis testing, that is, children make hypotheses and compare these with their innate knowledge of possible grammars based on the principles of universal grammar. Language use, then, is rule -governed behaviour which enables speakers to create new utterances which conform to the rules they have internalized. This is the so- called Chomsky’s creative aspect of language use.

Yet, in the development of generative theory, the most important area is the investigation of the acquisition of language by children, and most researchers were influenced by this view. Hence, the most prominent figures in this field are, among others, Stephen Krashen, and Tracy D. Terrell. Natural approaches to second language acquisition research.

An approach to language teaching that constantly recurs through the centuries is the attempt to achieve a language-learning situation which resembles as closely as possible the way children learn their first language. Basically the natural approach involves setting up informal situations where students communicate with each other and their teacher and, through communicating, acquire the new language. This is an active, inductive approach.

Hence, Stephen D. Krashen developed a second language acquisition research as a source for learning theories. He distinguishes two concepts here, acquisition and learning, where acquisition is seen as the basic process involved in developing language proficiency. For him, it is the unconscious development of the target language system as a result of using the language for real communication. Learning would be related to the conscious representation of grammatical knowledge and non spontaneous processes. He developed the Monitor Model on which the Natural method was built.

Another theorist, Tracy D. Terrell is closely related to Krashen, since they both wrote a book named The Natural Approach (1983), and their theories emphasize the nature of the human and physical context in which language learning takes place. Their learning theory is supported by three main principles. Firstly, they claim that comprehension precedes production (commonly known as ‘input’); secondly, they state that production may emerge in stages and students are not forced to speak before they are ready; and thirdly the fact that the course syllabus consists of communicative goals, thus classroom activities are organized, by topic, not grammar (Krashen & Terrell, 1983).

3.6.4. Main methods.

The period from the 1970s through the 1980s witnessed a major paradigm shift in language teaching. The quest for alternatives to grammar-based approaches and methods led in several different directions, and therefore, different classroom methods. Whereas Audiolingualism and Situational Language Teaching were mainstream methods developed by linguists and applied linguists, the methods described in this section were either developed outside of mainstream language teaching or represent an application in language teaching of educational principles developed elsewhere.

The former case is represented by such innovative methods of the 1970s as Total Physical Response, Silent Way, Counseling Learning, and Suggestopedia. A different case is represented by the Natural Method that, although proposed in the 1970s, emerged within mainstream education in the nineteenth century and have been later applied and extended to second and foreign language teaching, with some changes on terminology. Let us examine all this methods starting by the Natural Method. The Natural Method: Krashen’s Monitor Model.

Sweet, in 1899, in discussing the claims for the natural method of his day, said that ‘it almost necessarily implied a residence in the country where the language is spoken’. Even the, he advocated systematic study to offset the problems of what one has misheard or confused. Studies by Krashen and Seliger of foreign students learning English in the United States support Sweet’s contention. They have found that formal instruction plays an important role in language proficiency.

In second-language acquisition Krashen’s Monitor Model (1981) has enjoyed considerable prominence as far as it is a relevant point concerning the differences between what is learned in an informal environment where the language is spoken and what is learned through systematic study. Krashen proposed (1983) that the first (learned informally in context) would be termed acquisition whereas the second (learned through systematic study) would be termed learning.

He believed acquisition takes place when linguistic abilities are internalized naturally in informal situations, and that language learning, on the other hand, is a conscious process taken out of a language learning situation or a self study program. The present approach to language learning, then, is to be set in the language laboratory, where students study the language systematically on their own and class sessions are devoted entirely to natural interaction, providing opportunities to create new utterances.

Thus, the Monitor Model consists of five central hypotheses: (1) the acquisition vs learning hypothesis, already discussed; (2) the natural order hypothesis, whereby students are said to follow a more or less invariant order in the acquisition process; (3) the Monit or hypothesis, whereby the monitor is the device learners use for their language performance; (4) the input hypothesis, whereby acquisition takes place as a result of the learner having understood input that is a little beyond the current level of his competence; and (5) the affective filter hypothesis, whereby the filter controls how much input the learner comes into contact with, and how much input is converted into intake (Ellis, 1985). Total Physical Response.

Total Physical Response (1977) centers on both processes and conditions aspects of learning. Thus, coordinating language production with body movement and physical actions is believed to provide the conditions for success in language learning. Total Physical Response is linked to several traditions, such as psychology, learning theory, and humanistic pedagogy. This method is built around the combination of speech and action and was developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology.

For him, including movements within the linguistic production reduces learner stress, creating a positive mood which facilitates learning. This emphasis on comprehension and the use of physical actions to teach a foreign language is not new. In the nineteenth century, Gouin acknowledged a situationally based teaching strategy in which action verbs served as a basis for practicing new language items.

This method owes much to structuralist or grammar-based views of language as most of vocabulary items and grammatical structures are learned through an instructor. Asher still sees a stimulus – response view as reminiscences of the views of behavioral psychologists, directed to right- brain learning. The main goal is to teach oral proficiency at a beginning level through the use of action- based drills in the imperative form.

This method is updated with references to more recent psychological theories and supported by prominent theorists as Krashen because of its emphasis on the role of comprehension in second language acquisition. However, Asher himself, points out the need for this method to be used in association with other methods to be fully successful. The Silent Way.

The Silent Way method , developed by Caleb Gattegno, was also built on a conscious control of learning to heighten learning potential. Caleb Gattegno introduced this classroom technique wherein the teacher remains silent while pupils output the language through simulated experiences using tokens and picture charts as central elements. For instance, a color-coded phonics (sound) chart called a f idel, with both vowel and consonant clusters on it, is projected onto a screen to be used simultaneously with a pointer, thus permitting the pupil to output continually the target language in a sequence of phonemes.

This method works effectively to promote small group discussion, where students are encouraged to produce as much language as possible and to self-correct their pronunciation errors through manual gesticulation on the part of the instructor. The greatest strength of this method lies in its ability to draw students out orally, while the teacher listens. This inner criteria allow learners to monitor and self-correct their own production. It is here where this method differs notably from other ways of language learning. Counseling Learning.

The Counseling -Learning (1972), focused mainly on creating the conditions necessary for successful learning, such as a good atmosphere of the classroom, where intimacy and security are a crucial factor together for students when producing language. Also labelled, Community Language Learning, as the name indicates, this method follows a “humanistic” approach which was supported by Charles A. Curran, a specialist in counseling and a professor of psychology at Chicago University.

His method redefines the roles of the teacher (counselor) and learners (the clients) in the language classroom. He developed a holistic approach to language learning, since human learning is both cognitive and affective. For him, learning takes place in a communicative situation where teachers and learners are involved in an interaction. One of its main tenets is for the student to develop his relationship with the teacher.

This process is divided into five stages and compared to the ontogenetic development of the child. Thus, feelings of security are established; achievement of independence from the teacher; the learner starts speaking independently; a sense of criticism is developed; and finally, the learner improves style and knowledge of linguistic appropriateness.

Curran wrote little about his theory which was to be developed by his student, La Forge. He built a theory on “basic sound and grammatical patterns” which started with criteria for sound features, the sentence, and abstract models of language in order to construct a basic grammar of the foreign language. Since these humanistic technique of counseling students engage the whole person, including the emotions and feelings (affective part) as well as linguistic knowledge and behavioral skills, this method has been linked to bilingual and adult education programs. Suggestopedia.

In the 1980s and 1990s, an extremely esoteric method was developed by a Bulgarian psychiatrist- educator called Georgi Lozanov. The most outstanding features of this mystical method are, according to Rivers (1981), its arcane terminology and neologisms, and secondly, the arrangement of the classroom to create an optimal atmosphere to learning, by means of decoration, furniture, the authoritative behavior of the teacher and specially, through the use of music. Therapy theories are the reason of using music in the classroom as Lozanov calls upon in his use to relax learners as well as to structure, pace, and punctuate the presentation of linguistic material.

Lozanov acknowledges following a tradition on yoga and Soviet psychology, borrowing techniques for altering states of consciousness and concentration, and the use of rhythmic breathing. In fact, teachers are trained in a special way to read dialogues, using voice quality, intonation, and timing. Lozanov also claims that his method works equally well whether or not students spend time on outside study and promises success to the academically gifted and ungifted alike.

In the own words of Lozanov (1978), Suggestopedia prepares students for success by means of yoga, hypnosis, biofeeback or experimental science. Its main features such as scholarly citations, terminological jargon, and experimental data have received both support and criticisms. However, Suggestopedia is acknowledged to appear effective and harmonize with other successful techniques in language teaching methodology.

3.7. Communicative grammar.

3.7.1. Definition.

Communicative grammars, that is, grammars based on the usage of language and communication, are also labelled as functional, competence, linguistic, pedagogical, situational and teaching grammars. This type of grammar draws attention to those rules of grammar which will help students learn and understand a language by means of language use and communication. In linguistic terms, we are dealing with a mixture of prescriptive and descriptive grammar.

As seen before, the period from the 1970s to the 1980s was highly productive concerning different alternatives to grammar-based approaches and methods, where language teaching embraced a growing interest in communicative approaches. The communicative movement sought to move the focus away from grammar as the core component of language, to a different view of language, of language learning, of teachers, and of learners, one that focused on language as communication and on making the classroom an environment for authentic communication.

Yet, in this final chapter, we shall reflect on the history of approaches and methods in the recent history of language teaching which have had, more or less, a lasting impact on language acquisition on what has been defined as the post-methods era.

3.7.2. Historical background.

This section provides a historical framework for approaches and methods up to the present time and describe some of the directions mainstream language teaching has followed since the emergence of communicative methodologies in the 1980s. To start with, it is relevant to say that Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) marked the beginning of a major paradigm shift within language teaching in the twentieth century, one whose ramifications continue to be felt today (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

Communicative Language Teaching has its origins in two sources. First, the changes in the British and American linguistic theory in the mid- late sixties and secondly, changes in the educational realities in Europe. Teaching traditions until then, such as Situational Language Teaching in Britain and Audiolingualism in the United States started to be questioned by applied linguists who saw the need to focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than on mere mastery of structures.

First, changes in the British and American linguistic theory in the mid-late sixties was partly a response to the sorts of criticisms the prominent Ame rican linguist Noam Chomsky had leveled at structural linguistic theory in his book Syntactic Structures (1957). He demonstrated that structuralism was unable to account for the fundamental characteristics of language, thus the creativity and uniqueness of individual sentences.

British applied linguists, on the other hand, emphasized another fundamental dimension of language that was inadequately addressed in approaches to language teaching at that time: the functional and communicative potential of language. Among some of the scholars who followed this view of language we shall include Christopher Candlin and Henry Widdowson, who drew on the work of British functional linguists (i.e. John Firth, M.A.K. Halliday), American work in sociolinguistics (i.e. Dell Hymes, John Gumperz, and William Labov ), as well as work in philosophy (i.e. John Austin and John Searle).

Secondly, different approaches to foreign language teaching emerged from changes in the educational realities in Europe. The role of the European Common Market and the Council of Europe had a significant impact on the development of functional and communicative language teaching since there was an increasing need to teach adults the major languages of the European Common Market.

Education was one of the Council of Europe’s major areas of activity since it envisaged a regional organization for cultural and educational cooperation. Then, it sponsored international conferences on language teaching, published books about language teaching, and was active in promoting the formation of the International Association of Applied Linguistics in order to develop alternative methods of language teaching.

In the early 1970s, a group of experts began to investigate the possibility of developing language courses on a unit-credit system, and in 1971, a preliminary document in which learning tasks were broken down into “portion of units” was launched into the market by a British linguist, D.A. Wilkins. He proposed a functional or communicative definition of language in which language was described in terms of communicative approaches rather than through traditional concepts of grammar and vocabulary.

This approach attempted to demonstrate the systems of meanings that a language learner needs to understand and express wit hin two types: notional categories (time, sequence, quantity or frequency) and categories of communicative function (requests, offers, complaints ). The rapid application of these ideas by textbook writers and its acceptance by teaching specialists gave prominence to what became the Communicative Approach or simply Communicative Language Teaching.

Later on, in 1977 Tracy Terrell proposed a new philosophy of language teaching called ‘the NaturaL Approach’ based on comprehensible and meaningful practice activities rather than production of  grammatically perfect utterances and sentences. Other more general instructional and interactive approaches were the Cooperative Language Learning approach, based on the maximum use of cooperative activities involving pairs and small groups of learners in the classroom; Content-Based approaches in language teaching offered unlimited opportunities for teachers to match students’ interests and needs with interesting and meaninful content; and more recently, Task-Based Language Teaching approaches with a reassessment of the role of formal grammar instruction in language

Now, once we have briefly offered a historical overview of the development of communicative approaches, we shall consider how the general principles of Communicative Language Teaching are molded into quite diverse teaching practices, but no specific methods. The role of grammar has considerably changed from those traditional views of language teaching to these days, where it is considered from a content-based approach, although there is no evidence that the type of grammar- focused teaching activities used in many language classrooms reflects the cognitive learning processes employed in naturalistic language learning situations outside the classroom.

3.7.3. Main approaches. The Communicative Language Teaching Approach.

The Communicative Approach in language teaching starts from a theory of language as communication, and has been approached from different perspectives, thus notional, functional, and situational. The or igins of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) trace back to the late 1960s, when some changes in British language teaching tradition were taking place. Until then, Situational Language Teaching represented the major British approach since language was taught by practicing basic structures in meaningful situation-based activities. But, when the linguistic theory underlying Audiolingualism was rejected in the United States in the mid-1960s, British applied linguists began to do the same with Situational Language Teaching underlying theory.

In the mid-1960s, there were a variety of theoretical challenges to the audio- lingual method. Linguists such as Hymes, the American linguist Noam Chomsky, Halliday, and Labov challenged previous assumptions about language structure and language learning, taking the position that language is creative (not memorized by repetition and imitation) and rule governed (not based on habits).

For Hymes (1972), the goal of language teaching is to develop a “communicative competence”, that is, the knowledge and ability a learner needs to be communicatively competent in a speech community. However, for Chomsky, the focus of linguistic theory was to characterize the abstract abilities speakers possess that enable them to produce gramma tically correct sentences in a language. Yet, in Hymes’s view, a person who acquires communicative competence acquires both knowledge and ability for language use, as cognitive and behavioral approaches.

This theory of language knowledge offers a much comprehensive view than Chomsky’s view of competence, which deals primarily with abstract grammatical knowledge. Another linguistic theory of communication is a functional account of language use, in which Halliday (1970) elaborated a functional theory of the functions of language, which complements Hymes’s view of communicative competence. Moreover, Henry Widdowson in his book Teaching Language as Communication (1978) presented a view of the relationship between linguistic systems and their communicative values in text and discourse. Grammar, then, was to be part of grammatical competence.

A more pedagogically influential analysis of communicative competence is found in Canale and Swain (1980), who identified four dimensions of communicative competence: grammatical, sociolinguistic, discourse and strategic competence. Grammatical competence makes reference to what Chomsky calls linguistic competence and what Hymes intends by what is “formally possible ”, that is, the domain of grammatical and lexical capacity (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).

This communicative view is considered an approach rather than a method which provides a humanistic approach to teaching where interactive processes of communication receive priority. Its rapid adoption and implementation resulted from a strong support of leading British applied linguists and language specialist, as well as institutions, such as the British Council. However, some of the claims are still being looked at more critically as this approach raises important issues for teacher training, materials development, and testing and evaluation (Richards & Rodgers 1992).

Today, Communicative Language Teaching thus continues in its classical form, as is seen in the long run of course books and other teaching resources based on the principles of CLT. In addition, it has influenced many other language teaching approaches and methods that subscribe to a similar philosophy of language teaching. Those approaches are examines as follows. Other approaches: direct developments of Communicative Language Teaching.

As stated before, the Natural Approach emerged in the late 1970s, and belongs to a tradition of language where teaching methods are based on observation and interpretation of how learners acquire both first and second languages in nonformal settings. Such methods, then, rejected the formal (grammatical) organization of language as a prerequisite to teaching, and saw communication as the primary function of language.

The Natural Approach grew out of Terrell’s experiences teaching Spanish in California and it is well-known that he joined forces with Stephen Krashen by writing a book called The Natural Approach (1983). In this work, they combined statement of both principles and practices on their approach to language teaching, which was defined as natural, psychological, phonetic, new, reform, direct, analytic, imitative and so forth. Anyway, we must differentiate between The Natural Approach and the older Natural Method from traditional grammars.

In the 1980s, from more general instructional and interactive views, we find the Cooperative Language Learning approach, based on an interactive view of language structure. It was heavily based on the theoretical work of developmental psychologists, such as Jean Piaget (1965) and Lev Vygotsky (1962), both of whom stress the central role of social interaction in learning.

This approach has its origins in proposals for peer-tutoring and peer-monitoring that trace back hundreds of years and longer. The early twentieth.century American educator John Dewey promoted the idea of cooperation into regular classrooms, and in the 1960s and 1970s it was further developed in the United States as a response to forced integration of public schools. Yet, it is viewed as a learner-centred approach to teaching which offers advantages over teacher-fronted methods.

It is an approach to teaching that makes maximum use of cooperative activities involving pairs and small groups of learners in the classroom, where grammar is seen as a teaching content in class, together with the four skills, pronunciation, and vocabulary. However, although it has been extensively researched and evaluated, it was never conducted in Second Language Learning classrooms. No methods are advocated to it.

Since the 1980s, Content-Based approaches in language teaching have been widely used in a variety of different settings, such as English for Specific Purposes, immersion programs for immigrants, university foreign language programs and also, in business and vocational purposes. However, since Content-Based Instruction refers to an approach rather than a method, no specific techniques are associated to it. Yet, this approach offers unlimited opportunities for teachers to match students’ interests and needs with interesting and meaninful content.

The earliest proponent of this appoach was Saint Augustine, who attempted to give priority to meaning in language teaching in order to learn or communicate through language by means of teaching ‘content’ (i.e. the use of objects, pictures, miming, imitiation, and so on). More recently, in the mid- 1970s Language across the Curriculum emerged as a proposal for native-language education from a British governmental commission.

The report of the comission recommended a focus on reading and writing in all subjec t areas in the curriculum, and not merely in the subject called language arts. Language skills should be taught in the content subjects. This report influenced American education, but did not have the expecte impact. However, since it is widely used as the basis for several kinds of successful language programs, it is expected to lead curricular approaches in language teaching, as for instance, the current Spanish curriculum.

In recent years, vocabulary has been considered to play a more central role in second language learning than was traditionally assumed. Vocabulary includes lexical phrases, sentence stems, prefabricated routines, and collocations, so the concept of vocabulary is seen as ‘significant units of linguistic lexical analysis and language peda gogy’. Hence, the development of approaches based on tasks, that is, Task -Based Language Teaching approaches.

Tasks, then, were proposed as useful vehicles for language teaching, considered as potential building blocks of second language acquisition, whose research focused on the strategies and cognitive processes employed by second language learners. This research has suggested a reassessment of the role of formal grammar instruction in language teaching.

3.7.4. Main methods.

As stated before, Communicative Language Teaching approaches and its further developments did not reach the status of method at any time. All of them and, in particular, CLT have been extensively evaluated and examined with productive research findings. However, little of this research wa s turned into methods into the classroom setting, although CLT procedures often require teachers to acquire less teacher-centered classroom management skills. The classroom is regarded as the setting for communication and communicative activities.

There are numerous textbooks designed to direct and suppor Communicative Language Teaching. Yet, some of them are written around a largely structural syllabus, where grammar is presented as a task analysis for thematic development. Learners, then, learn language through using it to communicate. CLT and its further developments are best considered approaches rather than methods, since they refer to a diverse set of principles that reflect a communicative view of language and language learning, which can be used to support a wide variety of classroom procedures.

The notion of methods was widely criticized in the 1990s. By the end of the twentieth century, mainstream language teaching no longer regarded methods as the key factor in accounting for success or failure in language teaching. Some spoke of the death of methods and approaches and the term “post-methods era” was sometimes used (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).


4.1. Educational implications of communicative grammar.

Nowadays, grammatical competence is approached from an eclectic point of view, and currently applied to language teaching as part of our present educational system, L.O.G.S.E., based on communicative methods. It is the current perspective on commun icative approaches which drag our attention to grammar since it is one of the main sub-competences in students’ linguistic competence (the grammatical one), and helps establish a link between structure and meaning when communicating.

As stated before, in recent years, grammar and lexical items have been considered to play a more central role in second language learning than was traditionally assumed, since it helps students handle lexical phrases, sentence stems, prefabricated routines, and collocations. So far, the notion of grammar is envisaged in task-based teaching approaches as an appropriate classroom activity in order to derive output from input.

Yet, the development of approaches based on tasks (i.e. Task-Based Language Teaching) has favoured the introduction of grammar structures in curriculum plans as part of a broader set of educational planning decisions. In fact, current curriculums for E.S.O. and Bachillerato envisage the teaching of grammar through ‘blocks of contents’ (B.O.E., 2002), as for instance, Present Simple, Passive Voice, Modal verbs, and so on.

Tasks, then, are considered as useful vehicles for practicing these contents, considered as potential building blocks of second language acquisition, whose research focused on the strategies and cognitive processes employed by second language learners. This research has suggested a reassessment of the role of formal grammar instruction in language teaching.

So far, we have also reviewed the role of communicative grammar within our current educational system, in order to present future directions regarding communicative grammar.

4.2. Future directions regarding communicative grammar.

According to Hedge (2000), since the introduction of communicative approaches, the ability to communicate effectively in English has become one of the main goals in European Language Teaching. The Council of Europe (1998), in response to the need for international co-operation and professional mobility among European countries, has recently published a document, Modern languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference, in which the acquisition of communicative competence, and for our present purposes, of communicative grammar.

Similarly, the Spanish Educational System states (B.O.E., 2002) that there is a need for learning a foreign language in order to communicate with other European countries, and a need for emphasizing the role of a foreign language which gets relevance as a multilingual and multicultural identity. Within this context, getting a proficiency level in a foreign language implies educational and professional reasons which justify the presence of foreign languages in the curricula at different educational levels.

The European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System within the framework of the Educational Reform, establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages, and claims for a progressive development of communicative competence in a specific language. Students, then, are intended to be able to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals within specific contexts. It is here that we find the notion of communicative grammar within the grammatical competence, since these communication tasks involve the knowledge of grammar and the ability to use it in specific contexts.

Future directions in second language teaching reflect current trends of language curriculum development at the level of cognitive strategies, grammar, phonetics or technological innovative methods. The Internet Age anticipates the development of teaching and learning in instructional settings by means of an on-line collaboration system, perhaps via on-line computer networks or other technological resources by means of functional approaches to grammar.

The aim is for students to acquire a communicative competence, where their knowledge and ability in the foreign language will help them get the meaning of a sentence, even if the different functions of language make it difficult. Finally, students are provided with strategies and techniques to overcome their communicative problems in an attempt to make communication as real as possible in a formal setting, by means of chat, e-mail, and keeping in contact with friends in the European framework.


As we have seen, this study has aimed to serve as the core of a survey on the concept of grammar, and in particular on its relationship to language and language learning. We have also examined history within the linguistic scene from its earliest beginnings to the current situation, or in other words, from normative grammar to a more communicative grammar system based on language use.

The conclusion here is not the old cliché, but rather the old saying of “There’s nothing new under the sun ,” since tracing back in history proves successful in establishing amazing similarities between old theories of language and grammar, such as the Old Norse First Grammatical Treatise from the mid-twelfth century with nineteenth and twent ieth century historical and structural linguists.

We have also examined the concept of grammar and language learning in an attempt to offer a relevant background to discuss the the phenomenon of language and its nexus between philosophical theories on human nature and human use of language. Within a broad historical overview, different cultures have been examined in order to offer a relevant chronological framework for the section which describes the main grammar systems ranging from traditional to present-day perspectives.


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