What hath UG wrought? Psycholinguistics, Higher Critical thinking, the groans of oppressed schoolchildren, And American Culture
Contact Information Toma Mallett Raleighfingers@hotmail.com
Background I promise this will be important
Pavlov’s Dogs Behaviourism was a popular idea in the 40s and 50s. Drill, repetition, and mimicry. Positive reinforcement and habit formation are key. This was the basis of the Audio-lingual method – if they routinely produce desired forms, they will always do so. Like Pavlov’s dogs: language is stimulus-response
Chomsky and UG Noam Chomsky, in 1959, said language is not habit formation because people can create utterances they have not heard before (Larsen-Freeman, 2000) He offered a different view – all children are born with the innate ability to learn language, like they will all learn to walk. This thing was called LAD – Language Acquisition Device, but now referred to as Universal Grammar (UG)
This is an example of a statement that cannot possibly have been learned – that is, uttered by habit or repetition.. Universal Grammar’s Catchphrase
Analysis This is how nature thins the herd
Critical Thinking Includes several features, analysis is definitely one of them This skill is 4th in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and crucial for even higher order thinking It is applicable in every possible contingency of life People who lack this skill feature in the Darwin Awards Practice makes Perfect. It is useful for language learning.
Phrase Structure The image you just saw was a tree diagram, it is a tool of phrase structure analysis Phrase Structure is an analytical tool for examining the syntactic formation of a sentence in English. It has its roots in UG. It is useful in physically representing HOW a sentence is constructed in the mind.
e.g. “He studies linguistics at the university.” This tree diagram shows the phrase structure rules
Phrase Structure This is a good way to see how sentences are formed It is a useful tool of syntactic analysis And that leads to……
The Groaning Schoolchildren Seriously, my wife thinks I’m cruel. I’m not convinced.
How I Learned Grammar Simply, through analysis I was taught a similar, though simpler, diagramming technique
They groaned, I did not….. While several of my classmates were not fond of diagramming, many of us looked on it as a game. We were all required to show understanding of the various parts of sentences and their relationships, so much so that we could not fail to dissect language when we did not understand it. I did it so much that I have routinely used it in multiple scenarios since then, namely in the pursuit of some arcane babbling from Dickens I’ll show you…..
Nicholas Nickelby "There once lived, in a sequestered part of the country of Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason." -- Nicholas Nickelby, by Charles Dickens (first sentence of the novel)
Usefulness • Belaying Ambiguity Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
Usefulness cont’d • More ambiguity The boy spoke to the man with a gun. • Sort meaning • Grammatical relationships • Writing style and skills constructing solid sentences • Reading difficult texts. • Identifying main ideas • Identifying details
Now you try!!! We read a book about Tom Sawyer in English class.
Teaching Suggestions Use this as a part of your regular instruction, perhaps once a week or so. Repetition is key to successful use outside your classroom, so use this over several years. Keywords for the skill of analysis: compare, contrast, identify, explain, categorise, etc. Use these terms as a whole class to examine language. (i.e. like we did with the boy and his gun) I have always seen this as a game, a challenge. Annual Competition, monthly stumper, etc. Use the greatest writers of English to analyse; the students will become intimately acquainted with how great writers write.
American Greats Many Americans know these by heart, and we cherish the meaning; To understand America and Americans you must understand the following.
We, the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Four score and seven years ago our Fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.