Grammar in English Curricula: Why Should Linguists Care?

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Abstract

In Australia, the recently published national curriculum for English embraces not only a return to the explicit teaching of grammar with a commitment to teaching it in context but also includes a distinct strand of knowledge about the English language and how it works. This paper begins with a synopsis of the broader understandings of language encoded in this document, illustrating one approach toward providing a more linguistically informed awareness of language. This is followed by a critical assessment of the grammatical framework, showing that while grammar is positively viewed as a way of describing the language we use as a system, the overall framework has some serious deficits. It is argued that academic linguists have a crucial role to play in shaping a linguistically informed approach to English language education, including engaging with the challenge of elaborating a grammatical approach that is both relevant to students and teachers’ needs and draws on the insights of modern linguistics, and making explicit how grammatical understanding can support the acquisition of skilled language use.

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