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Syntax Flowcharts For Advanced French Courses

Authors

  • William H. Bryant Ph.D.

    1. Western Washington University
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      William H. Bryant (Ph.D., University of Missouri) is Associate Professor of French at Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA.


Abstract

ABSTRACTAlthough today's students are visually oriented, thanks to television, computerized video games, and motion pictures, effective visual aids for the teaching of syntax are comparatively rare. Following in the steps of science and industry, this article proposes the use of syntax flowcharts to help make syntax more meaningful and comprehensible through the graphic illustration of syntactic rules. Flowcharts for the following syntactic structures in French are presented for consideration: 1) the negating of verbal expressions; 2) the balancing of conditional tenses; 3) the use of the imperfect (imparfait) versus the compound (passe composé); 4) the agreement of past participles; and 5) the sequence of tenses in the subjunctive mood. Although the flowcharts shown in this article are specifically in French, it goes without saying that such auxiliary adjuncts may be utilized in any foreign language class. In Spanish, for example, flowcharts would prove useful in helping to present the difference between por and para, or between ser and estar, to name but two troublesome structures. In German, on the other hand, one could imagine flowcharts showing German prepositions and the different cases which they govern in various situations, or, perhaps, flowcharts showing word order in subordinate clauses. In Russian, flowcharts could be used to help get across the idea of perfective versus imperfective aspect, or to point up the difference between the various contexts in which Russian verbs of motion are used. Flowcharts are mean to enhance—not replace—grammatical explanations by the instructor, and may even be used as a heuristic device by students to discover for themselves the underlying structure of rules of application of a particular syntactic structure.

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