Saturday, July 16, 2011

Two EFL Pedagogical Grammar books by Akira TAJINO and Goro TAJIRI

1 Thinkers and followers

There are two types of people who are usually referred to as a "scholar" in universities. One is the thinker. The thinker thinks for herself and her area of speciality (that is assigned by her university) makes no boundary for her inquiry. She thinks and investigates as her intellectual interest leads her. She doesn't mind breaking conventions to be creative.

The other is the follower. The follower doesn't think for himself and just follows what the authorities in his field do. What he says is determined by the authorities. Apparently, something very interesting does not usually come from the follower.

Akira TAJINO and Goro TAJIRI, the authors of the two books I'm going to introduce in this essay, are the thinkers. The books are pedagogical grammar of English as a foreign language for Japanese learners. They were written by the respective authors separately, but their creative thinking somehow converged and they seem to have re-defined the concept of pedagogical grammar (hereafter Pedagogical Grammar, or PG).

In this essay, I try to formulate their idea of Pedagogical Grammar and describe some features of the books respectively.

2 How we define Pedagogical Grammar

Pedagogical Grammar is usually understood as a grammar that is intended to help learners to learn a foreign language. But how is it different from the Traditional Grammar (TG)? Or if PG is also to help the acquisition of a foreign language, is it to have any resemblance to Generative Grammar (GG), that is supposed to be the representation of the knowledge of language in our brain? Let's see how PG is different from TG and GG.

2.1 Traditional Grammar (TG)

Traditional Grammar is usually considered as the basis of Pedagogical Grammar. I'll argue later, however, that PG is not a simpler version of TG. To understand that point, let's confirm the defining feature of TG.

TG tries to achieve descriptive adequacy. Descriptive adequacy is one of the levels of adequacy that was proposed by Chomsky (1965). Descriptive adequacy is a level where all observed language use is to be described systematically. In its pursuit for comprehensiveness and consisitency, TG tries to cover as much as it can, resulting in a large amount of description.

2.2 Generative Grammar (GG)

Generative Grammar attempts to attain one higher level beyond descriptive adequacy: explanatory adequacy. GG tries to accomplish not only consistency and comprehensiveness (as Traditional Grammar does), but also the predictability of linguistic events in general. GG is meant to be an adequate explanation of language by providing a "real" representation of the embodied grammar (the knowledge of language in the brain). The representation of that level is not something we know consciously. It is highly theoretical and technical and not meant for general readers as TG is. Below is what Chomsky says about GG.

Returning to the main theme, by a generative grammar I mean simply a system of rules that in some explicit and well-defined way assigns structural descriptions to sentences. Obviously, every speaker of a language has mastered and internalized a generative grammar that expresses his knowledge of his language. This is not to say that he is aware of the rules of the grammar or even that he can become aware of them, or that his statements about his intuitive knowledge of the language are necessarily accurate. Any interesting generative grammar will be dealing, for the most part, with mental processes that are far beyond the level of actual or even potential consciousness; furthermore, it is quite apparent that a speaker's reports and viewpoints about his behavior and his competence may be in error. Thus a generative grammar attempts to specify what the speaker actually knows, not what he may report about his knowledge. (Chomsky 1965, p. 8)

GG is a representation of what is embodied as the knowledge of language in our brain, which we know only non-consciously. As a representation, GG can of course be known consciously, but that requires highly theoretical training in linguistics. As an explanatory theory, GG predicts language events within its theoretical constraints.

2.3 Pedagogical Grammar

What, then, is Pedagogical Grammar? How is it different from Traditional Grammar or Generative Grammar?

PG is based on the description that TG provides (GG is obviously too technical for language learners). However, PG should not be regarded just as a simpler (or diluted) version of TG because it has its own distinct function.

PG tries to achieve "educational adequacy." Educational adequacy, as I use this term, is adequacy for helping learners to learn and use a foreign language. It is achieved to the degree that it helps learners.

The cost of understanding PG, therefore, should be reasonably controlled. PG must achieve an optimal balance between the efforts it requires learners for understanding it and the effects it produces in learners' language learning and language use. Other things being equal, the less effort, the better; the more effects the better. The balance between effects and efforts is to be decided considering learners' cognitive and motivational conditions. Educational adequacy requires an optimal balance. As there are many types of learners, there should be as many types of PGs. While TG or GG should converge into one for the ideal researcher, PG should diverge to particular types of learners.

Because of PG's primacy of educational adequacy over descriptive or explanatory adequacy, the description and explanation in PG can be compromised as long as it attains better educational adequacy. TG shouldn't compromise in terms of consistency and comprehensiveness of description, just as GG shouldn't compromise in terms of predictability and biological reality. However, in PG, consistency and comprehensiveness is rather to be sacrificed if it helps to achieve better educational adequacy; Predictability and biological reality (at least in the rigorous sense) can even be neglected.

PG is not a description of a language, or a representation of the knowledge of language. PG is an instrument for language learning and language use. It directs learners to think in some way to learn and use a foreign language.

Language learning and language use can be rather different depending whether they are for reception or production. PG should be differentiated accordingly. Japan has had a good tradition of PG for receptive purposes (mostly for reading).

Modernization of Japan has demanded massive translation of western literature into Japanese. The translation is not like a translation between two languages of the equal or similar degree of development in civilization. Translators in modern Japan needed to understand very foreign, almost unknown concepts of the West. In addition, the structure of the Japanese language is very different from those of the western languages (actually it was more different in those early days; translation created the modern Japanese language). Japan needed a good apparatus to develop and train translators for these demanding tasks. The entrance examinations to universities demanded test-takers a high skill of translation. This demand prompted publication of many Pedagogical Grammar books dedicated to help reading a foreign language (mostly English).

Productive abilities in English was not seriously demanded until the latest version of globalization came toward the end of the 20th century (Globalization has had many stages throughout human history). The current globalization, coupled with the Information Revolution, has begun to demand productive abilities of English in Japanese learners. It is in this context that the two ESL Pedagogical Grammar books that I introduce below were published for productive purposes in EFL.

3 Tajino

This book, Learn English according to the semantic order『意味順英語学習法』 is written by Akira TAJINO, professor at Kyoto University. The book is to be considered as a sequel to his English composition according to the semantic order『〈意味順〉英作文のすすめ』. As a sequel, the current book is better designed to be used by learners as an instrument for learning.
The semantic order, according to Tajino (translated by me), is:


or if you include optional elements:


The order is obvious to English speakers, for they think along this line. But for speakers of Japanese, which has the order of (S)OV [Subject is often not used] and is very flexible in the word order of Modifiers, the "semantic order" of English is not easy to be embodied.

The emphasis on this difficulty, something that is often unattended by native speakers of English (and hence by the "followers" of Japanese researchers) is the point that Tajino and Tajiri share. In the following, I mention some features of Tajino's approach.

3.1 "80% principle"

Tajino is to keen to maintain an optimal balance between efforts and effects for learners' educational adequacy. What he encourages students to do is to speak with "80%" of accuracy. One side of this message is of course the liberation from perfectionism, but the other side is the emphasis on the semantic order. For him, the acquisition of the semantic order is of primary importance for Japanese learners.

In Tajino's framework, the seven basic sentence patterns of English are to be explained as follows:

Figure 1 Seven basic sentence patterns according to Tajino's semantic order (Translation is mine)

(Tajino's semantic order does not seem to differentiate SVOO and SVOC, but this must be the price he's willing to pay for educational adequacy.)

3.2 Syntagmatic semantic order and paradigmatic grammatical categories

Tajino makes the semantic order not only as the guide for learners' language use, but also as the framework for his Pedagogical Grammar. In the current book, he explains various grammatical items according to the relevance to the semantic order. Below is his two-dimensional schema of the syntagmatic (horizontal) semantic order and the paradigmatic (vertical) grammatical categories; he maintains that once learners acquired the semantic order (how to arrange the folders), they are encouraged to learn grammatical categories that have relevance to each folder (learning which files are to be put into each folder, and learning about each file itself). Here's Tajino's two-dimensional schema.

Figure 2 Grammatical categories in the semantic order (Translation is mine)

The sequential arrangement of grammatical categories in PG is always difficult. When I was a senior high school student, for example, I was daunted by the first chapter of my PG: The Article, one of the grammatical items that does not exist in Japanese. Tajino's approach is to teach the semantic order (folders) first, and then grammatical categories (files) for each folder.

With a simple layout, this book by Tajino will be welcomed by adults who'd like to have a clear perspective of what they've learned.

For applied linguists, his two-dimensional idea of sentence construction is highly intriguing: the completion of the semantic order (the first, horizontal, syntagmatic dimension) and the elaboration of a semantic order element (the second, vertical, paradigmatic dimension) as is required by the literal meaning that the sentence is to convey.

This idea of two-dimensional expansion as a speaker constructs a sentence may sound too true to take notice of, but I believe this is one of the great sources of ideas for teaching English as a foreign language. I feel a lot of inspiration in this book, but I just cannot articulate my idea yet. When you read a book written by a thinker, you have to be a thinker as well.

4 Tajiri

Goro TAJIRI had been teaching in various public junior high schools for 26 years before he began his career as Professor at Kansai University. As those who know him directly or on television witness, he was an amazingly great junior high school teacher, but what is more surprising is that he's becoming greater as a practical researcher. As a thinker in nature, he never ceases to think in his practical positions (including the manager of the Kansai University baseball team) and always gives his utmost to help those around him. He's truly amazing.

The current book, English Grammar: You need nothing else『英文法 これが最後のやり直し!』 was written, I heard from him personally, primarily for the university athletes whose English proficiency is, honestly speaking, less than satisfactory. Yet, it has a much larger audience including adults who'd need to be proficient in English, high school students and English teachers.

One great feature of this book, amazing indeed, when you think of the reasonable price of this book (1,200 yen), is that it contains 3CDs narrated by Tajiri himself. He lectures according to the description of the book, adding more examples and episodes. As a great entertainer, listening to him explain and make jokes on English grammar is very a pleasant learning experience (he has a comfortable voice as well). Learners may want to listen to the CDs as they do something else until they remember what he says in them; teachers may learn the verbal art of a good teacher from the CDs. This is indeed a great book and such a bargain.

Below is some features that have importance when we think about Pedagogical Grammar.

4.1 Optimal balance between more efforts and more effects

In comparison with Tajino's book, this book requires more efforts to read, but the reward is of course more effects in terms of more detailed understanding of English grammar. This difference between the two books doesn't make either one good or bad as Pedagogical Grammar, for both keep educational adequacy in their own way. Learners are to choose their favorite book considering the time and motivation they have. (I'm not suggesting here, though, that this book by Tajiri is difficult. His explanation is as clear as always, and the explanation is clearer and more entertaining on the CDs). As I said before, we should have as many good PG as there are different types of learners.

4.2 Three canonical orders and other eight basic orders

Like Tajino, Tajiri also regards the acquisition of the word order of English as the most important element for Japanese learners. He has a different way of explaining the word order, though.

Figure 3 Tajiri's three canonical word orders and eight basic word orders(Translation is mine)

Tajiri regards the three patterns (1, 2 and 3) as the canonical, and adds to them other eight patterns (four, three, and one patterns respectively to the three canonical patterns) as the basic. These eleven patterns are first introduced in the book, and then grammatical items are added in three stages (Junior High School Grade 1 to 3).

Like Tajino's semantic order, Tajiri makes his word order patterns (three canonical and eight basic) as the first item to learn in English. After learners acquire a good sense of the first, horizontal, syntagmatic dimension, they learn to expand into the second, vertical, paradigmatic dimension. In actual language use, they use language in both dimensions simultaneously (or to be more precise, initiate the move in the first dimension followed by expansion in the second dimension). I say here once again that I'd like to think about this mental functions further on a different occasion.

4.3 Personification (anthropomorphic metaphor)

Among Tajiri's great skills of teaching is the use of personification (anthropomorphic metaphors).

He uses one to explain do/does. One of the difficulties that Japanese students find in basic sentence constructions of English (I'm curious how students in other countries find them) is the fact that although do/does is required in the construction of a negative sentence and an interrogative sentence, it is not required in the affirmative sentence.

Do you like music?
I do not like music.
*I do like music. [When no emphasis is intended]

Does she like music?
She does not like music.
*She does like music.[When no emphasis is intended]

Tajiri explains that do/does is a shy boy and he usually hides himself behind the main verb; but when a negative sentence or a question has to be made, he has to appear.

This metaphor of a "shy boy usually hiding behind the main verb" works well for a sentence that uses a verb in third-person singular form of the present tense. The shy does tries to hide behind the main verb (like, for example), but because the boy is a little too big he can't hide completely ([like]s). (The same explanation works for did as well.)

*She like music.
*She does like music. [When no emphasis is intended]
She likes music.

*She like music.
*She did like music. [When no emphasis is intended]
She liked music.

For disappearance of does in the follwoing sentence, he uses the shy boy metaphor, too.

How does Taro eat salad every day?
When does Taro eat salad with dressing?
*Who does eat salad with dressing every day?
Who eats salad with dressing?

This time, the sentence construction is the question form, but a teacher can tell a story like this: "Because does is shy, he always wants to hide behind the main verb. So when he finds the main verb immediately next to him, he hides himself behind it (although not completely) even when the sentence is a question. "

A strong behaviorist would find a narrative like this is not necessary, but this is something Tajiri find essential to help his students learn and use English.

The general point for the discussion of PG is that the use of personification (anthropomorphic metaphors) may work quite well for learners. The explanation of grammar turns into a narrative of a protagonist. If PG is an instrument, we're probably justified to use whatever means available and appropriate to guide learners properly. Use of anthropomorphic metaphors in a narrative is one example of them.

4.4 Contrastive linguistic account

The last feature I point out now (actually there are many other points I'd like to discuss, but I leave them to other occasions) is Tajiri's contrastive linguistic account. As the first language is quite dominant in a foreign language learning situation, contrastive accounts are necessary when apparent results of interference from the first language are often observed. Being a keen observer of langaugae in use, Tajiri provides a contrastive linguistic when appropriate.

5 Conclusion

Overall, both Tajiri and Tajino maintain educational adequacy and the imortance of word order. Some other features are observed from Tajiri like personification and contrastive linguistic account.

If we are to explore further possibilities of Pedagogical Grammar, we need to observe actual PGs and responses from learners that use them. PG is more an instrument than a description (as Traditional Grammar is) or an explanation (as Generative Grammar is). A study of an istrument would be pointless without observing the actual use of the instrument.

1 comment:

english lover said...

Really useful.
Thanks for posting