Debates and discussions
The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, December 11, 1996
By Katrina Beikoff
TEACHERS will push for "new-style jargon" to be reintroduced into primary school English lessons following a report that found widespread support for the controversial functional grammar program.
The move could mean words such as "participant", "process" and "lexical chain" -- banned by the State Government -- would be reintroduced to replace conventional grammatical terms such as nound and verbs, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
And teachers would again use terms including "dictagloss", "modal adjuncts" and "rhemes" -- words not found in the dictionary and with no equivalent in traditional grammar -- to help students understand the functions of the English language.
In an embarassment for Premier Bob Carr and Education Minister John Aquilina, the consultation report by the NSW Board of Studies found there was widespread support among teachers and academics for functional grammar.
It found there were complaints about functional grammar because teachers did not understand it.
The report also found there were serious gaps in teacher knowledge about any kind of grammar.
Primary English Teachers Association spokesman John Collerson said techers supported functional grammar once they had a chance to use it.
It was "short-sighted" of the State Government to have banned the jargon of functional grammar -- vital to the progam -- without giving it a chance, he said.
"Teachers who understand functional grammar are keen to see it maintained," Mr Collerson said.
"Functional grammar doesn't mean sacrificing traditional grammar -- it takes it further.
"Anyone who's got some awareness of functional grammar will support it", he said.
Haberfield Public School teacher Ruth French yesterday said functional grammar was very successful when it was used to teach early literacy.
Belmore South Primary principal Diana Pearce said it gave children a better understanding of language and how to structure their writing.
"It gives a way of describing how language is used, what language does and how you apply it", Mrs Pearce said.
But a spokesman for Mr Aquilina yesterday said it was unlikely functional grammar jargon would be reintroduced.
In a reform affecting the State's 500,000 primary students, the Government banned all functional grammar terminology on September 7 last year.
The spokesman said functional grammar jargon was "a load of nonsense".
FUNCTIONAL grammar is not just a new type of jargon but
another way of understanding sentences.
As its name suggests, functional grammar explains the way a sentence functions. Unlike traditional grammar, it does not break a sentence up into discrete parts but links words that share a purpose.
In the sentence prepared by teacher Ruth French [shown in a photo of Ruth French at the blackboard: "In week 3, our class went to the Australian Museum", CM], of Haberfield Public School, the sentence is explained as follows:
IN WEEK THREE: This phrase is called the "circumstance of time", meaning when the action happens. It is also the "theme" of the clause, which is also the writer's "point of departure". Circumstances of time are alsou found in "recounts", which is when we discuss something that happened.
OUR CLASS: This is a "participant" (it is also the "actor" in the action process).
WENT: This is an "action process". These processes are split into smaller process types, such as "material", "mental" and "verbal". "Went" is a material process, while "thought" would be a mental process and "said" would be a verbal process.
TO THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM: This is a "circumstance of place", or where the action took place.
In traditional grammar, the sentence would be split up into nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on. For example, "class" would be a noun and "went" would be a verb.