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Chapter 4 outlines key properties of language development and explores the question whether the acquisition of an additional or foreign language is fundamentally different compared to the acquisition of a primary language in infancy. Drawing on key findings from studies of second language acquisition involving a range of language pairs, it is shown that some properties of an additional language are acquired naturally despite apparent difficulties caused by input and transfer from previous language knowledge. However, some properties of grammar and language use remain persistently difficult, even despite input and teaching of the properties. We conclude with the claim that the knowledge of Virtual Grammar and its grammatical concepts provides a way for teachers to understand the learnability issues faced by their language learners so that they can then make use of appropriate approaches to address these issues.
Chapter 5 draws together the different aspects of language, grammar and acquisition to explore applications to language education and teaching. We first address the question of the purposes of language education and based on these, we explore dichotomies of nativeness versus foreignness; awareness versus ability; and grammar acquisition versus grammar skills. This permits a reconsideration of familiar problems in language teaching, such as the use of the L1 in foreign language teaching, or the development of meta-linguistic knowledge compared to communicative competence. The use of Virtual Grammar and grammatical concepts as a way to enhance and develop language awareness to address educational goals of language teaching is outlined. The chapter concludes by considering, in general terms, the role of descriptive and theoretical linguistics in applied linguistics.
Chapter 2 discusses the questions ‘what is language’ and ‘what is a language’. We explore properties of standard national languages as compared to regional dialects, registers, and pidgin and creole varieties. This survey illustrates that language seen as an abstract ability underlies all forms of linguistic variation and that the same sorts of grammatical concepts underlie any variety while questions of prestige or standard usage are fundamentally social and cultural issues. The interaction of social, cultural and linguistic issues is discussed from the perspective of language education.
Chapter 3 surveys different conceptualisations of grammar and what these mean for questions of language education and notions of ‘correct’ or ‘proper’ grammar. Comparisons of descriptive, prescriptive, reference and pedagogical grammar lead to specific questions of what it is that is pedagogical about pedagogical grammar. In order to leverage the idea of using grammatical concepts for pedagogical purposes, we develop the idea of Virtual Grammar. This encompasses abstract linguistic properties that regulate language variation and language acquisition. We outline how this idea can be used as a way to sharpen awareness of linguistic properties in forms that are useful for language education.
This chapter sets the scene for the book by surveying the terrain of academic linguistics. Issues connected to language teaching and the place of grammar in language teaching are situated with respect to different fundamental concepts in linguistics and the influence these have had on the development of teaching methodologies. The idea of grammatical concepts as an approach to developing language awareness among language learners is introduced and illustrated on the basis of data from a range of languages.
Traditionally, there has been a disconnect between theoretical linguistics and pedagogical teacher training. This book seeks to bridge that gap. Using engaging examples from a wide variety of languages, it provides an innovative overview of linguistic theory and language acquisition research for readers with a background in education and teacher training, and without specialist knowledge of the field. The authors draw on a range of research to ground ideas about grammar pedagogy, presenting the notion of Virtual Grammar as an accessible label for unifying the complexity of linguistics. Organised thematically, the book includes helpful 'Case in point' examples throughout the text, to illustrate specific grammar points, and step-by-step training in linguistic methods, such as how to analyse examples, which educators can apply to their own teaching contexts. Through enriching language teachers' understanding of linguistic features, the book fosters a different perspective on grammar for educators.