Cambridge Core – ELT Applied Linguistics – Assessing Grammar – by James E. Purpura. The author of this book, Jim Purpura, has extensive experience not only in teaching and assessing grammar, but in training language teachers in grammar and. James E. Purpura It also comes from the potential grammar assessment has for characterizing proficiency in different contexts at different.
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Charles Alderson and Lyle F. Bachman In this series: Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Purpur. However, although the way grammar is currently viewed, both in theo- retical and applied linguistics, and in language learning and language teaching, is vastly different from the perspective that informed grammar tests in the s, very little has changed since then in the way language testers conceive of grammar and in the way it is assessed in practice.
Thus, many of the grammar tests that are currently in use, both in large- scale and in classroom assessment, reflect the perspectives of structural linguistics and discrete-point measurement. This book takes a com- pletely new look at the assessment of grammar, placing it in the context of current views of linguistic pragmatics and functional grammar.
It thus brings the assessment of grammar into sync with current thinking and practice in applied linguistics and language pedagogy. The author of this book, Gramma Purpura, has extensive experience not only in teaching and assessing grammar, but in training language teachers in grammar and assessment. In this book, he presents a new theoretical approach to defining grammatical ability that provides a basis for design- ing, developing and using assessments of grammar for a wide range of uses.
This book provides a coverage of L2 grammar assessment that assexsing both theoretically grounded and practical, discussing the relevant research and theory, and clearly discussing the practical implications for test development of his approach to defining grammatical ability. The author leads the reader through the process of designing and developing tests to measure L2 grammatical ability.
He discusses how L2 grammatical ability can be defined for different types of assessments, and describes the char- acteristics of assessment tasks that can be used for assessing grammati- cal ability in a variety of settings, illustrating this with examples of a wide range of grammar assessment tasks.
He provides critical reviews of several grammar tests that have been developed professionally, using his framework of L2 grammar ability as a basis for analyzing these. But this book is not just for language testing professionals. It is also for classroom teachers, as the author devotes an entire chapter to assess- ments of grammatical ability aimed at supporting learning and instruc- tion. In the closing chapter, the author provides a retrospective overview of how grammar assessment has evolved over the past fifty years.
He also discusses some persistent challenges in how we define grammatical ability, how we assess meanings, in the kinds of assessment tasks purrpura are needed to both assess grammatical ability and provide authentic and engaging measures of grammatical performance, and in assessing the development of grammatical ability over time. In summary, this book is timely, in that it provides a fresh perspective on the assessment of grammar, a perspective that is long overdue, and that brings grammar assessment into line with current theory and prac- tice in language teaching and pufpura areas of applied linguistics.
This book provides a principled approach to the design, development and use of grammar assessments, and thus epitomizes what we as series editors hope to achieve in this series: Charles Alderson Lyle F. I knew there was no other book on assessing grammatical ability, and I knew this would be a challenge.
Having now completed it, I have many people to thank. First, I would like to thank Lyle, Charles and Mickey for their endless patience and steadfast support and enthusiasm for this volume. I would also like to thank them for reading the manu- script carefully and for providing constructive and thought-provoking comments. I am sincerely grateful to Lyle for contributing to that discussion and for his ongoing mentorship — and, of course, his good asswssing.
I would also like to thank Teachers College, Columbia University, for its generous gammar in many stages of this project. I also wish to thank my colleagues in the TESOL and applied linguistics programs for their con- tinued support and encouragement in writing this book. I wish to thank the many wonderful students who took second lan- guage assessment for reading carefully and commenting on the book. I have learned much from you. I would also like to acknowledge the students in my instructed SLA and assessment class for their willingness to debate the issues and for their geammar comments on the multiple drafts.
Last, but not least, I am deeply grateful to Steve Albanese, who took great care of me during this time, and whose unshakable patience, support and encouragement brought out the best in me.
I could never thank you enough. For centuries, to learn another language, or what I will refer to generically as an L2, meant to know the grammatical structures of that language and to cite prescrip- tions for its use.
Grammar in and of itself was deemed to be worthy of study — to the extent that in the Middle Ages in Europe, it was thought to be the foundation of all knowl- edge and the gateway to sacred and secular understanding Hillocks and Smith, Thus, the central role of grammar in language teaching remained relatively uncontested until the late twentieth century.
Even a few decades ago, it would have been hard to imagine language instruc- tion without immediately thinking of grammar. While the central role of grammar in the language curriculum has remained unquestioned until recent times, grammar pedagogy has unsurprisingly been the source of much debate. Other language educa- tors have maintained that language learning is best achieved inductively.
In this approach, students are presented with examples of the target lan- guage and led to discover its underlying organizational principles in order to be able to formulate a formal set of rules and prescriptions.
To know an L2 here meant to identify and describe the rules of the language system based on an analysis of texts.
Still other more traditional language teachers have claimed that the best way to learn an L2 is to study its grammar so that the language could be translated from one language to another. In this approach, knowledge of a language involves the ability to read and render lurpura accurate transla- tion.
In each cited instance of language teaching, grammar has remained the unquestioned focus, and knowledge of the grammar is viewed as a set of rules. Similarly, the assessingg of grammatical knowledge is carried out by having students recite rules, by having them analyze texts and state the rules, or by having them translate texts. In short, grammatical assessment was closely aligned with the goals of instruction and, until recent times, was hardly purpuura topic of concern.
It was not until the late twentieth century that the central role of grammar in language teaching was seriously questioned. These teachers insisted that the grammar should not only be learned, but also applied to some linguistic or com- municative purpose. They recommended that grammatical analysis be accompanied by application, where students are asked to answer ques- tions, write illustrative examples, combine sentences, correct errors, write paragraphs and so forth.
To know a language meant to be able to apply the rules — an approach relatively similar to what is done in many classrooms today. In this approach, knowledge of grammar jqmes assessed by having students apply rules to language in some linguistic context. Other language teachers have been more vehement in their attempt to de-emphasize the role of grammar in language teaching.
In these approaches, grammar was no longer seen exclusively as a set of grammatical jamds to be recited, but rather as a set of rules to be internalized and used for communication. To know a language meant to be able to use it for some real-life purpose, and the assessment grammaar gram- matical knowledge was based on tasks requiring students to demonstrate their ability to communicate in speaking or writing.
Most of the early debates about language teaching have now been resolved; however, others continue to generate discussion. For example, most language teachers nowadays would no longer expect their students to devote ;urpura much time to describing and analyzing language systems, to translating texts or to learning a language solely for access to its litera- ture; rather, they assewsing want their students to learn the language for some communicative purpose.
Current teaching controversies asseszing around the role, if any, that grammar instruction should play in the language classroom and the degree to which the grammatical system of a language can be acquired through instruction.
These questions have, since the s, produced an explosion of empirical research, which is of critical importance to language teachers. In other words, the assessment of grammatical ability is nothing new.
For example, at one point in time, knowledge of grammar was assessed through the ability to recite rules; at another, through the ability to extrapolate a rule from samples of the target language; and at yet another, knowledge of grammar was tested through the ability to provide an accu- rate translation.
Currently, knowledge of grammar might be inferred from the ability to select a grammatically correct answer from several options on a multiple-choice test, to supply a grammatically accurate word or phrase in a paragraph or dialogue, to construct grammatically appropri- ate sentences, or to provide judgments regarding the grammaticality of an utterance.
In many assessment contexts today, knowledge of grammar may be inferred from the ability to use jamex correctly while reading, writing, listening to or speaking the L2 — a practice gramma on the assump- tion that all instances of language use invoke the same fundamental working knowledge of grammar and that a lack of grammatical knowl- edge can severely limit what is understood or produced in communica- tion.
I will argue that it is important for teachers to have jame solid understanding of the grammati- cal resources of language so that instruction and assessment can be tail- ored to a variety of educational contexts. Such linguis- tic grammars are typically derived from data taken from native speakers and minimally constructed to describe well-formed aszessing within an individual framework.
These grammars strive for internal jamds and are mainly accessible to those who have been trained in that partic- ular paradigm. Since the s, there have assssing many such linguistic theories — too numerous to list here — that have been proposed to explain language phe- nomena. Generally speaking, most linguists have embraced one of two general perspectives to describe linguistic phenomena. This approach typically examines sounds that are combined to form words, words that are put together to form phrases, phrases combined to form clauses, and clauses assembled to form sen- tences.
In other words, this approach is predominantly concerned with the structure of clauses phrpura sentences, leaving the literal meaning and contextual use of these forms to other approaches i. To illustrate, consider the following sen- tence: Hames would also devise rules for pronunciation and spelling.
Some formal grammarians might even explain this sentence by comparing it to a number of ungrammati- cal passive sentences. Syntactocentric theories of language have provided L2 educators with a wealth of information about grammatical forms and the rules that govern them. In fact, most classroom language teachers draw extensively on this information as a basis for syllabus design, materials preparation, instruction and classroom assessment.
The second general approach to describing language is through an analysis of communication. In the communica- tion perspective, grammar is treated as one of many resources for accom- plishing something with language, and grammarians describe both what the linguistic forms are for and how they are used to create meaning within and beyond the sentence.
In other words, while the choice of the right grammatical form and the most appropriate lexical item is impor- tant, this grammae focuses more on the overall message being commu- nicated and the interpretations that this message might invoke. Grammarians with a communicative view of language might explain the passive voice sentence in 1.
For example, they would compare the following sen- tences structurally. In other words, what was the communicative need for the passive? What was the speaker or writer trying to communicate by its use? From a communication perspective, they might determine that the speaker wished to shift the communicative focus from the actors or agent in the sentence the person who took the cats to the vet to the recipients of the action Reggio and Messina. Thus, the patient of the action Reggio and Messina becomes the grammatical subject of the sentence rather than the object.
Furthermore, as the agent in this sentence seemed irrelevant, it went unexpressed. This may also be because the agent is unknown, but it is more likely the case that the agent is known from the context and repeating it would have been redundant.
These two views of linguistic analysis have been instrumental in deter- mining how grammar has been conceptualized in L2 classrooms in recent years. Form-based perspectives of language Several syntactocentric, or form-based, theories of language have pro- vided grammatical insights to L2 teachers.
I will describe three: One of the oldest theories to describe the structure of language is tra- ditional grammar. Originally based on the study of Latin and Greek, tra- ditional grammar drew on data from literary texts to provide rich and lengthy descriptions of linguistic form.
Unlike some other syntactocen- tric theories, traditional grammar also revealed the linguistic meanings of these forms and provided information on their usage in a sentence Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, Traditional grammar sup- plied an extensive set of prescriptive rules along with the exceptions.
A typical rule in a traditional English grammar might be: However, as these lan- guages in the early twentieth century had no written alphabet and as the native speakers were unable to describe the languages, linguists departed from the long tradition of comparing English to Latin and began to collect samples of the target languages with the goal of providing a description of its phonology i. This work ultimately gave rise to descriptive or structural linguistics.
Rather, they seek to describe the language as it appears with a strict focus on grammatical form. Although descriptive linguistics has provided numerous insights into the structure of lan- guages, it downplayed the semantic aspects of grammar, and provided little information on how linguistic forms are used in context. None- theless, many L2 educators continue to consider this theory a valuable resource for use in syllabus design, grammar teaching and assessment.