Scholarly article on topic 'Revisiting Challenges of Traditional & Transformational Grammar in ELT: A Sign-based Approach'

Revisiting Challenges of Traditional & Transformational Grammar in ELT: A Sign-based Approach Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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{"Columbia School" / ELT / "Sign-based Approach" / Gerund / Infinitive}

Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Mojtaba Rajabi, Khadijeh Aghaei, Moses Samuel

Abstract Complexity is a buzzword of post-modern schools of thought. Framed in a sign-based approach from Columbia School of linguistics, the current study aims at revisiting some challenges of traditional & even transformational grammar instruction in ELT programs which are highly decontextualized, sentence-based. Specifically, the application of gerund or infinitive form followed by some verbs such as “begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can’t stand, can’t bear” in traditional & transformational grammar which is claimed to be of little or sometimes no difference in meaning is securitized. In so doing, data are collected from 50 samples in an online News site i.e. Reuters in 2012 without considering its genre. Findings show that there exists a significant difference in frequency distribution of gerund/infinitive problematize and confirm the complex debate of the application of gerund or infinitive form followed by the mentioned verbs. In fact, this complexity can be reflective of controversial issues in English Language Education and its sub skills like grammar education. Implications of this study can act as a departure point for textbook designers in grammar studies, linguists and ELT teachers, to name few.

Academic research paper on topic "Revisiting Challenges of Traditional & Transformational Grammar in ELT: A Sign-based Approach"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 118 (2014) 378 - 382

SoLLs.INTEC.13: International Conference on Knowledge-Innovation-Excellence: Synergy in Language

Research and Practice

Revisiting Challenges of Traditional & Transformational Grammar in ELT: A Sign-Based Approach

Mojtaba Rajabi a*, Khadijeh Aghaei b, Moses Samuel c

a,b Islamic Azad University, Gonbad Kavoos Branch, Iran c Faculty of Education, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia

Abstract

Complexity is a buzzword of post-modern schools of thought. Framed in a sign-based approach from Columbia School of linguistics, the current study aims at revisiting some challenges of traditional & even transformational grammar instruction in ELT programs which are highly decontextualized, sentence-based. Specifically, the application of gerund or infinitive form followed by some verbs such as "begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can't stand, can't bear" in traditional & transformational grammar which is claimed to be of little or sometimes no difference in meaning is securitized. In so doing, data are collected from 50 samples in an online News site i.e. Reuters in 2012 without considering its genre. Findings show that there exists a significant difference in frequency distribution of gerund/infinitive problematize and confirm the complex debate of the application of gerund or infinitive form followed by the mentioned verbs. In fact, this complexity can be reflective of controversial issues in English Language Education and its sub skills like grammar education. Implications of this study can act as a departure point for textbook designers in grammar studies, linguists and ELT teachers, to name few.

© 2013 The Authors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd.

Selection and peer-review underresponsibilityof UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia. Key Words: Columbia School, ELT, Sign-based Approach, Gerund, Infinitive.

* Mojtaba Rajabi. Tel.: (+60) 172502163 E-mail address: rajabi.m57@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.02.052

1. Introduction

In traditional grammar, gerunds and infinitives are forms of verbs that act like nouns. They can follow adjectives and other verbs. Gerunds can also follow prepositions. A gerund (often known as an -ing word) is a noun formed from a verb by adding -ing. In addition, an infinitive is a noun formed by adding to the verb. When a verb follows a verb it either takes the gerund or infinitive form. In general, some verbs such as "begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can't stand, can't bear" can be followed by either an infinitive or a gerund with little or no difference in meaning (Quirk, et.al. 1985). A clear example of such a rule can be seen in the verb start - "It started to rain." or "It started raining." both sentences have the same meaning (Azar 1998:169). In terms of such a conventional rule, it is imagined that choosing an infinitive or a gerund NP in object position is an arbitrary and optional matter. The issue of semantically arbitrary has grown in importance in light of recent structuralist and transformational treatments which tend to assume that any distributional restrictions are a matter of syntactic rule rather than semantic one: when they argue that both NP types can occur since they are 'free variants, which are only distinguished by relative frequency or stylistic differences'. However, the current research literature has so far failed to address the complexity and multiplicity of meaning in real context with the cost of merely being centered on the single and monolithic decontextualized interpretations for gerunds and infinitives as complex entity systems in object position for some specific verbs. It can be inferred that the current argument seems to be a misnomer from the lens of a post-structuralism semantic theory. Thus, this quantitative case study attempts to examine the validity of the conventional views of semantic analyses on the application/plausibility of gerund or infinitive NP followed by some specific verbs. This study is organized in 5 sections including research hypothesis, research methodology, analytical framework, finding and discussion. Finally it will be closed by some concluding remarks.

1.1. Research Hypothesis

Infinitive or a gerund NP in object position followed by some specific verbs (begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can't stand, and can't bear) makes little or no difference in meaning, therefore they should have the same or similar distribution. In other words, they are optional or arbitrary in their application in the real context. Thus, the following hypothesis can be constructed from the above proposition.

H1: The frequency of gerund and infinitive NP in object position followed by some specific verbs (begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can't stand, and can't bear) are similar in real context.

1.2. Research Methodology

This paper centers on the frequency of gerund and infinitive noun phrases which occur in objective position to see whether they are intensified in a similar manner. Therefore, researcher carried out such a study by analyzing Reuters ( 2012-2013 ) as one online news sites with a considerably rich corpus which provide and cover breaking news in business, politics, entertainment, technology, etc. This continued as long as saturation in data collected was observed. Based on Colombian School of Linguistics (CSL) (Reid, 1995), CSL's basic unit of language is the morpheme, the smallest meaningful unit of language. This is considered as the linguistic sign, "the unit which is shared by all other subdisciplines of semiotics. By taking the sign into account as the basic unit - versus the sentence - CSL linguists are able to reasonably compare and contrast sign languages in all other forms of communication through signs. CSL's main objective is not to search for the entities of human language which distinguish it from other forms of animal communication. As with all posited entities, CSL will acknowledge them after they have been shown to have a function" ( Reid 1995, p.146). Specifically, in this study, the numbers of occurrences of various phenomena are counted and compared and then statistical criteria are applied to draw conclusions about the reasons for this usage. In this study, this contributes the researcher to observe the different frequency of gerunds and infinitive NP object positions significantly. For this purpose, the data collected in a specific period of time (2012) will be analyzed in a quantitative manner (See table 1).

Table 1: Quantitative Research Design: Source of Data

Sample Type Article Type Articles Number Article Length Period

Randomly Different genres 50 300-500 words 2012 (from Jan to Dec)

1.3. Analytical Framework

Having randomly selected the articles with different genres in the online New sites as explained above, the researcher highlighted the gerund and infinitive noun phrases followed by (begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can't stand, and can't bear). In fact, they were color-coded by computer. This practice was meant to be sure that no gerund or infinitive NP of these mentioned verbs were not left mistakably as it may occur in a manual checking. Subsequently, all data selected were slotted in terms of two main categories followed by "High ing/gerund- intensified" or "High to/infinitive-intensified". The result of the analysis is shown in table 2.

Table 2: Frequency Distribution of Gerund/Infinitive Intensifying

Verb Type High ing/Gerund-Intensified High Infinitive-Intensified

begin 90% 10%

start 83% 17%

continue 18% 82%

love 88% 12%

prefer 10% 90 %

Total Percent 60% 40%

1.4. Findings & Discussions

Referring to the collected samples, the findings show that gerund loading ./intensifying (60%) is significantly higher than infinitive loading ./intensifying (40%) followed by verbs like begin, start, continue, like, love, prefer, have, can't stand, and can't bear. Rather two specific verbs e.g. continue, prefer tend to be more significantly followed by infinitive NP compared to the other counter parts in this category. Therefore, the findings can indicate the narrowed view of the conventional approach regarding the above grammatical rule when it says that choosing an infinitive or a gerund NP in object position is an arbitrary and optional matter and hence the frequency of gerund and infinitive NP in object position followed by some specific verbs are expected to be similar in real context.

The defects of the conventional analyses are typical of flawed descriptions: Their interpretations are often weak to predict exactly what is expected to occur in the real context._As such, their decontextualized and monolithic views cannot represent comprehensive interpretations as delineated in the investigated grammatical rule. That is because the conventional views to grammatical rules are of single-factor accounts of the data and suffer from a sensitive attention to the details of individual examples. Indeed, more contextual factors can easily be included in analyzing meaning complexity. The conventional rule on labeling an infinitive or a gerund NP selection in object position in the mentioned verbs as an arbitrary and optional matter are reluctant (a) to refer to contextual properties of constructions in meaning making process , (b) to admit inherent variability in possible alternative constructions which brings about different intensity between gerund NP versus infinitive NP application for the discussed verbs as the total frequency shows, or (c) to draw a clear distinction among various

types of verbs in the same mentioned category and their NP objects. In this study , for instance, the general proposition posed by conventional grammarian cannot show the different contextual behaviors between verbs " continue ,prefer" which tend to be more followed by infinitive NP versus other verbs in the same category which tends to be more followed by gerund NP.

1.5. Concluding Remarks

English language is, by nature, is more complex and flexible that what is thought to be. Such a complexity will bring about different and multiple readings for the persons involved in the real communication. The conventional rules put an emphasis on the generalizability of rule without considering the complexity of contexts. While a postmodernism, post-structuralism view in sign -based approach necessitates considering the multifaceted perspectives. Such multifaceted view to meaning making process in the real context can bridge the gap in the fragmentary results left by structuralist projects or fixed and generalized views of the traditional grammarians .Specifically, the current investigation showed different distributions of gerund and infinitive NPs for these specific kinds of verbs to require the needs for reconsidering the flawed and single factor view of the structuralism and traditionalists to grammar rules. This study nested in a post structuralism theory to semantics proposes that the necessity of scrutinizing the distinctive and complex contextual features and hence effects associated with the different behaviors of verb types investigated in their proceeding gerund or infinitive application. In fact, a post structuralism semantic analysis based on multiple interpretation rather than a single interpretation is also needed to take into account the hows and whys in the real commination in which the native English speakers/ writers undertake different kinds of commitment by choosing one or the other of the two forms rather than selecting only one form in certain contexts. Seemingly, implications of this study can act as a departure point for textbook designers in grammar studies, linguists and ELT teachers, to name few, (Noguchi, R. (1991), to consider the complexity embedded in grammar issues without making them simplistic, decontextualized, universal and monolithic in predictable rules.

References

Azer, B. (1998). Understanding and Using English Grammar. Third Edition. Longman. Noguchi, R. (1991). Grammar and the teaching of writing: limits and possibilities. Urbana: NCTE.

Reid,W.(1995). The Logic of Quantitative Analysis in Colombia School Theory. In E. Contini- Morava and B.S. Goldberg (eds.) Meaning as Explanation: Advances in Linguistic Sign Theory. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum., S.,Leech, G. and Svartik, J. (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London:Longman.

Appendix A. A Sample ( Verb: Love)

Type of Verb High Ing/Gerund Intensified High Infinitive Intensified

"They have always put on a good show and the players love coming here. I have no doubt that we can impress the IOC."( Reuters: Nov 27, 2012 Olympics-Squash under the IOC microscope in Hong Kong )

She's currently pitching to more investors, and says she enjoys the challenge: "It takes a certain personality to love eoine in front of people who fire questions point-blank at you and let them dig into your finances. " (Reuters : Oct 29, 2012, Insider's Guide to How to Fund Your Start up, By Vanessa Richardson) V

Egyptians love to shop and bareainine is a national art form. Everything can be bargained for, from carpets to gold to trinkets to bottled water, cigarettes and popsicles. Join in: It's a great opportunity to get to know local people and their ways.( Reuters, Oct 22, 2012, Cross-cultural communiqué: Bargaining and boozing in Cairo) V V

"I love drinking Chinese tea. The car allows me to make tea and drink it while I'm traveling," said Tan, adding that both are "unique and satisfying" creature comforts that she had always wanted. ( Reuters, Oct 11, 2012, Asia's rich crave luxury hand-crafted cars from Malaysia By Anuradha Raghu) V

Men who love eatine tomatoes may have lower odds of suffering a stroke, according to a Finnish study. ( Reuters: Dec 5, 2012, Tomato compound tied to lower stroke risk: study By Euan Rocha) V

Kei is so quick and he was reading my serves well, which doesn't usually happen. I love comine to Japan and thanks Japan for inventing sushi. I love it." (Reuters: Oct 7, 2012 , UPDATE 2-Tennis-Nishikori rips Raonic to win Japan Open) V