Monday, 3 March 2014

Grammar exercise books: how debate is dressed up as certainty

Enjoying browsing booklets sold to parents and teachers to do with grammar, spelling and punctuation. They are in essence worksheets bound together. Someone should do a history of the worksheet. The great thing about worksheets is the apparent certainty of what is being 'taught'. There are only right and wrong answers. This becomes amusing when you come across a category or term that you know is contested by people who know something about the subject.

One example: my, your, her, his. In my day (1950s and 60s) these were called 'possessive pronouns'. Many linguists now say that this is a nonsense because they are not 'pronouns' as they do not substitute for 'nouns'. So they prefer to call them 'possessive determiners' ie analogous to other words that we put in front of nouns eg a, an, the, same, both - and perhaps the numbers 'one', 'two' etc...

Meanwhile, the hacks who write these bound-up grammar books put these categories and terms in front of teachers and kids as if they are definite and certain categories - and who cares a damn that they might be oversimplifications, illogical or inaccurate! Who cares that they don't take any notice of what the latest thought and wisdom on the matter from people trying to make sense of a very difficult and complex subject.