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ERIC Number: EJ869394
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Dec
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 21
ISSN: ISSN-1175-8708
Navigational Metalanguages for New Territory in English: The Potential of Grammatics
Macken-Horarik, Mary
English Teaching: Practice and Critique, v8 n3 p55-69 Dec 2009
This paper takes up the sea-faring metaphor at the centre of this special edition and asks what kinds of navigational tools (metalanguages) are necessary to steer English through the digital seas of contemporary communication. Much of this territory is yet to be mapped and the disciplinary "boat" is buffeted by contrary winds such as pressures for improved outcomes on the basics and development of 21st-century digital skills. The role of grammar as a navigational aid is complicated by these competing pressures. Alongside developing metalanguages to explore digital literacy practices in Web2, in multimodal texts like picture books, websites and social networking sites, teachers are being asked simultaneously to prepare students for national testing regimes which assess children's abilities to identify the correct verb, to underline the pronouns and to punctuate sentences in language convention tests. What kinds of grammar will enable us to manage such seemingly incongruous purposes? How do we make use of tools to improve students' writing without succumbing to reductionist models of language? What kinds of "stretch" do available grammars need if they are to prove useful as tools in this environment? In this paper, I draw on a range of students' verbal, visual and multimodal texts to investigate the issues facing adaptations of grammatically informed metalanguages in English. I attempt to show how such metalanguages will need to accommodate and account for verbal texts produced by students for assessment and multimodal texts produced by young learners in less formal, even play, situations. Basing my account on Halliday's notion of "grammatics", I argue that any navigational toolkit needs to make space for both convention and innovation, but that this process requires careful thinking, dialogue across different grammars and substantive research into semiosis in school English. (Contains 4 figures.)
Wilf Malcolm Institute for Educational Research, University of Waikato. PB 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand. Tel: +64-7-858-5171; Fax: +64-7-838-4712; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia