How To Do Things With Grammar: Rhetorical Function of Some Grammatical Categories in English

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Summer 2012


The debate on the role of grammar training in the language curriculum has shown that, at least in the last five decades, a part of the disagreement between the supporters of the opposite camps is based on conflicting assumptions about the meaning and sense of some of the terms of the discussion. Three of them will be considered in this dissertation as those that, once redefined, can yield a new perspective on how explicit grammar training can be integrated in the English curriculum. They are: (a) the scope of grammar and linguistics; (b) literacy itself, and (c) the objectives of the language curriculum. In this dissertation, grammar is claimed to be a pedagogical tool that can be used by students as well as teachers to do things: linguistic observations, analyses, transformations, and productions. This educational paradigm is based on a conceptualization of grammar and linguistics as the set of knowledge and analytical tools that functionally connect linguistic forms to socio-cultural context as well as pragmatic and rhetorical features. Literacy, in its widest sense, is redefined as the skill of attributing meaning to reality according to different semiotic codes. The objective of the language curriculum is to build a transferable metalinguistic awareness that enables learners to consciously observe and use linguistic variation not only in already familiar textual fields and communicative contexts, but also in others new to their experience. A set of grammatical categories roughly recognizable by both traditional grammars and new trends of linguistic research are the foci around which texts, mainly inductive observations and reflections, and re-writing activities are used to build a developmental linguistic competence, substantiated as the aforementioned transferable metalinguistic awareness. In order to underpin the theoretical elaboration that generated the pedagogical proposal with direct experiences in the class-room, a self-study is presented. As an application of the qualitative methodology of the narrative inquiry, the dialectical relationship between researcher, literature, and object of study is investigated through a hermeneutical analysis of the story of the production and testing of the material. The researcher's cultural and academic background, the transformation of the researcher's stance and attitudes in relation to the diverse sources of the debate about grammar, the researcher's expectations, and observations of students' reactions to materials generated compose the object of the qualitative analysis.


Salvatore Attardo

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities