Toward the Comprehension-based Teaching of English Grammar


Masashi Kawashima (Nihon University)





This presentation intends to let the traditional grammar take in some theoretical proposals made in scientific grammar. The study of the generative grammar is not to be applied to the second language acquisition, as we can see from Chomsky-Piaget debate, but some of its insights may make unscientific, irrational traditional grammar more intelligible and easier to acquire. I will propose the ‘comprehension-based grammar’ by introducing and discussing a unique grammar teaching method in Japan by means of a predicate analysis dubbed ‘Five Sentence Forms’:


Sentence Form 1: Stars Twinkle. (Subject-Verb)

Sentence Form 2: James is kind. (Subject-Verb-Complement)

Sentence Form 3: Cats catch mice. (Subject-Verb-Object)

Sentence Form 4: He gave me a dog. (Subject-Verb-Object-Object)

Sentence Form 5: People call him Uncle Sam. (Subject-Verb-Object-Complement)


These forms were introduced into Japan in 1917 and have been taught as the fundamentals of English grammar for over 100 years. Even now, this way of teaching grammar is so popular in Japan that teachers and students believe that the forms are taught all over the world. However, the five forms are not well organized and give a hard time to both the teachers and the students acquiring them.

In this presentation I will attempt to show the problems of the classification of the Five Sentence Forms and propose a better alternative, which can make grammar teaching more rational.