Towards a Discourse Grammar in Language Teaching


Language is often simply defined as a means of communication. However, communication is a highly complex and intricate process that involves an adequate mastery of a number of linguistic and non-linguistic components. Knowing a language that can effectively be used for successful communication includes, among other things, attaining a functional knowledge of the various language systems including the syntactic system, or the grammar of the language in the narrow sense of the term. The scope of traditional grammar has been confined to sentence structure. That is probably why this approach to grammar has been referred to as sentence-based grammar. However, teaching this form of grammar contributes to the development of learners’ grammatical competence rather than to their communicative ability. This paper argues for integrating discourse grammar in language teaching, and provides evidence to support the role that discourse grammar plays in developing foreign language learners’ communicative competence. Specifically, this paper attempts to answer the following questions: (1) What does it mean to know a language? (2) What are the differences between sentence-based grammar and discourse grammar? (3) Why do foreign language teachers, curriculum designers and textbook writers accord more prominence to sentence-based grammar than to discourse grammar in teaching foreign languages? (4) What extra linguistic aspects does discourse grammar offer to language teaching that sentence-based grammar does not? In other words, what are the justifications for incorporating discourse grammar in foreign language teaching?


Shehdeh Fareh




  1. Armostis, Spyros. (2013). ‘Communicative competence’., Posted by Spyros Armostis on May 7th, 2013.
  2. Bardovi-Harlig, Kathleen, Zoltanb Dörnyei. (1997). ‘Pragmatic Awareness and Instructed L2 Learning: An empirical investigation’. Paper presented at the AAAL 1997 Conference, Orlando.
  3. Canale, Michael, and Merrill Swain. (1980). ‘Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing’. Applied Linguistics 1, 1-47.
  4. Cook, Guy. (2004). Discourse. Oxford: OUP.
  5. De Beaugrande, Robert, and Wolfgang Dressler. (1981). Introduction to Text Linguistics. London: Longman.
  6. Ellis, Rod. (1986) Second Language Acquisition and Language Pedagogy. Bristol: The Longman Press Ltd.
  7. Grice, Paul. (1975). ‘Logic and conversation’. In Peter Cole and J. Morgan (eds.), Speech Acts. Syntax and Semantics, (1975:41-58). Vol. 3. New York: Academic Press. /li>
  8. Hughes, Rebecca and Michael McCarthy. (1998). ‘From sentence to discourse: Discourse grammar and English language teaching’. TESOL Quarterly, 32 (2): 263-287.
  9. Hymes, Dell. (1966). ‘Two Types of Linguistic Relativity’. In William Bright (ed.). Sociolinguistics, 114–158. The Hague: Mouton.
  10. Hymes, Dell. (1972). ‘On communicative competence’. In J. B. Pride and Janet Holmes (eds.). Sociolinguistics: Selected Readings, 269-293. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  11. Karimnia, Amin and Marziyeh Izadparast, (2007). ‘On communicative and linguistic competence’. International Journal of Communication (New Delhi: Bahri). Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  12. Krisnawati, Ekaning. (2011). ‘Pragmatic competence in the spoken English classroom’. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1 (1):100-110.
  13. Lakoff, Robin. (1973). ‘The Logic of politeness: Minding your p’s and q’s. Papers from the 9th Regional Meetin, 292-305. Chicago Linguistics Society.
  14. Leung, Constant. (2005). ‘Convivial communication: Recontextualizing communicative competence’. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 15 (2): 119–144.
  15. Mariani, Luciano. (1994). ‘Developing strategic competence: Autonomy in oral interaction’. Perspectives, A Journal of TESOL Italy, 20 (1), June, 1994.
  16. Savignon, Sandra (1997). Communicative Competence: Theory and Classroom Practice: Texts and Contexts in Second Language Learning (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  17. Vellenga, Heidi. (2004). ‘Learning pragmatics from ESL & EFL textbooks: How likely?’ TESL-EJ (Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language), 8 (2): 1-18.