Linguistics in schools

Theoretical linguistics in secondary education


Workshop proposal for SLE 2018, Tallinn, Estonia (29 Aug-1 Sept 2018)

Call deadline: Sunday 5 November 2017

Workshop: Theoretical linguistics in secondary education

Convenors: Alice Corr & Anna Pineda

Keynote speakers: Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin University), Norma Schifano (Cambridge), and Jonathan Kasstan (QMUL).

The full call for papers can be downloaded here: CfP Theoretical linguistics in secondary education SLE 2018.


Research and understanding from the language sciences has traditionally found its way into the secondary education context as a means to promote literary, literacy and communicative skills in students. The natural ‘home’ of linguistics in the secondary context has therefore been within the study of the official language(s) of the country/region, and modern foreign language instruction. As such, the promotion of linguistics in schools tends to be associated with applied, rather than theoretical, approaches and their practitioners.

However, the recent push to introduce theoretical linguistics into the secondary curriculum rejects this instrumental deployment of linguistic understanding in the classroom in favour of the promotion of a more reflexive understanding of how language, and the human mind, works. For example, the initiative Grammar Oriented toward Competences (GrOC) has put forward a new typology of exercises to replace those typically found in the Catalonian secondary classroom; thus students analyse minimal pairs (e.g. Cat. És professor (*intransigent) ‘(lit.) He is (inflexible) teacher’ vs. És un professor (intransigent) ‘He is a(n) (inflexible) teacher’; quasi infinit ‘almost infinite’ vs. *molt infinit ‘very infinite’) with the aim of developing their ability to observe, argue, reflect on and understand grammatical structures (Bosque & Gallego 2016).

Key questions around which the workshop will be centred are the following:

  • What is the purpose of incorporating theoretical linguistics into secondary-level T&L? What will be beneficial to secondary students in terms of the type of knowledge and analytic skills provided by theoretical linguistics? Which types of curricular competences and learning outcomes will be targeted in each case?
  • How might theoretical linguistics be incorporated into cross-curricular approaches, or in other disciplines altogether?
  • How might its place in other educational contexts be promoted and justified to a non-specialist audience? Would its introduction be favoured by ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ approaches, and how context-sensitive do these need to be? How might existing and/or future ventures be built on and connected in order to effect systemic and policy change on a wider scale?
  • How much say should theoretical linguists have? What will the interaction with educational practitioners be? How much input will researchers have into modifying/ (re-)designing curricula and pedagogical materials? How might the issue of teacher training be tackled?

To ensure the bridging of theory and practice, case studies from initiatives that have already been implemented, or are in progress, are therefore especially welcomed. The workshop welcomes proposals within a breadth of focus, including the treatment of language diversity. How can comparative linguistics at a very basic level help students understand language variation and reflect on how grammar works?

Important information

Contributors are invited to submit their short abstracts (max. 300 words) to Alice Corr and Anna Pineda by 5 November 2017. Notification of workshop review (acceptance/rejection): 15 December 2017. Please notice that after a workshop proposal has been accepted, the convenors will be requested to invite all preliminary workshop participants to submit their full abstracts by 15 January 2018 to the general call for papers. Accepted workshop proposals will be published on the conference webpage.


Bosque, Ignacio & Ángel J. Gallego. 2016. “La aplicación de la gramática en el aula. Recursos didácticos clásicos y modernos para la enseñanza de la gramática”. Revista de Lingüística Teórica y Aplicada 54(2): 63-83.
Chomsky, Noam. 1984. “Noam Chomsky writes to Mrs. Davis about grammar and education”. English Education 16(3):165-166.
Denham, Kristin & Anne Lobeck (eds.). 2010. Linguistics at school: Language awareness in primary and secondary education. Cambridge University Press.
Hudson, Richard. 2007. “How Linguistics Has Influenced Schools in England.” Language and Linguistic Compass 1(4), 227–242.