The conceptual importance of grammar: Knowledge-related rationales for grammar teaching

Jimmy van Rijt, Peter-Arno J. M. Coppen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Knowledge about Language (KaL) is an important part of L1 language education around the world. A controversial part of KaL is grammatical or syntactic knowledge, i.e., knowledge about the form, meaning and use of sentences and phrases. In the current international discourse on L1 grammar teaching, grammar is principally motivated by the desire to enhance students’ literacy development, befitting the communicative turn in mother tongue education and following high quality research which has shown that contextualized grammar teaching can impact on students’ writing development. However, there are also other potentially meaningful reasons to teach grammar, which remain underresearched and underdiscussed in curriculum discussions: (1) the general importance of language justifies that L1 speakers understand how their language works; (2) grammar teaching provides more insight into the workings of the human mind; (3) grammar teaching can be used to facilitate students’ reasoning and stimulate their critical thinking abilities. These reasons for teaching grammar do not necessarily relate to literacy development; rather, they pertain to a general conceptual importance of knowledge about grammar. This paper explores these arguments and argues, partly based on empirical evidence from recent research, that knowledge-related rationales deserve a more prominent place in curriculum discussions about grammar teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-199
JournalPedagogical Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


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