Discourse Conditioned Tense Variation

Teacher Implications
  • Nathalie Bailey
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


Grammar in its broadest definition is a form—meaning relationship, and there is almost nothing in language that is outside of that domain. Rutherford (1987a) speaks of language learning as the intersection of three systems: grammar, semantics, and discourse. He identifies semantics and discourse as the forces that shape language form and comprise the context within which the language learner becomes conscious of grammar. Rutherford’s position tends to separate grammar from meaning by regarding grammar as form only. On the other hand, he recasts the relationship of form and meaning by triangulating it with discourse function. Larsen-Freeman (1987) also uses a three-part system to analyze the notion of learning difficulty in second-language learning. She claims that for any grammatical structure, either form, meaning, or pragmatics will be the key or essential learning difficulty. This position reflects growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all of the elements of language. This is a necessary stage of consciousness-raising on the part of both second-language acquirers and re¬searchers and one to which this chapter contributes. It remains to be seen whether a three-part division of language is superior to a two-level analysis: form—meaning or form—function.


Level Figure Main Clause Personal Story Subordinate Clause Imitation Task 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bailey, N. (1987). The importance of meaning over form in second language system building: An unresolved issue. Ph.D. thesis. Graduate Center, City University of New York.Google Scholar
  2. Bailey, N., Madden C., and Krashen, S. (1974). Is there a `natural sequence’ in second language acquisition? Language Learning, 25, 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Clark, E. (1970). How children describe events in time. In F. D’Arcais and W. Levelt (Eds.), Advances in psycholinguistics (pp. 275–284 ). New York: American Elsevier.Google Scholar
  4. Comrie, B. (1976). Aspect. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Eisenstein, M., Bailey N., and Madden, C. (1982). It takes two: Contrasting tasks and contrasting structures. TESOL Quarterly, /6, 381–393.Google Scholar
  6. Ellis, R. (1986). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Frith, M. B. ( 1977 ). A study of form and function at two stages of developing interlanguages. Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.Google Scholar
  7. Givon, T. (1979). On understanding grammar. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  8. Halliday, M. (1976). The English verbal group. In G. Kress (Ed.), Halliday: System and function in language. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Hatch, E. (1974). Second language—universals? Working Papers in Bilingualism, 3, 1–17. Hatori, H., Horiguchi, T., Itoh, K., Kanatani, K., Noda, T., Murai, M, and Yutaka, Y., (1987).Google Scholar
  10. Acquisition of English tense and aspect: In the case of Japanese learners of English (Interlan guage Development Research Project, Report No, 1). Tokyo: Tokyo Gakugei University.Google Scholar
  11. Hopper, P., and Thompson, S. (1980). Transitivity in grammar and discourse. Language. 56. 251 299.Google Scholar
  12. Huebner, T. (1985). A longitudinal analysis of the acquisition of English. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kucera, H., and Francis, N. (1967). Computational analysis of present-day American English. Prov¬idence, RI: Brown University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Labov, W. (1972). Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English vernacular. Philadel¬phia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  15. Larsen-Freeman, D. (1976). ESL teacher speech input to the ESL Learner. Workpapers in TESL, UCLA.Google Scholar
  16. Larsen-Freeman, D. (1987, December). Developing strategies for teaching grammar. Plenary ad¬dress at Grammar Teaching and Grammar Learning conference, Atlanta, Georgia.Google Scholar
  17. Lightbown, P., and Spada, N. (1979). Can language acquisition be altered by instruction? In K. Hyltenstam and M. Pienemann (Eds.), Modelling and assessing second language acquisition (pp. 101–112 ). San Diego, CA: College-Hill Press.Google Scholar
  18. Olshtain, E. (1979). The acquisition of the English progressive: A case study of a seven-year-old Hebrew speaker. Working Papers in Bilingualism, 18, 81–102.Google Scholar
  19. Pica, T. (1983). Adult acquisition of English as a second language under different conditions of exposure. Language Learning, 33, 465–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rutherford, W. (1987a). Second language grammar: Learning and teaching. New York: Longman. Wagner-Gough, J. ( 1975 ). Comparative studies in second language learning. Unpublished mas¬ter’s thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  21. Wagner-Gough, J., and Hatch, E. (1975). The importance of input data in second language acqui¬sition studies. Language Learning, 25, 277–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Woisetschlaeger, E. (1980). A semantic theory of the English auxiliary system. Bloomington: The Indiana University Linguistics Club.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathalie Bailey
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Puerto Rican Studies Department and ESL ProgramLehman CollegeBronxUSA
  2. 2.Ph.D. Program in LinguisticsGraduate Center of CUNYNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations