Grammar teaching in Russia


  •  [Natalia Kondrashova in 1997]
    • [Do schools teach word classification or identification of grammatical functions?] In response to your query I can inform you that in Russia (and in former USSR) such classes were part of obligatory program. Word categories are introduced very early, in first or second grade. Later on, in 6-7th grade and later the program deals with morphological structure of these categories in greatest detail. Declensional and conjugational morphology is studied even earlier. Basic grammatical functions (subj, obj, predicate) used to be introduced in grade 3, it may be done earlier now. Then they gradually introduce all sort of modifiers, attributes, etc., so that by the time students reach 8th grade they get an enormous amount of information about all sorts of structures, describing relations between words and between clauses as well.
    • [diagramming of sentence structure.] This was not done in my early school days, but I guess about 20 years ago they started giving students simple diagrams, mainly showing subject-predicate relation and rudimentary parsing.
    • Another comment is that these programs were in force since when the USSR was established and were obligatory for everyone. Recently there has been more flexibility in curricula across schools, so in some schools they might be starting this instruction even earlier (with 5 year olds), but in others in may have remained as it used to be. Also the hours spent on this would vary now, I presume. But generally, this is a deep-rooted tradition and I expect it to last for some time at least.
    • How successful is it? This is a hard one. I think it is mildly successful in teaching people some basic linguistic notions. (E.g. everyone in Russia knows the meaning of the word “case”, whereas I always have a hard time with Americans (non-linguists) when I mention my work on Dative subjects — those who took Latin at school are doing better, though). On the other hand, (I, probably, should have mentioned this earlier) since the main goal of this instruction is to teach the students the “right” orthography and punctuation (in Russian the former is based mainly on morphological information, and the latter on syntactic relations), the programs are not linguistically illuminating and consist largely of memorizing sets or rules. In my opinion, even the main goal of teaching orthography is not very successful, although it’s hard to say — control is missing from the experiment.
  • Patrick Sériot in 2017, reporting information from two colleagues:
    • Both said that children were taught syntax, but they disagreed about whether this was based on constituent structure or on dependency structure (but with the verb depending on its subject, as in several American systems).
    • He himself adds that “the opposition between constituent and dependency grammars was known in pre-revolutionary and Soviet Russia as a choice between « school grammar » and « scientific grammar », with linguists lamenting the fact that dependency grammar was not taught in schools, the subject-predicate model being a « slavish imitation of Western European grammars ». Dependency grammars were used by nationalist slavophile grammarians to reject the subject-predicate scheme, seen as an abstract logician invention, unable to describe the specificities of the Russian language.”
  • See also information about the notation for sentence analysis used in Russia.

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