The Challenges of Existing Syntactic Models for English Language Teaching and Learning in Nigeria

Roseline Abonego Adejare


A recent survey of existing syntactic models shows that none accurately describes the syntax of the English language
that people actually use and that they inhibit rather than promote knowledge of natural language by creating a gap
between what should be taught and learned and what obtains. To demonstrate this gap, this paper critically examines
four recommended senior secondary school English course books to determine the extent to which they reflect
existing syntactic models’ descriptive inadequacies, and highlights the implications for language education in
Nigeria. Using the emerging Natural Language Linguistics (NLL) model as analytical tool, each book was carefully
examined to identify topics on the syntactic units: sentence, clause and group. These were then critically studied,
paying great attention to definitions, descriptive statements, models, and examples, and noting common features and
differences. The bits of information pieced together constitute the data. Findings show inconsistency in model
application, no uniformity in, and consensus on, the number and nomenclature of syntactic units, terminological
confusion, descriptive inaccuracies, typological inexactness, incorrect definitions, wrong and inappropriate examples,
and confusion between constituents and elements of structure. The absence of a clear-cut distinction between phrase
and clause and between clause and sentence in existing syntactic models, which reflected in the books, explains the
shortcomings that potentially limit learners’ knowledge and use ability. Only a syntactic model that accurately
mirrors natural language structure can positively promote language education in the Nigerian context where course
books are the most important English teaching-learning resource.

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International Journal of English Language Teaching ISSN 2329-7913 (Print) ISSN 2329-7921 (Online)

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