Grammatical Syllabus and its Major Limitations

Grammatical Syllabus is a synthetic syllabus and its contents are product-oriented. It is the most common syllabus type in which syllabus input is selected and graded according to grammatical notions of simplicity and complexity. The most rigid grammatical syllabus introduces one item at a time to the learners and requires mastery of that item before moving on to the next. The transmission from lesson to lesson is intended to enable material in one lesson to prepare the ground for the next and conversely for material in the next to appear to grow out of the previous one.

Assumption Behind Gram. Syllabus 

1)   Language consists of a finite set of rules which can be combined in various ways to make meaning.
2)   These grammatical rules can be learned one by one, in an additive fashion; each item can be mastered on its own and later incorporated into learner’s pre-existing stock of knowledge.
3)   The principal purpose of language teaching is to help the learners to “crack the ode” i.e. to deduct the structural properties of a language, learn them break and incorporate them again.
4)    Once the learner has internalized the formal aspects of the target language, they will automatically be able to use it in genuine communication outside the classroom.

One difficulty the grammatical designers pointed out that, it is difficult to isolate and present one discrete item at a time, particularly if one wants to provide some sort of context for the language. Nunan suggests a solution that, learners would be exposed to naturalistic samples of text which were only roughly graded, and which provided a richer context, but learners would only be expected formally to master those items which had been isolated, graded and set out in the syllabus.

Pieneman and Johnstone has given a model for teaching grammatical items

Stage 1- Single word and formula

Stage 2- Standard order. For English Sub+V+Obj

Stage 3- Initialization and Finalization: Final elements can be moved into initial position or vie versa. E.g-Words such as adverbs can be added to the beginning or end of the clause.

Stage 4- Semi-internal permutation: Internal elements can be moved to initial or final position. e.g- words can be moved from inside the clause to the beginning or end of the clause.

Stage 5- Fully Internal Permutation: Items can be moved about within a clause.


(1)               Grading

Grading contents according to grammatical notions of simplicity and complexity is defective because what is grammatically simple will not necessarily be that which is easy to learn.

(2)        Finite Rules
The assumption at language is a finite set of rules is wrong because there are other aspects of language. The grammatical syllabus highlights only one aspects of language that is formal grammar and not the total complex-phenomenon, language.

     (3)    1-to-1 (Form Function)
There is no one-to-one relationship between form and function. One   form can be used to mean many functions and samely one function can be served in many forms. This 1 form-many function; 1 function-many form increases complexity.

      (4)    In-Built Syllabus

When learner’s “in built syllabus” differs from grammatical syllabus, it will not be helpful for learners. Grammatically structured syllabus doesn’t always conform to learner’s “inbuilt syllabus” –by which he will organize the aspects of learning for himself.

  (5)     Input as Chunk, Globally (Not step by step)

Learner’s input is not step by step taken. It is globally taken. Learners don’t learn or intake items as separate or discrete. They take the whole chunk of the input. Because it is impossible to expose a learner step by step to a particular structure of grammar in real life communication or class room. So grammar should be process based, not product based.