Why manufactured sentences?

In one of his talks, Michael Lewis (The English Verb, etc.), claimed that the most popular grammar book in the world is totally made up of manufactured sentences.

He didn’t mention the name of that book, but can anyone here tell me which one he was referring to? Any guesses? Probably Murphy? And why would anyone want to create a grammar book of manufactured sentences when we have so many real examples out there?

Most people believe they can learn a second language through a ‘structure approach’. People want security, guidance and clarity. That’s why they always think they can ‘study grammar’ and they usually transfer the grammar patterns of their mother tongue onto English. Since the vast majority of ESL learners think they need to learn grammar rules, linguists and ESL publishers create products that address this need. Their books are full with sentences that follow all the grammar rules they ESL speaker look for. It doesn’t matter that those sentence are artificial because ESL learners don’t want authentic materials.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening lectures: A lecture from a science class[YSaerTTEW443543]

Another way to look at things is that novels – novels by John Grisham, for example – are also made up of “manufactured” sentences. The author has to manufacture not only the story, but also the way it is put into words (including dialogue, of course). :wink:

Heck, I “manufactured” this post just for you, Molly. :lol:

But which came first, Torsten, the chicken or the egg? Did the linguists and ESL publishers, educationalists, etc. create the need for people to learn structures, or was it the other way round?

I don’t find that at all. Many of our students do indeed want and need “authentic” items.

I wouldn’t call this manufactured in the sense of seen for the first time, unfamilIar, unreal, PLASTIC:

Just look at those collocations:

The rolling hills of southeast Oklahoma[color=blue] stretch from Norman across [color=blue]to Arkansas and show little evidence of the vast deposits of crude oil that were once beneath them. Some old rigs dot the countryside; the active ones churn on, pumping out a few gallons [color=brown]with each slow [color=brown]turn and [color=red]prompting a passerby [color=red]to ask if the effort is really worth it.

Seems familiar, right?

Maybe you didn’t quite catch Torsten’s drift.

Anyway, how do you implement authentic materials and introduce them to your learners?

Can you explain his drift then?

Maybe later in the thread or for a separate thread, if you don’t mind, R. At the moment I’d like to find out which book Lewis is referring to and the answer to this “why would anyone want to create a grammar book of manufactured sentences when we have so many real examples out there?”.

Would you take plastic flowers into the classroom if you wanted to teach biology?

Or a model of the double helix, if you wanted to explain the structure of DNA?

Well, apparently so…


Can you go out and touch DNA? How can you experience DNA?

So the plastic flowers would be OK by you, right? If I want to experience what a garden feels like, you’d fill a space with plastic flowers and ask me to wander through it, would you?

Quite easily, with salt, alcohol, washing up liquid, and a kiwi fruit. But to demonstrate the structure, Watson and Crick’s model is clearly superior.

If you want to learn about the structure of flowers, I’m sure plastic kits are available; but it would probably be easier to use an illustration.

Once you’ve mastered the structure, we can take you out into the garden and show you the structure of some real flowers. (But you will find it easier if we look at illustrations first.)


And do you find that having grammar books full of manufactured sentences is an example of clearly superior model? How would those manufactured sentences help me understand the language better than real/used examples would?

And why not the other way round?

Are you also opposed to novels, M?

Only those written in Mandarin, Amy. Can’t read a word of Mandarin.

Since neither of us knows, apparently, which book Lewis disliked, we are neither of us in a position to say whether they are “manufactured”, “superior”, or not “real/used”.

Because the illustration presents a generalised view that can be applied in many cases. A particular case presents only a particular case.


Indeed not, but have you come across grammar books which are only composed of manufactured sentences?

No one real rose is like another? Is that what you’re saying?

All sentences are manufactured.

With one generalised illustration, we can explain the structure of many different kinds of plant. With a real rose, we can explain the structure of a rose.


Really? What do you understand by “manufactured”?

That which is characteristic of all sentences.


And with plastic roses we can show what a rose is not.