Reflection 3: Chunks & OSSCACPOMP

Reflection focussed on chunks based on lesson 5: Students’ Written Competencies: Functional Grammar & Interlanguage Analysis on the 2nd of March 2018.

I am interested in language use which is normally culturally-bound or at least bound together through meaning. By that I mean, that they make sense for native speakers, but easily cause confusion for language learners BUT can be a great tool for noticing language, language acquisition in context and a ‘fuller’ comprehension. Firstly, I will focus on chunks, thereafter the order of adjectives.

Chunks (also known as formulaic language) are a group of words that can be found together in language. For example idioms, collocations and verb patterns. Chunks are common phrases and expressions used to modify and manipulate when expressing ideas. Chunks are important to notice and learn because they are very frequent and they are necessary. Learning chunks will make you sound more natural.

Some very common chunks are:

  • …you know…
  • …the thing is…
  • …or something…
  • I mean,…
  • You see…
  • I see…

Looking for chunks can be done as an exercise, but for it to be a successful task for the learner it’s important, that the learner is familiar with the context & there’s a real interest.

Learning English should be about connection not perfection, thus here’s a little list of chunks regarding worry and concern:

  • Thank you for your concern…
  • I wouldn’t worry about it too much…
  • Don’t sweat it.
  • You had me worried.
  • No worries.
  • My main concern is…
  • This doesn’t concern you…
  • To whom it may concern…

But chunks are also great to learn in order to understand words with multiple meanings and usages e.g. even:

  • To get even…
  • I can’t even…
  • …can’t even comprehend…
  • … even so…
  • … not even…

Learning words and phrases as a chunk without necessarily understanding the grammatical structure i.e., learning where and when to say them, can be used as a functional approach to being able to use a language early (earlier). A good way of doing so is using chunks for asking questions e.g.:

  • How do you say…in….?
  • What does …mean in…?
  • How do you spell…?
  • I forget my…
  • Can I borrow a…
  • I need a …
  • Can I go to the bathroom?
  • I’m not feeling well?
  • What page?

Finally, I’d like to share this ‘rule of thumb’, that I stumbled upon a while back, OSSCACPOMP, the general order of adjectives before a noun is the following:

  1. Opinion; delicious, repulsive, pretty, boring, strange…
  2. Size; large, tall, tiny, deep, medium, deep…
  3. Shape; round, heavy, long square, narrow…
  4. Condition; cold, empty, bumpy, messy, rich…
  5. Age; younger, old, modern, current, antique…
  6. Colour; blue, bright, colourful, blonde, white…
  7. Pattern; striped, polka-dotted, flowery, chevron…
  8. Origin; British, American, Mexican, Canadian…
  9. Material; Wooden, gold, plastic, glass…
  10. Purpose; tap (shoes), sewing (machine), tennis (court)…

This list can help to organise the adjectives, when things described in detail, doesn’t sound quite right.

Cheat Sheet #2

Reflections on Step-by-Step With Functional Grammar by Fiona Kettle-Muspratt, in the same style as the previous Cheat Sheet (#1), but this time focussed on processes, participants, circumstances, describers and qualifiers

The field of expressing language has ideational meaning. To figure out what is going on, functional grammar usually divides parts field  participants, processes and circumstances into colours (See beneath). In order to figure out which is which, the same three probe questions can be asked:

  • To find the participant(s):
    • “Who or what?”
  • To find the process(es):
    • “What is happening?”
  • To find the circumstance(s):
    • “Where, when, how, why?”


Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 16.31.34

(Figure, p. 11)


The Participants

  • Noun group
  • The people or entities involved
  • The participants can be:
    • Sensing (feeling) or experiencing something
    • The one acting in the sentence
    • Can be the receiver of an action (impacted or affected by)
    • Saying something
  • Participants are linked by processes realised by verbs


The Processes

  • Verbal group
  • Halliday identified 6 process types (2004) :
    • Material – processes of doing (work, arrest, erupt, climb, elect…) 
    • Relational – processes of being and having (be, have, stand …) 
    • Mental – processes of sensing and feeling (feel, think, wish, believe …) 
    • Verbal – processes of saying (say, tell, report, write, command, deny…) 
    • Behavioural – processes of human behaviour (sleep, cough, look, listen…) 
    • Existential – processes which are signalled by there, such as there is/there are


The Circumstances

  • Adverbial group
  • Any further details in the clause? Circumstances answers:
    • When
    • Why
    • Where
    • How


Kettle-Muspratt present this worksheet/grid concept, that can be extended to expose the students to the range of functional groups in the nominal group.

Here are some examples:

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Halliday, M.A.K. & Matthiessen, C.M.I.M.. (2004): Introduction to Functional Grammar  (3rd Edition). London: Arnold.

Kettle-Muspratt, F. (2009): Step-by-step With Functional Grammar.

Functional Grammar – Introduction

Reflections on Introduction (chapter 1; pp. 1-11) from A New Grammar Companion by Beverly Derewianka

Chapter 1 in Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers (2015) introduces the book, its form and its chapters. The book can be used in several ways, but especially for those who are interested in either the meaning or the form of English grammar. The meaning behind grammar teaching focusses on the linguistic choices created for certain meanings. Grammar is reviewed as a resources; “(…) an array of possibilities from which we can choose” (p.1).

Functional grammar teaching is a…

  • sociological perspective*
  • language perspective, and a
  • pedagogical perspective

*Sociological perspective as learners can (and should be able to) use language to achieve a range of social purposes such as describing, explaining, arguing and recounting.

When using a functional perspective:

  • Language is a dynamic, complex system of resources for making meaning.
  • Language reflects the culture in which it has evolved. It is not a neutral medium, but expresses certain world views, values, beliefs and attitudes.
  • Our language choices change from situation to situation, depending on the social purpose for which language is being used, the subject matter, who is involved, and whether the language is spoken or written.
  • The emphasis in language study is on how people use authentic language in various contexts in real life to achieve their purposes.
  • The particular focus will be on the language needed for successful participation in school contexts.
  • A knowledge of grammar can help us to critically evaluate our own texts and those of others (eg identifying point of view; examining how language can be manipulated to achieve certain effects and position the reader in different ways; knowing how language can be used to construct various identities or a particular way of viewing the world).


What language does and what it is needed for:

  • For achieving different social purposes
  • For sharing ideas about their experience of the world
  • For making connections between these ideas
  • For interacting with others
  • And for constructing coherent texts in both spoken and written modes.

The language choices made are naturally influenced by the context. The context includes the purpose, field, tenor and mode. The figure beneath shows how a text is typically shaped (how, and why). The social purpose covers genre and characteristics thereof, thus the entire text and all it’s elements (read: context) is shaped by the social purpose of itself.  Building the field influence that linguistic choices one has to express and connect ideas (knowledge), thus if the teacher is asking a learner to deliver a certain type of text, the “field” is where scaffolding ought to be done (if need be) e.g., to equip the learner with a broadened vocabulary (p.6). The tenor concerns the actual roles presented and their relationships with each other e.g., occupation, titles, intimate vs. distant relations. Finally the mode of the context has to do with creating a coherent and cohesive text, which is different from fluent and spontaneous verbal language.

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 16.37.47

The chapter also introduces the levels of language (and their relation to each other), divided into the following:

  • Text
  • Sentence
  • Clause
  • Group/phrase (as a group of words, what function does ‘this phrase’ have in the sentence?)
  • Word

Example of a story divided into the 5 levels of language: (p.11).

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Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA