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Grammars and literacies

Grammaires et littéracies

Revue Lidil, numéro 56

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Published on Monday, February 01, 2016


The term "literacy", in its modern sense of ability to use the written language in any situation of everyday life, appeared in the late 1980s. Its rapid spread in developed countries, starting with the Anglo-Saxon area and in Quebec (Fraenkel and  Mbodj, 2010), made it very quickly a key concept, precisely defined in 2000 by the OECD as "the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily life at home, at work and in the community to achieve personal goals and expand their knowledge and abilities." The definition, with its generic and dynamic nature (Barré-De Miniac, 2003), has allowed a very significant diffraction of the concept, longitudinally in the process of training, as much as transversely in the diverse approaches to learning.



The term “literacy”, in its modern sense of ability to use the written language in any situation of everyday life, appeared in the late 1980s. Its rapid spread in developed countries, starting with the Anglo-Saxon area and in Quebec (Fraenkel & Mbodj, 2010), made it very quickly a key concept, precisely defined in 2000 by the OECD as “the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily life at home, at work and in the community to achieve personal goals and expand their knowledge and abilities.” The definition, with its generic and dynamic nature (Barré-De Miniac, 2003), has allowed a very significant diffraction of the concept, longitudinally in the process of training, as much as transversely in the diverse approaches to learning.

At the same time, it has been observed that the rise of literacy as a general competency is accompanied by a certain redefinition of underlying grammatical skills (Beacco, 2010; Chiss & David, 2012). Literacy renews the linguistic code issues, the discursive use of language ability and even meta-language, both in adult education, in school education (Rhian, 1996; Neuman & Dickinson 2001; Marin & Morin, 2015) and at university (Pollet, 2012). As a result, it now seems both necessary and appropriate to ask how the generalization of the concept of literacy transforms the representations and practices of grammar, and how, in return, this redefinition of grammar allows to understand the diffraction of the concept in its plural forms of literacies.

As has been mentioned, literacy has affected three main areas of teaching and learning, to varying degrees. The concept was first introduced in Adult Education. It established itself very early as the unifying objective of the key skills in the skills-based approach (Leclercq & Vogler 2000), thanks to the importance given to the reading literacy in language proficiency in Adult Education. At the other end of the chain, in initial schooling, literacy has but only entered the scene recently, as procedural competence in reading and writing. This can be shown by the new Socle commun de connaissances, de compétences et de culture (see bibliography), which includes in its Domain 1 different forms of literacy (textual, numerical, visual, etc.).

The situation is different at the university, where literacy is all at once a disciplinary prerequisite, a methodological horizon and an object of research. Moreover, in higher education, and regardless of the disciplines, the increasingly important role taken by academic writing profoundly changes the relation of grammar to the teaching of writing in French as well as in other languages. This issue of Lidl will therefore mainly focus on academic literacy since the most important changes in the uses and contents of grammar can currently be observed at this level.

In language teaching, for example, including that of French as a foreign language (FLE), grammar is back at the very centre of reflections on the teaching-learning skills after a period of uncertainty in the late 20th century, as is recalled by Vigner (2004) and Véronique (2009). As a matter of fact, Cuq had signalled, as early as 1996, the risk there was in believing that the communicative methodology allowed one to “dispense totally from grammatical formalization” (Cuq, 1996, p. 105). He proposed that in between the traditional view of studying the language and its intuitionistic opposite there was room for a “didactic definition” (Cuq, 1996, p. 41) of grammar. The development, at the turn of the 1990s and 2000s, of a few grammar books focusing on the actual or expected speaking activity of the learners also shows that some authors and publishers have followed suit.

Besides, it is admitted that, in the first decade of the century, contradictory forces stimulated the dialogue between grammatical skills and action-oriented approaches. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), for example, while introducing within its range of language proficiencies a recognized and graded language skill, failed to articulate it fully with a logic of contextualized scriptural production. What is called “grammar correction” in the European Framework (CEFR, p. 90) is rather a form of self-assessment, whose calibration provides a benchmark to other functional language skills.

Today, the importance of grammar and more generally speaking of language skills is strongly reassessed in higher education, in parallel with the rapid development of academic literacy. Questions about the forms of this return, the evolution of representations and uses, and the place given to the written texts constitute a first set of issues to be considered. However, it is now possible to go further. The concept of literacy has indeed gone beyond a learning area to step into another. Leaving its strictly academic boundaries (Delcambre & Lahanier-Reuter, 2012), literacy has become digital and multimedia (Lebrun et al, 2012) involving early acquisitions in the mother tongue and foreign languages, in turn or simultaneously. In recent years, it has transformed into a succession of stages in the continuum of learning pathways and contextualized through the varied or new uses of language (Delcambre & Pollet, 2014). Those are the literacies which now concern applied linguistics, in the inter-relationships they highlight between both reading and writing skills on the one hand and written and spoken practices on the other hand (Barré-De Miniac et al., 2004).

In this context, this 56th issue of Lidil aims to open new perspectives on how to teach and learn languages, situating the role and place of grammar within the general framework of underlying literacies and language use:

  • Acquisition / Learning of grammar and language teaching: to what extent can explicit grammar teaching and metalinguistic knowledge contribute to the acquisition of language, especially French as a Foreign Language (Grossmann, 1999)? What form and what content can be given to the input presented to learners in the language classroom? Is an implicit grammar teaching, based on the reflective observation of the facts of language and conceptualization of the rules, adapted to the forms of academic writing?
  • Grammar in multilingual teaching and learning: what grammatical activities should be developed so as to link the source language of learners with their target language? In multilingual education advocated by the CEFR, how could the teaching of grammar reinvigorate contrastive perspectives and learning (Kadi & Barré-De Miniac, 2009), even more so when they involve more than two foreign languages? Can we design a transfer of skills that would help build literacies in the target language on the basis of those existing in the source language? Should we move towards multilingual literacies?
  • The grammar at different levels of the CEFR: while various manuals and methods are available at A1 up to B2 levels (Galatanu et al., 2010), there is a shortage of grammar books for levels C1 and C2. What forms, what content, what progress can be offered to advanced learners? In the context of literacies, how can the grammatical domains (sentence grammar, text grammar, speech grammar), the oscillation between form and meaning, and the production activities and understanding be articulated?
  • The grammar of the new media: what skills are induced by digital multi-media tools of reading-writing or teaching-learning? Should grammar take a cognitive or multimodal turn? While language teaching presupposes an increasingly visual literacy, are specific competencies in the grammar of the image required?

Clearly, this issue of Lidil proposes to not only consider the plurality of the concept of literacy but also the plurality of the grammatical models that accompany it. The literacies, including the most current ones, make it necessary to rethink the issue of grammar. Conversely, it is possible to assume that the variety of available grammars allows a better understanding and analysis of literacy as a new pedagogic, didactic and social challenge.

Selected bibliography

(Only some collected works, special issues of journals and monographs have been listed here, without being exhaustive.)

Barré-De Miniac, Christine (dir.). 2003. La littéracie : vers de nouvelles pistes didactiques. Lidil 27.

Barré-De Miniac, Christine, Brissaud, Catherine & Rispail, Marielle (dir.). 2004. La littéracie. Conceptions théoriques et pratiques d’enseignement de la lecture-écriture. Paris : L’Harmattan.

Beacco, Jean-Claude. 2010. La didactique de la grammaire dans l’enseignement du français et des langues. Paris : Didier.

Blaser, Christiane & Pollet, Marie-Christine (dir.). 2010. L’appropriation des écrits universitaires. Diptyque 18.

Chiss, Jean-Louis & David, Jacques. 2012. Didactique du français et étude de la langue. Paris : Armand-Colin.

Cadre Européen Commun de Référence pour les Langues (CECRL). 2001. Strasbourg : Conseil de l’Europe / Paris : Éditions Didier. Available on « http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/cadre1_fr.asp »

Cuq, Jean-Pierre. 1996.Une introduction à la didactique de la grammaire en français langue étrangère, Paris : Didier/Hatier.

Cuq, Jean-Pierre. 2003. Dictionnaire de didactique du français langue étrangère et seconde. Paris : Clé International.

Dabène, Michel (dir.). 1998. Pratiques de l’écrit et modes d’accès au savoir dans l’enseignement supérieur. Lidil 17.

Delcambre, Isabelle & Jovenet, Anne-Marie (dir.). 2002. Lire-écrire dans le supérieur. Spirale 29.

Delcambre, Isabelle & Lahanier-Reuter, Dominique (dir.). 2012. Littéracies universitaires : nouvelles perspectives. Pratiques 153-154.

Delcambre, Isabelle et Pollet, Marie-Christine (dir.). 2014. Littéracies en contexte d’enseignement et d’apprentissages. Spirale 53.

Fraenkel, Béatrice & Mbodj, Aïssatou (dir.). 2010. New Literacy Studies, un courant majeur sur l’écrit. Langage et Société 133.

Galatanu, Olga, Pierrard, Michel, Van Raemdonck, Dan, Damar, Marie-Ève, Kemps, Nancy & Schoonheere, Ellen (dir.). 2010. Enseigner les structures langagières en FLE. Bruxelles : Peter Lang.

Grossmann, Francis (dir.). 1999. Pratiques langagières et didactiques de l’écrit. Hommage à Michel Dabène. Grenoble : Lidilem / Université Stendhal.

Kadi, Latifa & Barré-De Miniac, Christine (dir.). 2009. La littéracie en contexte plurilingue. Synergies Algérie 6.

Office de Coopération et de Développement Économique. 2000. La littératie à l’ère de l’information. Rapport final de l’enquête internationale sur la littératie des adultes. Paris : OCDE.

Laborde-Milaa, Isabelle, Boch, Françoise & Reuter, Yves (dir.). 2004. Les écrits universitaires. Pratiques 121-122.

Lebrun, Monique, Lacelle, Nathalie & Boutin, Jean-François (dir.). 2012. La littératie médiatique multimodale. De nouvelles approches en lecture-écriture à l’école et hors de l’école, Québec : PUQ.

Leclercq, Véronique & Vogler, Jean (dir.). 2000. Maitrise de l’écrit : quels enjeux et quelles réponses aujourd’hui ? Paris : L’Harmattan.

Maillard, Michel. 1993. Vers une rénovation de la grammaire et de sa terminologie. Lidil 8.

Mangiante, Jean-Marc & Parpette, Chantal (dir.). 2010. Faire des études supérieures en langue française, Le Français dans le monde. Recherches et applications 47.

Marin, Brigitte & Morin, Marie-France (dir.). 2015. Les litéracies scolaires. Le Français aujourd’hui 190.

Neuman, Susan B. & Dickinson, David K. (dir.). 2001. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, New York, London: Guiford Press.

Pollet, Marie-Christine & Boch, Françoise (dir.). 2002. L’écrit dans l’enseignement supérieur. Enjeux 53-54.

Pollet, Marie-Christine (dir). 2012. De la maitrise du français aux littéracies dans l’enseignement supérieur. Diptyque 24.

Pollet, Marie-Christine. 2001. Pour une didactique des discours universitaires. Bruxelles : De Boeck.

Rhian, Jones. 1996. Emerging Patterns of Literacy. A Multidisciplinary Perspective. London / New York : Routledge.

Socle commun de connaissances, de compétences et de culture. 2015. Paris : Ministère de l’Éducation nationale, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche. Available on « http://www.education.gouv.fr/pid25535/bulletin_officiel.html?cid_bo=87834 »

Véronique, Daniel (dir.). 2009. L’acquisition de la grammaire du français, langue étrangère. Paris : Didier.

Vigner, Gérard. 2004. La grammaire en FLE. Paris : Hachette.


[1]. The problem of literacy in the early stages of learning (reading and writing) is the theme of Lidil 55, currently under preparation.


  • January 15, 2016: Launch of the call for contributions
  • April 30, 2016: Deadline for sending a contribution proposal (summary)

  • June 1, 2016: Message of acceptance or refusal to authors
  • December 31, 2016: Deadline for receipt of full papers
  • January-July 2017: Blind peer-reading and editing phase by the authors
  • September-November 2017: revision of the manuscript and final editing stages
  • December 2017: Publication of the issue.

Submission guidelines


  • The length of the abstract should not exceed 3 pages.
  • The abstract will present the corpus of work and the results obtained or expected.


  • The volume of full paper should be between 30,000 minimum and 40,000 maximum characters (notes and spaces included).
  • The articles may be written in French or English.
  • A reference style sheet will be communicated to the authors of selected proposals.

Address to send proposals (April 30, 2016 at the latest)

  • Jean-Paul Meyer <jpmeyer@unistra.fr>
  • Jean-Christophe Pellat <pellat@unistra.fr>


Jean-Paul Meyer and Jean-Christophe Pellat, LiLPa / University of Strasbourg



  • Saturday, April 30, 2016


  • langue, grammaire, littéracie, didactique, enseignement, apprentissage


  • Jean-Paul Meyer
    courriel : jpmeyer [at] unistra [dot] fr

Information source

  • Jean-Paul Meyer
    courriel : jpmeyer [at] unistra [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

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