The idea of the Visual Grammar is based, on the one hand, on a fundamental questioning of the traditional view on grammar division and description, and on the other hand, on the conviction that memorization of grammatical structures is no longer up-to-date in today’s language teaching.
In times of technological upheaval in schools with ever newer visualization possibilities (cf. iPad classes etc.) and also a simultaneous increase in the number of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (Grobe, 2016), language teaching must be fundamentally rethought.
In the field of foreign language acquisition, school failure and students’ struggles can often be attributed to didactic deficiencies in the presentation of syntactic structures.
Static and list-based representations of syntactic structures not only depict language in an outdated manner, but they also contradict the inherent dynamics of grammar.
The term grammar, derived from Latin (ars) grammatica < gr. Grammatikḗ (téchnē) or grammatikós ‘referring to letters’, does not primarily refer to grammar books with which we unfortunately often and stereotypically associate the term, but rather to the basis of our linguistic competence or to the mental representation of linguistic structures.
By mixing two fundamentally opposite perspectives on grammar,
a) the synchronous snapshot or a rigid set of prescriptive rules consisting of rules and exceptions, and
b) the idea of a diachronic, highly dynamic and flexible system in constant change,
we seem confronted with a paradox.
Visual Grammar aims, therefore, not only at mapping the current state of a language, but also at mapping previous processes and future stages, as well as the potential scope of other languages and language families.
It also aims at creating structural hierarchies between certain phonetic and morphological sound chains, on the one hand, and certain semantic and pragmatic intentions, on the other, and to do so fairly, by considering them from a language-specific as well as from a universal point of view.
Several attempts to describe the mental representation of language have been carried out from different perspectives and with different emphases, cf. dependence and valence grammar (Tesnière, 1980), functional grammar (Dik, 1991), content-based grammar (Weisgerber, 1953), case grammar (Fillmore, 1968), generative transformational grammar (Chomsky, 1970), cognitive grammar (Langacker, 1987), etc.
Visual Grammar wants to offer a more flexible representation of grammar, which not only allows the depiction of an infinite number of grammatically correct sentences in a particular language, but also allows to interpret differences and deviations between languages by comparing them.