A short while back, I was asked to pitch a column article idea to the editor of one of my favourite publications. The pitch went fine and she asked me to write the article. I was so excited. I’ve been admiring the magazine for ages – my reluctant mentor introduced me to it at the beginning of this year. No, I won’t say who my reluctant mentor is; I don’t want to drop names.
So I start writing. And I wrote. And I wrote more. And somehow, I didn’t write about grammar; I wrote about spelling and confusing words and stuff that didn’t make much sense. *I cringe*
So what is Grammar?
I think it’s easier to write about what grammar isn’t than what it is. Especially for me. But let’s see what my Oxford Paperback Dictionary Thesaurus says: grammar (n) 1 – the whole structure of a language, including the rules for the way words are formed and their relationship to each other in sentence. 2 – knowledge and use of the rules of grammar. 3 – a book on grammar.
Notice how it didn’t say incorrect spelling or the inconsistent use of ampersands. Grammar is a branch of linguistics that consists of syntax, morphology, and phonology. It can even be split into two camps: prescriptive and descriptive.
It gets very complicated, this grammar stuff: Algebraic syntax; Restrictiveness; Wh-movement; V2 word order. I do not understand all the terms and need to do much googling. But it’s oh-so-interesting. And not just to linguists. Anyone can understand grammar without knowing what V2 word order is. If you can speak and understand a language, you can understand what good grammar results in – proper communication.
The two different types of grammar ‘movements’, prescriptive and descriptive, complement each other. Prescriptive grammar teaches us how we should speak; descriptive grammar describes how we are using language. The study of syntax teaches us how sentences are formed. Morphology studies the internal structures of words and how they can be modified to create new words. Phonology studies how sounds are organised and used. I won’t discuss everything I have learnt – I’ll only discuss that which is easy to understand. For now.
I’ll try to do a weekly post on something directly related to grammar. It’ll teach me something because I’ll be forced to research it properly. 😉