Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

More Conversation about Grammar . . .


Grammar conversation

Photo by orijinal on Foter.com / CC BY

The first post in this discussion—A Blog Conversation about Grammar—looked at the word history of “grammar” and revealed that many “rules” of English grammar are actually rules for Latin…

In fact, the trustworthy article about grammar that I excerpted said: “There’s a simple test that usually exposes a phony rule of grammar: If it makes your English stilted and unnatural, it’s probably a fraud.”

So, I was happy when an author I know, from Australia, was kind enough to comment on that last post…

Instead of plunking her entire comment down in one quote, I need to share it a sentence at a time and engage in a discussion with her…

“I absorbed all the grammar I know from reading and from learning a foreign language.”

Well…

I tried to learn French and Latin; but, my brain seemed to want to eternally linger in English—reading, though… Omnivorous…

“Reading books taught me what worked and what didn’t in English sentences and I never gave a thought that those sentences were actually following a set of rules.”

I’ve read (somewhere…) that grammar is “potentially” present in the mind at birth—some feel there’s a proto-grammar that can “come forth” in whatever language the child learns—mapping itself to the lay of the language-land…

This is why I think, “…what worked and what didn’t in English sentences…”, is a perfectly reasonable response to reading—we innately, intuitively “know” whether the grammar in the sentences we read is “correct”. Naturally, this capability matures over time, and more fruitfully, when a person exposes themselves to many different texts…

Children learn to talk without needing a complex set of rules—not at all strange to say because the child would need to already have learned how to use words before they could internalize a set of rules…

“To me the only point of a well wrought sentence is that it conveys its meaning beautifully and powerfully.”

She said: “…well wrought…”.

Here’s the word history of “wrought”:

mid-13c., from past participle of Middle English werken (see work (v.)). Wrought iron (1703) is that which is malleable and has been brought into some form.

So… using good grammar in writing is taking certain “malleable” ideas and bringing them “into some form”—a form that is “beautiful” and “powerful”…

Here’s the remainder of her comment:

“Grammar is evolving all the time because most modern languages are evolving…Latin no longer changes and I guess that is why its grammar does not either. What will be the biggest influence on grammar in the future ? I am gonna guess texting…. :-) “

I’m gonna guess that she’s joking about texting—only because I see it as a temporary phenomenon that will disappear when digital talking is completely verbally rendered—no more amazingly trained digits speeding over a keyboard…

Yet…

English grammar will transform, as our collective human mind evolves—taking that which is malleable and bringing it into some form…

The next conversation post is this coming Monday and it only takes one more comment to keep this topic going :-)
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3 responses to “More Conversation about Grammar . . .

  1. Thomas Weaver May 30, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    In the photo at the top of this post, there’s a sentence ending with chess everyday. There’s no way those words, in that order, make sense grammatically. (Everyday is an adjective meaning ordinary or commonplace, something that happens every day. It’s possible to have everyday chess, but not chess everyday. It would have to be chess every day to work. Whoever graded that paper missed a blatant error. If teachers don’t know what’s correct, how can they teach their students? This is why we can’t have nice things… *sigh*

    “Latin no longer changes and I guess that is why its grammar does not either.”

    I would love to know what style guide/set of rules/whatever is being followed by writers who no longer use commas in compound sentences, for example. I’ve searched, and none of the usual style guides even say that such commas are optional, much less that they’re actually incorrect, yet I hear/read that from writers all the time. Where is this coming from?

    “I’ve read (somewhere…) that grammar is “potentially” present in the mind at birth—some feel there’s a proto-grammar that can “come forth” in whatever language the child learns—mapping itself to the lay of the language-land…”

    According to anthropologists, it’s syntax that separates human communication from what all other animals do (yes, dogs certainly have communication, but they don’t have language, because their communication doesn’t have syntax), so I suppose you can say grammar is inherent in the human brain. Unfortunately, some people seem to want to reduce our communication to the level of mere calls (such as birds use — how appropriate) with only the most generalized meaning (“This is scary” or “Feed me”) and no added complexity of meaning from the order in which the calls are used (no syntax, etc.)

    Like

  2. Alexander M Zoltai May 30, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you, Thomas, for continuing the conversation—I’ll attend to your remarks this coming Monday, in the continuing conversation about grammar… :-)

    Like

  3. Pingback: Further Conversation about Grammar . . . | Notes from An Alien

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