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#206170 - 06/22/12 09:43 AM Teaching Grammar
zmjezhd Offline
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Many people have told me that grammar is no longer taught in primary or secondary schools and that it should be. Is this true? Or is some kind of grammar, different from what was taught in decades past, being taught? I don't know, but I am tired of arguing about it. What I would like to know is what these people think grammar is and how it can be taught to seven to 18 year-olds.

I think of grammar as a set of rules for using a particular language. For me grammar consists of various sub-fields of study: phonology (the sounds used by a language), morphology (the basic units of meaning, which can be lexical items, i.e., words, or smaller bits, e.g., affixes), and syntax (how the various units of meaning are put together to form grammatical phrases or sentences). I do not think of orthography as a part of grammar. That is spelling and punctuation, which should be taught, are just not a part of grammar for me or most linguists I have talked with or read.

The vague notion of grammar I get from non-linguists is a good deal of parsing (i.e., parts of speech assignment to words in a sentence) and diagramming (that is a method of drawing a sentence on a chalk board or piece of paper that gives some limited information on a constituent's part of speech (e.g., noun, verb) and syntactic function (e.g., subject, predicate). Thrown in here are also some spelling and punctuation "rules" and a good deal of what I would call usage "rules".

In particular, I'd like to know if anybody can name a good pedagogical grammar of English for use by native speakers. Also, I'd like a run-down of what particular set of parts of speech should be used and where that set came from. By fiat, by analysis? I find that when I try to explain my notion of grammar to the pro-grammar group of non-linguists, we very soon become aware that each group is using a totally different terminology to speak.

[Fixed stupid typo; that's grammars for teaching native speakers.]


Edited by zmjezhd (06/22/12 03:09 PM)
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#206173 - 06/22/12 12:22 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: zmjezhd]
Rhubarb Commando Offline
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I'm fairly sure that grammar is no longer formally taught in English primary schools. The idea seems to be that one picks up grammar by osmosis, as you learn to speak. But as the role models are often ill-educated "celebs" and sports stars* and young teachers who have, themselves, never been formally taight grammar, solecisms of all sorts are perpetuated.

As a text book, I have always relied on Fowler - whether he is suitable for people for whom English is a second language, I don't know.


*(not all celebs and sprots stars are ill-educated, of course, but a fair few are - they have been taughtnin prin=mary schools which don't teach grammar!!)
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#206174 - 06/22/12 01:13 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: Rhubarb Commando]
LukeJavan8 Offline
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Listen to the average NFL player interview and see if they
are taught English by any standard.
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#206176 - 06/22/12 01:41 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: LukeJavan8]
gooofy Offline
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"Grammar" for me, and I think for zjmezhd, is not something that is formally taught to native speakers. My 6-year-old niece can produce completely normal sentences, and she is not being taught grammar in school. She has an incredibly good unconscious knowledge of the grammar of English. She knows that subjects precede verbs, that verbs are marked for past tense and present tense third person singular, she understands the complicated ways of forming English questions.

Here are some other examples:

Why is 2 ok

1 I gave a present to him.
2 I gave him a present.

but 4 is not?

3 I explained the problem to him.
4 *I explained him the problem.

Why is the position of adverbs in a sentence relatively free, but we can't put the adverb between the verb and the object?

5 I explained the problem to him clearly.
6 I clearly explained the problem to him.
7 I explained the problem clearly to him.
8 *I explained clearly the problem to him.

In these sentences

9 When I get home, he will be cooking dinner.
10 *When I will get home, he will be cooking dinner.

both clauses describe events in the future, but the verb in the when clause cannot take will. Why?

But "grammar" to many people means something completely different. It means all the prescriptions that separate the in-group from the out-group: object-position "you and I", stranded prepositions, "who/whom", "which/that", etc, things that form a very small part of the grammar that native speakers carry in their heads. It's often claimed that lack of education in this grammar will lead to confusion or linguistic anarchy. But these things that have nothing to do with comprehensibility and everything to do with social divisions.


Edited by gooofy (06/22/12 01:43 PM)

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#206177 - 06/22/12 02:31 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: Rhubarb Commando]
zmjezhd Offline
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As a text book, I have always relied on Fowler - whether he is suitable for people for whom English is a second language, I don't know.

By Fowler, I assume you mean A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H W Fowler (1926). (Although there are later editions edited by folks other than Fowler.) As its title implies, it is a book on usage and not grammar. There is also, the lesser well known today, The King's English by H W and F G Fowler (1906). It has more grammar in it, but still has a lot of what I call style (usage). I personally like Fowler (I was introduced to him in high school), but his usage dictionary is getting a little long in the tooth. It's nearly a hundred years old and English, even British English, has changed greatly in that time.

Ill-educated people tend to speak the language (dialect) they learned, and they speak it grammatically. And, I agree with Goofy: children learn almost the entirety of their first language grammar by age 7, which is pretty much before primary school. What they may learn in school, if they are lucky enough to go to school, is a tiny subset of the grammar of the privileged dialect (i.e., the standard language) of their area. I don't watch much sports, but I don't know if I want them speaking formal English.

Again, I am asking for English grammars for teaching native speakers of English the standard.
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#206178 - 06/22/12 02:43 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: zmjezhd]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: zmjezhd
In particular, I'd like to know if anybody can name a good pedagogical grammar of English for use by non-native speakers.


I've heard good things about the new Oxford Grammar from Bas Aarts. A Student's Grammar of English by Huddleston and Pullum might be good for advanced students.

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#206179 - 06/22/12 04:10 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: gooofy]
tsuwm Offline
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no idea, as to a teaching grammar; but just reading is a splendid guide. to wit,

I remember once, Cara told him, who was it? Sister Modeste. She wrote on the board: What if they should never have united themselves in that, over there?" Cara had started to laugh, remembering the moment. "Panic! Se joindre, a homicidal verb. It's much simpler in Spanish. And then my friend Francesca, after the sister wrote out the answer, leaned across the aisle and whispered, 'Well, I'm certainly glad I know how to say that!'"

cool

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#206180 - 06/22/12 06:27 PM Re: Teaching Grammar [Re: tsuwm]
Faldage Offline
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Originally Posted By: tsuwm
What if they should never have united themselves in that, over there?
cool



What does should mean in this sentence?

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#206181 - 06/22/12 07:22 PM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: tsuwm]
zmjezhd Offline
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no idea, as to a teaching grammar; but just reading is a splendid guide. to wit,

Yeah, sure. As I said elsewhere, but will reiterate here: the onliest way to figure out that grammar thing is to read and write ... That is the descriptivist agenda.
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#206184 - 06/23/12 07:22 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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Thanks for this conversation. In fact in makes me realize that for native language we did not have grammar lessons as such. All we had was something called 'sentence analyzing'/ 'sentence building', spelling and punctuation. I have put this all under the heading 'grammar'. Unlike your understanding of grammar it seems.
(For the foreing languages we definitely had separate grammar books, textbooks and word lists. No images or diagrams however).

To Gooofy, of course it makes a difference whether a child from birth till school age is put in front of a television all day or is read bedtime and daytime books by its parents with all the fun and accompanying discussions.

Anyway, thanks from a non native speaker. (for the links etc.)

the onliest way to figure out that grammar thing is to read and write ... I hope so, I mean, a hard task when young people read little and less.


Edited by BranShea (06/23/12 02:02 PM)

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#206195 - 06/23/12 08:38 PM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea


To Gooofy, of course it makes a difference whether a child from birth till school age is put in front of a television all day or is read bedtime and daytime books by its parents with all the fun and accompanying discussions.


Exactly what difference will it make? It might make the child a better critical thinker, and better at reading, but in terms of grammar as I define it, it won't make a difference (unless the child is isolated from contact with other humans from birth to school age).


Edited by gooofy (06/23/12 08:40 PM)

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#206224 - 06/26/12 12:46 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: gooofy]
olly Offline
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Exactly what difference will it make?

It should kindle an interest in reading books for a start. As far as grammar is concerned, it is easier to see punctuation marks and then get a gist of its use in context. Basic grammar that is.

Kids are reading less
I think the opposite. The internet is a great big magazine. It's what they're reading that's the problem. A lot of the younger ones are not to concerned with punctuation when it comes to social messaging.

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#206226 - 06/26/12 10:49 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: olly]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: olly
Exactly what difference will it make?

It should kindle an interest in reading books for a start. As far as grammar is concerned, it is easier to see punctuation marks and then get a gist of its use in context. Basic grammar that is.


I agree that reading lots will help with punctuation. But that's not "grammar" as I define it. Knowledge of punctuation is a writing skill, it has nothing to do with our unconscious knowledge of how the language works, I think.


Edited by gooofy (06/26/12 11:01 AM)

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#206227 - 06/26/12 11:06 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: gooofy]
zmjezhd Offline
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I agree that reading lots will help with punctuation. But that's not "grammar" as I define it. Knowledge of punctuation is a writing skill, it has nothing to do with our unconscious knowledge of how the language works.

Right. Unwritten languages have grammar.
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#206231 - 06/26/12 02:11 PM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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"no idea, as to a teaching grammar; but just reading is a splendid guide. to wit,"

"Yeah, sure. As I said elsewhere, but will reiterate here: the onliest way to figure out that grammar thing is to read and write ... That is the descriptivist agenda."

Unwritten languages

Such as....?

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#206232 - 06/26/12 03:38 PM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea

Such as....?


Most of them!

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#206233 - 06/26/12 04:27 PM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
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Jajaja, dat kennen we. Die geintjes. grin

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#206234 - 06/26/12 06:45 PM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: gooofy]
olly Offline
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Knowledge of punctuation is a writing skill, it has nothing to do with our unconscious knowledge of how the language works, I think.

I agree. Punctuation is a tool of Grammar. Until relatively recently my fathers native tongue was only an oral language and in his later writings he would never use a macron because he and others who knew the language didn't need to know how to elongate an 'a'. They just knew. But today, for the purpose of new language learners, punctuation (in writing) is essential in creating good grammar and context for the unintiated.

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#206244 - 06/27/12 04:48 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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Unwritten languages

Such as....?

Well some languages are only unwritten for any of their speakers that are illiterate. Almost all of the thousands of native languages of the two Americas were unwritten at the time of European contact with them. In my neck of the woods, there was Miwok (both Coastal and Sierran), Wappo, Pomo, Ohlone, et al. There was a lot of work to transcribe these languages done in the second half of the 20th century as a way to preserve them.
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#206247 - 06/27/12 05:26 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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"Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements
Even if it leads nowhere or would it be a waste
Even if I knew my place should I leave it there
Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements
Even if it leads nowhere...."
Adele

I've read (not skimmed) the QES article. Mr, Geoffry Pullum repetedly associates 'grammar-ungrammatical' with punctuation and clause. Which is why I don't understand :

"agree that reading lots will help with punctuation. But that's not "grammar" as I define it. Knowledge of punctuation is a writing skill, it has nothing to do with our unconscious knowledge of how the language works, I think."

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#206249 - 06/27/12 06:50 AM Re: Why our language is changing for the better [Re: BranShea]
Faldage Offline
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It seems to me that what Pullum is doing here is not saying that the punctuation is intrinsically involved with grammar; what he's saying is that the QES claim that it is, but they themselves are not following the rules that they themselves promote. He's hoisting the QES on their own petard.

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#206251 - 06/27/12 11:52 AM Re: Why they peeve [Re: Faldage]
zmjezhd Offline
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what he's saying is that the QES claim that it is, but they themselves are not following the rules that they themselves promote.

Yes, I agree. He's saying by their own fussy rules they've made mistakes and are thereby leading English down the garden path to be shot in the back of the head. He also points out that style-wise their prose leaves a lot to be desired.
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#206252 - 06/27/12 12:48 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: zmjezhd]
gooofy Offline
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I'm not so sure. Pullum says "But even if you ignore all the stupid stuff, the last two sentences really are genuinely ungrammatical for perfectly clear reasons." He's referring to sentences 7 and 8, which he says are ungrammatical because of punctuation. It seems to me that for Pullum, punctuation is grammar.

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#206253 - 06/27/12 01:02 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: gooofy]
Faldage Offline
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Originally Posted By: gooofy
I'm not so sure. Pullum says "But even if you ignore all the stupid stuff, the last two sentences really are genuinely ungrammatical for perfectly clear reasons." He's referring to sentences 7 and 8, which he says are ungrammatical because of punctuation. It seems to me that for Pullum, punctuation is grammar.


I dunno. He says:

Originally Posted By: Pullum
First, let's look at the seven sentences of the letter above in the light of the usual kind of judgmental prescriptivism that the members of QES always purported to care about (and keep in mind here that in some cases I am applying what prescriptive authorities generally say, not endorsing it):


and then goes on to list the reasons why orthodox prescriptivists would condemn them. Only then does he say that the last two are "genuinely ungrammatical for perfectly clear reasons" but he doesn't say what the perfectly clear reasons are. I don't see what they are but I don't see any reason to believe that they are the reasons of punctuation that he had already outlined.

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#206254 - 06/27/12 02:27 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: zmjezhd]
gooofy Offline
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I see your point. But then why doesn't he say what the reasons are?

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#206255 - 06/27/12 03:24 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
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As I see none of you seems to have read the other thread, "The Queen English is dead" etc., I transcript my post here.
Yes, Mr. Pullum explicitely says he applies but not endorses what the prescriptive authorities generally say.

I've read (not skimmed) the article. Agreed, a fair comment.
The Society can retire.
I'm no prescriptivist as long as I can understand what's written. I definitely do think our young ones are not well instructed in the usage of the native written language. Could be there is no other way. Large amounts of immigrants, devaluation of respect towards teachers, low wages etc. I have a son who came into my household at the age of 5 speaking only lingala, the river dialect in Congo. His yourney into learning Dutch was really an exciting experience, but I'm happy we usually talk and need no communication through letters.

Back to QES:

Even in Mr.Pullum's carefull comments I've found a sentence that confused me because it did not read well:

"It's extraordinarily bad when judged by the sort of standards that one might expect an organization of educated professional people devoted to the protection of Standard English and education in its use."

I've had to read it twice and suspect he forgot 'of ' before 'an organisation'. No big deal but it hinders the train of thought while reading. I.e nobody's perfect.


Edited by BranShea (06/27/12 03:29 PM)

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#206257 - 06/27/12 03:47 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: Faldage]
BranShea Offline
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Be honest. In many comments Mr.Pullum connects punctuation, comma and clause with the word 'grammatical' or 'ungrammatical'.
I fully entrust you your own (to me incomprehensible) idea of what grammar s, but there's no need to mystify what everyone can plainly read in this article.


Edited by BranShea (06/27/12 04:20 PM)

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#206258 - 06/27/12 04:20 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: gooofy]
Rhubarb Commando Offline
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Preumably because he thinks, "they are perfectly obvious."

I must say, I tend to agree they are 'ungrammatical', but I'm not so sure the reasons are quite as 'obvious' as he claims.
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#206260 - 06/27/12 05:22 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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BranShea, are you talking about me? What exactly is incomprehensible? In what way have I mystified?

As for Pullum, it's possible that he has different ideas about what grammar is than I do.


Edited by gooofy (06/27/12 05:23 PM)

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#206261 - 06/27/12 05:32 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: gooofy]
BranShea Offline
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No Gooofy. smile You can see. After the re:. My last post was to Faldage.

Pullum may have a different idea about what grammar is from you for sure and I don't understand this thing about " grammar is not in written languages ".
To me that seems like a peeve of a different order.

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#206262 - 06/27/12 05:45 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Posts: 37
No one is saying "grammar is not in written languages". What we're saying is that since all languages have grammar, and since most languages have no writing systems, it follows that writing is not intrinsic to grammar.

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#206263 - 06/27/12 06:08 PM Re: Why they peeve [Re: gooofy]
zmjezhd Offline
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Pullum says "But even if you ignore all the stupid stuff, the last two sentences really are genuinely ungrammatical for perfectly clear reasons." He's referring to sentences 7 and 8, which he says are ungrammatical because of punctuation. It seems to me that for Pullum, punctuation is grammar.

I guess you're right. I suppose one of us could ask him ...
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#206264 - 06/27/12 06:10 PM Re: Why they parse [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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I fully entrust you your own (to me incomprehensible) idea of what grammar s, but there's no need to mystify what everyone can plainly read in this article.

I'm not sure who this is addressed to, but I gave my definition of grammar in the opening post of this thread. Do you find that incomprehensible?
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#206266 - 06/28/12 05:00 AM Re: Why they parse [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
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It was also adressed to you although your first post is fully understandable. What confuses me are the contradictory comments about this grammar stuff.

This is one from Goofy (Barzun thread):

"If you don't think it reads well, that's fair enough, but it has nothing to do with the grammar of standard English. "

This is you:

"think of grammar as a set of rules for using a particular language. For me grammar consists of various sub-fields of study: phonology (the sounds used by a language), morphology (the basic units of meaning, which can be lexical items, i.e., words, or smaller bits, e.g., affixes), and syntax (how the various units of meaning are put together to form grammatical phrases or sentences). I do not think of orthography as a part of grammar. That is spelling and punctuation, which should be taught, are just not a part of grammar for me or most linguists I have talked with or read."

You both seem (Fladage too I think)to exclude orthography from grammar. Yet these little next to nothings decide (to me) whether I choke on a text or not. Apparently in British English they count orthography in, as seen in Pummel's comments.
- "ungrammatical because of punctuation again: the final period has been carelessly omitted" -

Quote:
Scientists have counted approx. 6500 languages, half of which are, however, threatened to die off soon, as they are no longer passed on. Not counted in above figure are pure sign-languages or computer-languages. Non-linguists are often confused- as they consider the written language as the more important side of any language. However, the opposite is true amongst language-specialists: true linguists - masters in their trade - consider the sound of a language as the important part and treat its written representation with nonchalance.


Source: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Approximately_how_many_
languages_are_spoken_worldwide


Edited by BranShea (06/28/12 05:02 AM)

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#206267 - 06/28/12 07:04 AM Re: Why they parse [Re: BranShea]
Faldage Offline
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Originally Posted By: BranShea


You both seem (Fladage too I think)to exclude orthography from grammar. Yet these little next to nothings decide (to me) whether I choke on a text or not. Apparently in British English they count orthography in, as seen in Pummel's comments.
- "ungrammatical because of punctuation again: the final period has been carelessly omitted" -


Again, this is Pullum using the QES's mistaken definition of grammar against them. He's saying that regardless of the validity of the rules they proclaim they are violating them.

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#206269 - 06/28/12 09:00 AM Re: Why they parse [Re: BranShea]
gooofy Offline
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Punctuation is important, but my knowledge of punctuation is not the same sort of thing as my knowledge of how to produce and comprehend utterances - that is, my knowledge that tells me that "I explained the problem to him" is an English sentence, and "*explained problem the him I to" is not.

If "grammar" simply means "that which causes you to choke on a text", then you have to conclude that languages with no writing system have no grammar. Don't you?

Originally Posted By: BranShea

Apparently in British English they count orthography in, as seen in Pummel's comments.


Pullum is American. It's not about regional dialects, it's that different linguists use different definitions.


Edited by gooofy (06/28/12 09:07 AM)

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#206270 - 06/28/12 10:00 AM Re: Why they parse [Re: gooofy]
zmjezhd Offline
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Pullum is American. It's not about regional dialects, it's that different linguists use different definitions.

Although he has taught and lived in the States for years (recently he returned to Scotland to work), he is British. I've spoken with him face to face and his accent is not American.
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#206271 - 06/28/12 10:11 AM Re: Why nits [Re: BranShea]
zmjezhd Offline
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What confuses me are the contradictory comments about this grammar stuff.

I am not sure what Pullum is up to in the final part of his essay. Most linguists I know, do not count punctuation as a part of grammar, and I agree with them. That you exclude something from grammar does not mean it is unimportant. I do not see orthography (basically punctuation and spelling) as a part of grammar, I see it as a part of how to commit a text in a language to some kind of permanence (that is how to write).

Likewise, I do not see usage and style to be a part of grammar. If you're going to be a writer though, they are very important topics to study and master.

Linguistics is an academic field, and as such, not all linguists agree with one another. Having read Pullum's piece, I notice that it kind of peters out towards the end. He may have just gotten confused about channeling his inner peever and not mentioned a caveat that this is not how he thinks, or he may believe that some punctuation is part of grammar. We'll never know short of asking him to clarify himself. Anyway we look at it, part (or all?) of a text are not exactly comprehensible at least to a couple of its readers. Again, I say that it has bugger all to do with grammar. I can find no solecisms in Pullum's piece. It has to do with how his argument (thesis) holds together as he writes about it. I know it has nothing to do with orthography even. It might be subsumed under usage, if one includes rhetoric and logic there.
_________________________
Ceci n'est pas un seing.

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#206275 - 06/28/12 12:59 PM Re: Why they parse [Re: zmjezhd]
gooofy Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/19/12
Posts: 37
Originally Posted By: zmjezhd


Although he has taught and lived in the States for years (recently he returned to Scotland to work), he is British. I've spoken with him face to face and his accent is not American.


Oops, my mistake.

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#206276 - 06/28/12 03:30 PM Re: Why they parse [Re: Faldage]
BranShea Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Originally Posted By: Faldage


Again, this is Pullum using the QES's mistaken definition of grammar against them. He's saying that regardless of the validity of the rules they proclaim they are violating them.


Yes, yes, you said it before. Quote Pullum: "(and keep in mind here that in some!! cases I am applying what prescriptive authorities generally say, not endorsing it)" You do know the difference between some and all no doubt. This opens the way to ambiguity.


Edited by BranShea (06/28/12 03:31 PM)

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#206277 - 06/28/12 03:44 PM Re: Why nits [Re: zmjezhd]
BranShea Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 5282
Loc: Netherlands, the Hague
Thanks, I understand what you are saying here.
At least the larger part of it. laugh

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