Thursday, December 16, 2010

What is Grammar?

Grammar is the branch of linguistics which dealing with the form and structure of words (morphology), and their interrelation in sentences (syntax). The study of grammar reveals how language works. Most people first encounter grammar in connection with the study of their own or of a second language in school.
This kind of grammar is called normative, or prescriptive, because it defines the role of the various parts of speech and purports to tell what is “correct” usage. Prescriptive grammars state how words and sentences are to be put together in a language so that the speaker will be perceived as having good grammar. Some grammarians are more concerned, however, with determining how the meaningful arrangement of the basic word-building units (morphemes) and sentence-building units (constituents) can best be described. This approach is called descriptive grammar. Descriptive grammars contain actual speech forms recorded from native speakers of a particular language and represented by means of written symbols.  The traditional view of grammar was as according to Hellas:
‘the science that shows us how to write and speak correctly. It is the task of this art to order the combination of letters into syllables, syllables into words, and words into sentences... avoiding solecisms and barbarisms’.

Grammar to the prescriptivist, historian, comparativist, functionalist, and descriptivist is then the organizational part of language—how speech is put together, how words and sentences are formed, and how messages are communicated. Specialists, such as Noam Chomsky, approach grammar quite differently—as a theory of language. By language, these scholars mean the knowledge human beings have that allows them to acquire any language. Such a grammar is a kind of universal grammar, an analysis of the principles underlying all the various human grammars. Specialists called transformational-generative grammarians, such as the American linguistic scholar Noam Chomsky, approach grammar quite differently—as a theory of language. By language, these scholars mean the knowledge human beings have that allows them to acquire any language. This is a kind of universal grammar, an analysis of the principles underlying all the human grammars. Thus Chomsky says:
‘Grammar is the theory that deals with the mechanisms of sentence constructions, which establish a sound-meaning relation in this language’.

Now the question arises as to which grammar to learn? The answer is the grammar that is universal and that is in the mind of the human being. It is not prescriptive or normative.  After this we can answer why learn grammar. Grammar is important because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English but in any language. As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children--we can all do grammar. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences--that is knowing about grammar. People associate grammar with errors and correctness. But knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences clear and interesting and precise. Grammar can be part of literature discussions, when we closely read the sentences in poetry and stories. And knowing about grammar means finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns. So Prof. F.L. Billows says:

“The pupil must be firmly grounded in the exercise of correct grammar, if he is to attain any skill or effective use of the language,”

Grammar is an indispensable part of any particular language, considering that the systematic rules of the language play the most important role for mutual intelligibility and, in relation to this, for building social relationships via verbal communication.  With the widespread institution of standards and high-stakes tests, students are expected to recognize and use correct grammar. Grammar opens wide windows to language learning.  Learning grammar plays a central role in every language classroom. In learning grammar, we should learn the internal mental grammar which automatically develops as we pick up phrases ad sentences from every day life and start speaking them. Learning grammar is also important because when we stuck in a language point, grammar can come to our rescue. We can grammatically analyze and decide whether an expression is wrong or right. Thus we don’t need to consult a teacher sometimes. Learning grammar is like taking up tools of a trade to do the job. So to perform a linguistic job, such as listening, reading, writing, speaking or analyzing a language itself, we need to learn grammar and it is the modern grammar that we need to learn; not the prescriptive grammar.  Modern grammar keeps us upto-date with the native speakers. 

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