What does grammar mean for you and do you follow its rules? These are all important questions, especially if you are preparing for English language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS, or for an admission interview at a business school.
It can be hard sometimes, when we speak, to remember all of the grammatical rules that guide us when we are writing. When is it right to say “the dog and me” and when should it be “the dog and I”? Does it even matter?
In this wonderfully animated TED-Ed video, Andreea Calude dives into the age-old debate between linguistic prescriptivists and descriptivists — who have two very different opinions on the matter.
From the point of view of linguistics, grammar is a set of patterns of how words are put together to form phrases or clauses whether spoken or in writing. Different languages have different patterns - in English the subject normally comes first, followed by the verb and then the object.
Some facts from the history of written language are presented in the video. Language purists and their propaganda for the establishment of a language's standardised grammar rules is mentioned. An interesting fact is that deviations in the speech patterns were considered corruptions or signs of low social status in the past.
More recently linguists have come to the conclusion that speech is a separate phenomenon from writing with its own regularities and patterns. In other words, spoken languages go by its own rules and they are constantly changing depending on the speaker’s culture, knowledge, skills or even mood.
In fact, there is a linguistic approach that tries to understand and map these differences. It is called ‘descriptivism’. It is concerned with describing how people actually use language and tracks the innovations they come up with in the process of using it.
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