Grammar

Linguistics
Comparative linguistics
Computational linguistics
Dialectology
Etymology
Historical linguistics
Morphology
Phonetics
Phonology
Psycholinguistics
Semantics
Synchronic linguistics
Syntax
Psycholinguistics
Sociolinguistics

Grammar is the study of rules governing the use of language. The set of rules governing a particular language is the grammar of that language; thus, each language can be said to have its own distinct grammar. Grammar is part of the general study of language called linguistics. Grammar is a way of thinking about language.

The subfields of contemporary grammar are phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Traditional grammars include only morphology and syntax.

Contents

Development of grammars

Grammars evolve through usage and human population separations. With the advent of written representations, formal rules about language usage tend to appear also. Formal grammars are codifications of usage that are developed by observation. As the rules become established and developed, the prescriptive concept of grammatical correctness can arise. This often creates a gulf between contemporary usage and that which is accepted as correct. Linguists normally consider that prescriptive grammars do not have any justification beyond their authors' aesthetic tastes. However, prescriptions are considered in sociolinguistics as part of the explanation for why some people say "I didn't do nothing," some say "I didn't do anything," and some say one or the other depending on social context.

The formal study of grammar is an important part of education from a young age through advanced learning, though the rules taught in schools are not a "grammar" in the sense most linguists use the term, as they are often prescriptive rather than descriptive.

Constructed languages, (also called planned languages or conlangs) are more common in the modern day. Many have been designed to aid human communication (such as Esperanto or the intercultural, highly logic-compatible artificial language Lojban) or created as part of a work of fiction (such as the Klingon language and Elvish languages). Each of these artificial languages has its own grammar.

It is erroneously believed that analytic languages have simpler grammar than synthetic languages. Analytic languages use syntax to convey information that is encoded via inflection in synthetic languages. In other words, word order is not significant and morphology is highly significant in a purely synthetic language, whereas morphology is not significant and syntax is highly significant in an analytic language. Chinese and Afrikaans, for example, are highly analytic and meaning is therefore very context dependent. (Both do have some inflections, and had more in the past; thus, they are becoming even less synthetic and more "purely" analytic over time.) Latin, which is highly synthetic, uses affixes and inflections to convey the same information that Chinese does with syntax. Because Latin words are quite (though not completely) self-contained, an intelligible Latin sentence can be made from elements placed in largely arbitrary order. Latin has a complex affixation and a simple syntax, while Chinese has the opposite.

In computer science

In computer science, the syntax of each programming language is defined by a formal grammar. In theoretical computer science and mathematics, formal grammars define formal languages. The Chomsky hierarchy defines several important classes of formal grammars.

References

  • American Academic Press, The (ed.). William Strunk, Jr., et al. The Classics of Style: The Fundamentals of Language Style From Our American Craftsmen. Cleveland: The American Academic Press, 2006. ISBN 0978728203.
  • Rundle, Bede. Grammar in Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN 0198246129.

External links

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