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Glamorous Grammar

Indranil Sarkar
Dear Readers, are you vexed in seeing the very Title? Are you thinking what
nonsense the man is going to feed us? How can Grammar be glamorous? O.K.
Just hold on. And rest assured, you are not provided with something
In common parlance, Grammar is viewed as detestable, unattractive, boring
as well as worthless. Truly speaking nobody likes Grammar because nobody
likes to see his/her weaknesses/faults being exposed. Grammar does not
know how to compromise. It is a strict and commanding sentinel demanding
correctness all the time. And correctness, according to Bertrand Russell, is
an impediment of happiness. For this, somebody went to the extent of
saying, Hang the Grammarian!
But alas! In reality Grammarians do not die. They are deathless like
Grammar itself.
Grammar is the back-bone of any language. Though Grammar itself is zero
valent, it determines the potentiality of any language. The development of a
language and as such, its literature depends much on its Grammar.
The decay (or death!) of the Classical languages like Latin and Sanskrit, is
sometimes speculated mainly because of their orthodox grammar and critical
as well as complex syntactical rules. Grammar is the life-force of a language.
The growth and development of any language and obviously its literature are
directly proportional to its Grammar. Clearer the Grammar, stronger the
language and vice versa.
English Grammar is the body of rules furnishing the properties of English
language. Unbelievable though, its a fact that the first English grammar was
written by William Bullokar only in 1586.Bullokars book was entitled
Pamphlet for Grammar or Bref Grammar. Bullokar had a professed
objective of demonstrating that English was just as rule-bound as Latin.
Bullokars grammar was faithfully modelled on John Lilys Latin Grammar,

Rudimenta Grammatices(1534) which was prescribed for the schools of

England in 1542 by Henry VIII, the learned King. Bullokar formulated a selfinvented reformed spelling system also. He had a real reformative zeal.
But, it is Ben Jonson, who is to be acclaimed as the first English
Grammarian in the truest sense of the term. He created The English
Grammar in 1640 for the benefit of all the users of English in and abroad.
He created his Grammar out of his observation of the English Language, then
spoken and in use.
In the preface, he wrote the characteristics and importance of English
Grammar in the following words: The profit of Grammar is great to
strangers, who are to live in communion and commerce with us, and it is
honourable to ourselves: for by it we communicate all our labours, studies,
profits, without an interpreter. We free our language from the opinion of
rudeness and barbarism, where with it is mistaken to be diseased: we show
the copy of it, and match a balance with other tongues; we ripen the wits of
our own children and youth sooner by it, and advance their knowledge.
Confusion of language is a curse, experience breadth art: lack of experience,
chance. Experience, observation, sense, and induction, are the four
triers of arts. It is ridiculous to teach anything for undoubted truth, that sense
and experience can confute. In grammar, not so much the invention, as the
disposition is to be commended. And yet we must remember that even
the most excellent creatures are not born perfect.
It is necessary to know grammar, and it is better to write grammatically
than not, but it is well to remember that Grammar is common speech
formulated, usage is the only test, wrote William Somerset Maugham in
The Summing Up (1938).
Grammar is the structural foundation of our ability to express ourselves. The
more we are aware of how it works, the more we can monitor the meaning
and effectiveness of the way we and others use language. It can help foster
precision, detect ambiguity, and exploit the richness of expression available
in English. And it can help everyone--not only teachers of English, but
teachers of anything, for all teachings are ultimately a matter of
getting to grips with meaning said David Crystal. ["In Word and Deed,"
TES Teacher, April 30, 2004.]
Now, lets think of Glamour. What comes to our minds eye when the word
Glamour enters into our ear? The very word Glamour brings to our minds
eye celebrities, costly cars, red carpets, champagne, swarms of paparazzi

and more money than sense. But, odd as it may sound: Glamour comes
directly from the decidedly unglamorous word Grammar. What a fun!
During the Middle Ages, Grammar was often used to describe learning in
general, including the magical, occult practices popularly associated with the
scholars of the day. In those dark days there were no Universities for higher
studies in England. Even general learning was beyond the reach of most of
the populace. Only a handful of people were blessed with the opportunity of
going to the schools. Education was mainly scholastic in nature and was
imparted in the Grammar schools (Present day Public schools). It was really
glamorous to be a student of a Grammar school.
Greek Gamma, a letter of the alphabet meaning something written down
was the source of the term Grammar. In medieval times it had the sense of
scholarship or learning. Learning was popularly associated with astrology
and occult practices. And this was the real connecting link between the two
In middle ages the term Grammar was pronounced as "Glam-our," by
the people of Scotland in order to express their feelings of magical
beauty or enchantment just like present day use of the term Glamour.
Glam-our to them also meant a magic spell or charm.
In the 1930s, the two roads diverged. English Grammar retained its
original sense but the Scottish Glam-our became present day Glamour
meaning an attractive woman.
In general, we are acquainted with mainly two definitions of Grammar--(1)
Grammar is the systematic study and description of a language, and (2)
Grammar is a set of rules and examples dealing with the syntax and
word structures of a language, usually intended to an aid to the
learning of that language. The first one is called Descriptive Grammar
while the second is called Perspective Grammar.
Descriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as it is actually
used by speakers and writers. Prescriptive grammar, on the other hand,
refers to the structure of a language as certain people think it should be
used. Both kinds of Grammars put emphasis on rules--but in different ways.
Specialists in descriptive grammar are called linguists. They study the rules
or patterns that underlie our use of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.
On the other hand, prescriptive grammarians (mainly editors and teachers)
lay out rules about what they believe to be the correct or incorrect use of

a language.
The relevance of Studying Grammar is beyond question. True it is, a study of
grammar all by itself does not necessarily make any one a better scholar, but
by gaining a clearer understanding of how the language works, one can
generate greater control over the way to shape words into sentences and
sentences into paragraphs like an Indian Jugglars dexterity of playing with
six balls at a time. In short, studying grammar helps a man to become a more
effective learner which ultimately helps him to become a scholar.
Descriptive grammarians generally advise people not to be overly concerned
with matters of correctness. To them language isn't good or bad; it simply is.
As the history of the glamorous word grammar demonstrates, the English
language is a living system of communication, a continually evolving affair.
Within a generation or two, words and phrases come into fashion and fall out
again. Over centuries, word endings and entire sentence structures can
change or disappear. During the last 500 years or so, English has become a
treasure trove of words from almost all the languages of the world. And at the
same time thousands of words have gone into oblivion or developed new
meaning. Yesterdays slang becomes a glamorous entity in todays usages.
Prescriptive grammarians, on the other hand, prefer giving practical advice
about using language and straightforward rules to help people avoid making
errors. The rules may be over-simplified at times, but they are meant to keep
the people out of trouble--the kind of trouble that may distract or even
confuse the readers.
After reading so far, it may appear that all these are familiar to us and its
sheer useless go on reading any more. Well, here is the mistake; the things
are not what they seem.While reading all these perspectives of Grammar a
very pertinent question peeps into our mind: then what type of grammar do
we know?
This is because, in recent times, a number of Grammars have evolved. The
first is Comparative Grammar: Comparative Grammar is the system of
analysis and comparison of the grammatical structures of different related
languages. According to R. Freidin, Contemporary work in comparative
grammar is concerned with a faculty of language that provides an
explanatory basis for how a human being can acquire a first language. In this
way, the theory of grammar has become a theory of human language and
hence establishes the relationship among all languages."(R.Freidin,Principles
and Parameters in Comparative Grammar. MITPress, 1991)

The next is Mental Grammar: The generative grammar stored in the brain
provides a speaker the power or capacity to produce language that other
speakers can understand. This device is what we mean by Mental Grammar.
"All humans are born with the capacity for constructing a Mental Grammar,
given linguistic experience; this capacity for language is called the Language
Faculty (Chomsky, 1965). A grammar formulated by a linguist is an idealized
description of this Mental Grammar." (P. W. Culicover and A. Nowak,
Dynamical Grammar: Foundations of Syntax II. Oxford Univ. Press, 2003).
In this regard we can think of the language which has been emerged in
recent times and practised by the young generation of India mixing words
and grammar of all the prominent languages, IT terms, computer language,
science terms and many other code gestures. This language is used and
understood by a particular age-group of people all over the country but not
accessible to their parents, older and illiterate people.
The next is Generative Grammar: It is concerned with the rules
determining the structure and interpretation of sentences that speakers
accept as belonging to the language. According to F. Parker and K. Riley, " a
generative grammar is a theory of competence: a model of the psychological
system of unconscious knowledge that underlies a speaker's ability to
produce and interpret utterances in a language." (F. Parker and K. Riley,
Linguistics for Non-Linguists. Allyn and Bacon, 1994)
Then comes in the Pedagogical Grammar, the fourth of its kind. It is the
grammatical analysis and instruction designed for second-language students.
"Pedagogical grammar is a slippery concept. The term is commonly used to
denote (1) pedagogical process--the explicit treatment of elements of the
target language systems as (part of) language teaching methodology; (2)
pedagogical content--reference sources of one kind or another that present
information about the target language system; and (3) combinations of
process and content." (D. Little, "Words and Their Properties: Arguments for a
Lexical Approach to Pedagogical Grammar." Perspectives on Pedagogical
Grammar, ed. by T. Odlin. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994)
Next, is Reference Grammar: Here the description of the grammar of a
language, with explanations of the principles governing the construction of
words, phrases, clauses, and sentences are done. Examples of contemporary
reference grammars in English include A Comprehensive Grammar of the

English Language, by Randolph Quirk et al. (1985), the Longman Grammar of

Spoken and Written English (1999), and The Cambridge Grammar of the
English Language (2002).
The next is obviously, Performance Grammar: Here we find a description of
the syntax of English as it is actually used by speakers in dialogues?
"Performance grammar says John Carroll . . . centres attention on language
production; He believes that the problem of production must be dealt with
before problems of reception and comprehension can properly be
investigated.(John Carroll, "Promoting Language Skills."Perspectives on
Then the seventh is the Theoretical Grammar: Here the subject matter is
the study of the essential components of any human language. "Theoretical
grammar or syntax is concerned with making completely explicit the
formalisms of grammar, and in providing scientific arguments or explanations
in favour of one account of grammar rather than another, in terms of a
general theory of human language,Writes A. Renouf and A. Kehoe on The
Changing Face of Corpus Linguistics. Rodopi, 2003
The eighth is, of course, Transformational Grammar. It is a theory of
grammar that accounts for the constructions of a language by linguistic
transformations and phrase structures. "In transformational grammar, the
term 'rule' is used not for a precept set down by an external authority but for
a principle that is unconsciously yet regularly followed in the production and
interpretation of sentences. A rule is a direction for forming a sentence or a
part of a sentence, which has been internalized by the native speaker, writes
D. Bornstein, in An Introduction to Transformational Grammar. Univ. Press of
America, 1984
The next, of course, is the Traditional Grammar: It is none other than the
collection of prescriptive rules and concepts about the structure of the
language. J. D. Williams says, "We say that traditional grammar is prescriptive
because it focuses on the distinction between what some people do with
language and what they ought to do with it, according to a pre-established
standard. . . . The chief goal of traditional grammar, therefore, is
perpetuating a historical model of what supposedly constitutes proper
language." (J. D. Williams, the Teacher's GrammarBook.Routledge,2005)
Then there is the tenth, but certainly not the last, the Universal Grammar.

By Universal Grammar, we mean the system of categories, operations, and

principles shared by all human languages and considered to be innate.
"Taken together, the linguistic principles of Universal Grammar constitute a
theory of the organization of the initial state of the mind/brain of the
language learner--that is, a theory of the human faculty for language." (S.
Crain and R. Thornton, Investigations in Universal Grammar. MIT Press, 2000)
Dear Readers, have I send you to the brink of your patience? Would you feel
like saying, Well, Well, you have lectured much too. We have read enough of
Grammar and there is no need to tax our brain any more on this disturbing
phenomenon. In such a case, my Dear, you will commit another mistake. You
are to remember that new grammars are emerging all the time. There's
Word Grammar, Relational Grammar and Arc pair grammar. And yet
how can I show forgetfulness to Cognitive Grammar, Lexical functional
Grammar, and Head-driven phrase structure grammar by not
mentioning them?
. . . and Again, Dear Readers! Even after saying so much, I have to admit
shamelessly that there are many more Grammars of which I have the least
So, Dear Friends! What do you think of Grammar now?Is Grammar not really
-:0000:-: Pages=10 :: Words=2500:References & Links:i.The History of English Grammar - Lawyerment
ii. History of English grammars - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
iii. The Development of English Grammar | English Project
iv, Historical Development of English Grammar - English Forums