What is Grammar

Grammar Definition

In general, when defining Grammar, it is important to start by saying that this discipline is an inseparable part of Linguistics, a science dedicated to the study of language, at each of its levels: Phonetic-Phonological; Syntactic-morphological, lexical-semantic and pragmatic. Consequently, grammar will be conceived as the linguistic discipline, which is responsible for studying, describing and in some cases even promulgating (in the case of prescriptive grammar) the different rules by which a language is handled, as well as the different rules and relationships that are established between words and sentences, so it can be said then that the vast majority of Grammar develops at the syntactic-morphological level of the Language, even when there are sources that They say that this point is not so precise when one thinks for example that within the Grammar there are rules of concern directly to the phonetic-phonological level.

Grammar Descriptive Role

Despite what most speakers think, Linguistics – and thus its different disciplines, including Grammar – does not produce or promulgate the rules by which the Language works, which are decided by the speakers themselves, unconsciously , intangible, collective and through the multiple generations that make up a speech community, but are simply responsible for observing, studying and recording the use that community makes of the Language. However, as in a linguistic community there are hundreds of ways to perform the Language, Grammar for example chooses to look at the model language of that community, registering then the ideal way in which that language conceives itself, that is, the total norms, forms, uses and relationships of the different grammatical categories and other syntactic constituents. Hence – although there is a prescriptive grammar – the Grammar is generally assumed as a descriptive discipline.

Etymology of the word Grammar

With respect to the etymology of the word Grammar, the different theoretical sources coincide in indicating that this word has its origin in the Latin word grammatĭca, which in turn can be traced to a Greek voice of form γραμματικῆ τέχνη ( grammatikḗ tékhne ) denomination compound, whose meanings would be related to the following:

From Greece, the term grammatikḗ tékhne passed into the Latin language, where it assumed the grammatĭca form However, during the third century BC by the famous Latin grammarian Elio Donato, a new order was established, since the reading and interpretation of texts, included for the Greeks also in the conception of grammatikḗ tékhne became seen as a branch own, which was called literature (word that comes in turn from the word littera , which can also be translated as letter) while they chose to keep the word grammatĭca, to name the compendium of rules by which the language was governed, meaning with which, in part, it has remained until today.

Types of Grammar

Grammar Types

However, even though Grammar is a great branch of Linguistics that addresses the study of the relations and norms by which a Language is governed, within it you can also find different approaches or ways of approaching the subject of study, hence they also talk about different types of grammar, each of which will then be defined according to the position and conception they have about the language they study . Here is a brief definition of each of them:

Prescriptive grammar

This type of Grammar, also known as normative Grammar, responds perhaps to one of the first approaches that Grammar had, so this discipline is linked to an important traditional sense. As their names indicate, this Grammar aims to study the different rules by which a Language is governed, only instead of observing those that exist, it is responsible for erecting a series of rules and parameters, thereby building a Model language , which is assumed as the ideal that should be pursued by all speakers, either in their oral record, and especially in their written record. Therefore, prescriptive grammar assumes the role of dictating norms on the correct use of the language.

Despite the great presence it had for centuries, nowadays Linguistics considers it an approach to grammar, while pointing out that the norms and conception of the language that prescriptive grammar has gives a partial account of a single level of speech , related to the cultured or academic language, which only a few speakers approach, so it cannot be said that prescriptive grammar actually reports a complete record of the language studied. However, it is still the grammar that everyone who wants to learn the language will study, assuming that she realizes the most standard form of it.

Descriptive grammar

Contrary to the prescriptive grammar, the grammar of descriptive approach has been gaining in linguistics, in recent times. This can be defined as a discipline that approaches a Language, with the purpose of being able to study, observe, identify and register the different norms by which that Language is governed, and that have been conceived naturally by a linguistic community. In this way, the descriptive grammar records these norms and syntactic relations of a language, as well as the use and category of every word used by this community, realizing it, that is, instead of pretending to regulate a language, it describes how it It is regulated.

Traditional grammar

This type of grammar is closely linked to the prescriptive grammar, as well as the conception that it has about the language and its own function of regulating it. In this sense, traditional Grammar receives this name because it is considered part of an academic heritage that could be traced to the very conception that the ancient Greeks had about language. Perhaps because of this, it remains the grammar taught in basic education, in order to convey to the speaker what are the principles by which the language of the linguistic community to which it belongs belongs. Consequently, its approach remains prescriptive, as well as partial, as it takes into account only the Model or standard language.

Functional grammar

On the other hand, Linguistics also calls attention to the so-called Functional Grammar, whose conception is attributed to the Dutch linguist Simon C. Dik, for whom the Language, in addition to social creation, was a social instrument in itself. Therefore, Dik raised in his theory the possibility of studying a language through the observation and recording of the different uses made by speakers of linguistic expressions, typical of his community, hence he receives the name of functional grammar, since his main subject of study will be the functions that perform each of the words and sentences within a language, then studying them as a social instrument. Likewise, functional grammar also assumes that the language is governed by three standards of adequacy: Typological, Pragmatic and Psychological.

Generative Grammar

Regarding the Generative Grammar, the different sources coincide in pointing out the linguist Noam Chomsky as the father of this theory, which focuses on the study of the syntax of a Language, starting from the beginning of power – through the study of syntactic relationships – predict possible combinations of words that form a sentence, considered grammatically acceptable (correct). In this way, through the knowledge of the syntax, the nature of the sentences of a language can be known, as well as the processes and relationships that will intervene in the formation of new sentences. The objective of this type of Grammar will also be to be able to promulgate a series of rules, which can tell the speaker how the different sentences in the Language are generated.

Formal grammar

Finally, within the different types of Grammar, there are the formal Grammatics, which could be understood as those mathematical structures that account for the norms and rules that come into play when generating a string of characters,expressly indicating which are admissible and which are not, within the Logic that the formal Language or Grammar admits. Although these formal languages ​​are common to disciplines such as Logic or Mathematics, they can also be found within Computational Linguistics, as well as within the theoretical Linguistics itself. Regarding its approach, formal grammar would focus on describing the form taken by the different well-formed formulas that comprise it, without being interested in describing their meaning, hence receiving the name of formal grammar.

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