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The Study of Grammar: An Overview Summary Essay

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Updated: May 8th, 2020

For many years, English has clearly dominated the world stage. Business, politics, and social media are just a few reasons why people all over the world study the English language. English is a language with incredibly diverse grammar rules depending on origin and upbringing.

English grammar rules vary depending on the country, region, society, and state. However, there have been many initiatives to teach English grammar in an instructive manner. In my case, English is a second language. There are three forms of grammar: prescriptive, descriptive, and structural styles, yet, none is superior to the others. There is no single effective method of teaching English grammar; all grammar styles have a special role to play.

In grammar books and grammar classes, lessons tend to focus on parts of speech, their definitions, and rules for combining them into phrases and clauses. Emphasis is also laid on sentence exercises demonstrating grammatical errors to avoid (Kolln and Funk 78). Many people may experience considerable difficulty learning English.

It may be complex and confusing for many learners. For me, understanding all the rules and ways to avoid grammatical errors was difficult; primarily, due to the fact that there are many exceptions to the rules. In general, there are eight parts of speech in English. One has to connect the parts in a logical manner when constructing a sentence (McArthur 126). A different arrangement may convey a different message. This is a problem affecting mainly those learning English as a second language (ESL).

However, the rules are not universal. In other regions, rules for combining parts of speech may be different. This gives rise to a situation in which one sentence may convey two separate messages. Therefore, learners should be informed of this fact at an early. This is to enable them adapt to various situations they find themselves in.

One style of grammar originated from an English philosopher in 1693. This style of grammar is seen as a traditional form of grammar. It is described as prescriptive grammar. Prescriptive grammar is based on the premise that everything is in black and white. It is followed by preordained rules on how English should be and will be spoken and taught (Chambers 1).

As a rule, when English is taught in the classroom, it is taught in the prescriptive grammar form. Prescriptive grammar focuses on the traditional language structure. This tends to ignore the fact that language should be about communication but not rules. There are many situations in which native speakers use grammatically incorrect sentences, yet they manage to communicate well. Language is dynamic and imposing strict grammar rules may not be the answer.

A more modern approach to language education, however, is guided by the work of linguists, who look at the way the language is actually used (Kolln and Funk 89). Descriptive grammar is a recent form of grammar. Instead of focusing on rules and sentence structures, descriptive grammar focuses on a day-to-day usage. It is a constantly evolving form of grammar. It enables both teachers and learners to look at grammar in the context of either country or region of origin.

Descriptive grammar experts look at how language is used and then try to come up with rules and regulations inherent in the language (Pullum, “Power and linguistics” 12). This enables learners and teachers to appreciate that some forms of grammar are correct even though they are not acceptable in a traditional grammar setting. However, care must be taken when approaching grammar this way.

It may alter the language confusing both the native and English as second language speakers (Pullum, “50 years” 3). On the other hand, it is important to note that language is not static. The English language has evolved to its current form over centuries. It has undoubtedly undergone numerous modifications. Other languages have exerted their influence on it.

Structural grammar is based on the analysis of a language structure. Like the anthropologists studying the speech of Native Americans, the structuralists also recognize the importance of describing language on its own terms (Kolln and Robert 46). It describes the structure of language as a standalone phenomenon.

It attempts to give a detailed analysis of the language in terms of sentence structure, usage and origin. In my opinion, structural grammar is more difficult to describe. This type of style is depicted as more of an analysis than a grammar style. By far, structural grammar is more technical than any other style. It is a difficult method of instruction.

Grammar styles and structure are constantly changing. Therefore, there should be a way of effectively instructing language. The methods of instruction used should be instructive and meaningful to the learner. Because of the varied forms, grammar does not need to be taught in a rigid way. Yet, care should also be taken not to profoundly alter the language. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has addressed a number of questions in a document called “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” (Kolln and Robert 42).

The issues tackled in the document have enabled grammar teachers to teach in a manner that is respectful and accepting of the different language styles. Prescriptive and descriptive forms normally exist together. In most informal works, it is common to find both forms of grammar in use. For example, newspapers and magazines are often written in the widely used form of language. Therefore, this is an indication that in future language will be used depending on the context.

English will continue to dominate the world stage. No other language has been taught in more classrooms than English. All grammar structures, from traditional to modern, have an equal and important part to play in the dynamic and exponential growth of the English language. To be successful on the international stage, one has to have a basic understanding of the language. This is due to the fact that English is widely spoken in the world. Those who speak the language have an advantage over those who rely on interpreters.

This paper analyzed the different forms of grammar and their relevance in English language instruction. Prescriptive style focuses on the grammar rules. It judges the spoken language using laid down rules. It is a rigid method of studying the language. Descriptive style describes language on the basis of context, region, and country.

In this style, emphasis is laid on how language is used as opposed to rules. Structural grammar focuses on the analysis of language structure. This is a complex method of studying language. This form is more of a theoretical framework than a form of grammar. Both prescriptive and descriptive styles often exist together. Language is dynamic and no form of grammar is superior to the other. The English language has evolved over a long period of time.

Works Cited

Chambers, Neal. 2010. Descriptive English Grammar vs Prescriptive English Grammar. PDF file. Web.

Kolln, Martha and Robert Funk. Understanding English Grammar (9th ed), Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2012. Print.

McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Print.

Pullum, Geoffrey. 2004. Ideology, Power and Linguistic Theory.PDF file. Web.

Pullum, Geoffrey. “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2009. Web.

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