AskDefine | Define grammars

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  1. Plural of grammar

Extensive Definition

Grammar is the study of the rules governing the use of any given spoken language, and, as such, is a field of linguistics. Traditionally, grammar included morphology and syntax; in modern linguistics these subfields are complemented by phonetics, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics. Each language has its own distinct grammar. "English grammar" (uncountable) refers to the rules of the English language itself, while "an English grammar" (countable) refers to a specific study or analysis of these rules. A fully explicit grammar exhaustively describing the grammatical constructions of a language is called a descriptive grammar. Specific types of grammars, or approaches to constructing them, are known as grammatical frameworks. The standard framework of generative grammar is the transformational grammar model developed by Noam Chomsky in the 1950s to 1980s.
A reference book that attempts a comprehensive description of the grammar of a language may be called "a grammar" or "a reference grammar".


The word "grammar," derives from Greek γραμματική τέχνη (grammatike techne), which means "art of letters," from γράμμα (gramma), "letter," and that from γράφειν (graphein), "to draw, to write".


see History of linguistics The first systematic grammars originate in Iron Age India, with Panini (4th c. BC) and his commentators Pingala (ca. 200 BC), Katyayana, and Patanjali (2nd c. BC). In the West, grammar emerges as a discipline in Hellenism from the 3rd c. BC forward with authors like Rhyanus and Aristarchus of Samothrace, the oldest extant work being the Art of Grammar (), attributed to Dionysius Thrax (ca. 100 BC). Latin grammar developed by following Greek models from the 1st century BC, due to the work of authors such as Orbilius Pupillus, Remmius Palaemon, Marcus Valerius Probus, Verrius Flaccus, Aemilius Asper.
Tamil grammatical tradition also began around the 1st century BC with the Tolkāppiyam.
A grammar of Irish originated in the 7th century with the Auraicept na n-Éces.
Arabic grammar emerges from the 8th century with the work of Ibn Abi Ishaq and his students.
Belonging to the trivium of the seven liberal arts, grammar was taught as a core discipline throughout the Middle Ages, following the influence of authors from Late Antiquity, such as Priscian. Treatment of vernaculars begins gradually during the High Middle Ages, with isolated works such as the First Grammatical Treatise, but becomes influential only in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. In 1486, Antonio de Nebrija published Las introduciones Latinas contrapuesto el romance al Latin, and the first Spanish grammar, Gramática de la lengua castellana, in 1492. During the 16th century Italian Renaissance, the Questione della lingua was the discussion on the status and ideal form of the Italian language, initiated by Dante's de vulgari eloquentia (Pietro Bembo, Prose della volgar lingua Venice 1525).
Grammars of non-European languages began to be compiled for the purposes of evangelization and Bible translation from the 16th century onward, such as Grammatica o Arte de la Lengua General de los Indios de los Reynos del Perú (1560), and a Quechua grammar by Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás. In 1643 there appeared Ivan Uzhevych's Grammatica sclavonica and, in 1762, the Short Introduction to English Grammar of Robert Lowth was also published. The Grammatisch-Kritisches Wörterbuch der hochdeutschen Mundart, a High German grammar in five volumes by Johann Christoph Adelung, appeared as early as 1774.
From the latter part of the 18th century, grammar came to be understood as a subfield of the emerging discipline of modern linguistics. The Serbian grammar by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić arrived in 1814, while the Deutsche Grammatik of the Brothers Grimm was first published in 1818. The Comparative Grammar of Franz Bopp, the starting point of modern comparative linguistics, came out in 1833.
In the USA, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar has designated March 4, 2008 as National Grammar Day.

Development of grammars

Grammars evolve through usage, and grammars also develop due to separations of the human population. 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 repeated documentation over time, and by observation as well. As the rules become established and developed, the prescriptive concept of grammatical correctness can arise. This often creates a discrepancy between contemporary usage and that which has been accepted over time as being correct. Linguists tend to believe 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 for children 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 (for example, naturalistic Interlingua, schematic Esperanto, and the highly logic-compatible artificial language Lojban). Each of these languages has its own grammar.
No clear line can be drawn between syntax and morphology. 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 have 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 that are placed in a largely arbitrary order. Latin has a complex affixation and a simple syntax, while Chinese has the opposite.

Grammar frameworks

Various "grammar frameworks" have been developed in theoretical linguistics since the mid 20th century, in particular under the influence of the idea of a "Universal grammar" in the USA. Of these, the main divisions are:

Notes and 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

grammars in Afrikaans: Grammatika
grammars in Tosk Albanian: Grammatik
grammars in Amharic: ስዋሰው
grammars in Aragonese: Gramatica
grammars in Asturian: Gramática
grammars in Bengali: ব্যাকরণ
grammars in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Граматыка
grammars in Bosnian: Gramatika
grammars in Breton: Yezhadur
grammars in Bulgarian: Граматика
grammars in Catalan: Gramàtica
grammars in Chuvash: Грамматика
grammars in Czech: Mluvnice
grammars in Welsh: Gramadeg
grammars in Danish: Grammatik
grammars in German: Grammatik
grammars in Modern Greek (1453-): Γραμματική
grammars in Spanish: Gramática
grammars in Esperanto: Gramatiko
grammars in Basque: Gramatika
grammars in Persian: دستور زبان
grammars in French: Grammaire
grammars in Galician: Gramática
grammars in Classical Chinese: 語法
grammars in Korean: 문법
grammars in Hindi: व्याकरण
grammars in Croatian: Gramatika
grammars in Ido: Gramatiko
grammars in Indonesian: Tata bahasa
grammars in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Grammatica
grammars in Icelandic: Málfræði
grammars in Italian: Grammatica
grammars in Hebrew: דקדוק
grammars in Kara-Kalpak: Grammatika
grammars in Kurdish: Rêziman
grammars in Latin: Ars grammatica
grammars in Latvian: Gramatika
grammars in Lithuanian: Gramatika
grammars in Lojban: gerna
grammars in Hungarian: Nyelvtan
grammars in Macedonian: Граматика
grammars in Marathi: मराठी व्याकरण
grammars in Dutch: Grammatica
grammars in Japanese: 文法
grammars in Norwegian: Grammatikk
grammars in Norwegian Nynorsk: Grammatikk
grammars in Novial: Gramatike
grammars in Low German: Grammatik
grammars in Polish: Gramatyka
grammars in Portuguese: Gramática
grammars in Romanian: Gramatică
grammars in Quechua: Simi kamachiy
grammars in Russian: Грамматика
grammars in Sanskrit: व्‍याकरण
grammars in Scots: Grammar
grammars in Simple English: Grammar
grammars in Slovenian: Slovnica
grammars in Serbian: Граматика
grammars in Finnish: Kielioppi
grammars in Swedish: Grammatik
grammars in Thai: ไวยากรณ์
grammars in Vietnamese: Ngữ pháp
grammars in Tok Pisin: Grama
grammars in Turkish: Dil bilgisi
grammars in Ukrainian: Граматика
grammars in Walloon: Croejhete (linwince)
grammars in Yiddish: גראמאטיק
grammars in Chinese: 语法
grammars in Slovak: Gramatika (jazykoveda)
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