Talk:Grammar/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3


I've added a list of grammatical terms, which may be extended, mainly to prevent ambiguities such as [case], [tense], [mood] and [voice]. Karl Palmen

More than positivistic Grammar

I think the very beginning of this article is merely half-true. As I have understood from a Tibetan Buddhist, and Scholar, who have studied in the tradition of Patanjali, The Sanskrit was developed or preserved from an ideal/sacred source. The paradigmatic view that Grammar is basically descriptive in nature, I believe cannot stand unchallenged, It is descriptive, too. But grammar is fundamentally diagrammatic. It arises out of a wish to communicate as much as out of the laws of communication instructed through the mother tongue. Diagrammatic is here signs signifying relations. Primarily, I think, people speak together, therefor I find it not farfetched to assume that the structure of speaking together has been developed together as a means for common good of understanding one another and shared milieus. The italics are here used to mark the fundamental nature of what I here term diagrammatic. I am not at all opposed to the established view on grammar, I'm simply saying that it is positively exclusive to render grammar as a subfield of linguistic, unless also poetry, Mantra-making and adherent chanting, meditation, praying, storytelling, singing-together, sharing wisdom and knowledge etc, making jokes through the ages and so on, unless all these things are understood as subdivisions of linguistics. The first to develop grammar as a science, were among those who created sanskrit for the enlightenment of the people, not as an antropolgical-linguistic attempt at merely describing the way people spoke in an area. They looked upon Grammar as a supreme knowledge that were not a subfield to any system of thought or practice other than wisdom itself. It was a direct link to the Dalai Lama (here meaning sea of wisdom), so literally speaking. Speaking words and making signs are looked upon one of the three basic things that creates Kamma, alongside thinking on one side and acting on the other. Grammar of Sanskrit, the first scientific language of grammarians are thought of still as a language so pure that it doesn't make bad Kamma, unless one on the other side misuses it by acting as if thought, but haven't really learned anything. Similar attitude can be tracked among pioneers in the art and science of grammar in many languages. The positivist approach is ok if self-ironic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:21, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

I think it's an error to group programming "languages" in with planned languages like Esperanto or even Klingon. Those have as their goal the creation of a human (okay, sentient-being-based) language; programming languages do not. Try saying "the sky is blue" in Javascript. - Montréalais

assert(sky.color == blue);
No, that doesn't work, unless you can assign javascript values to sky.color and blue which have the same meanings as those English words (which you can't). Your example only appears to work because of the English semantics of the variable names you've used, but this has no bearing on the semantics of the Javascript code, which is the issue here. Cadr 16:14, 14 Jun 2004 (UTC)

could someone look at the source for this most recent change? it looks buggy...the list of alpha of terms?

In my opinion, treating the linguists' sense of grammar as the "real" sense is not a neutral point of view. Ironically, it's a prescriptive attempt to tell people that the everyday meaning of "grammar" is wrong and only the specialists' meaning is right. My main goal in reorganizing and slightly rewording this article was the descriptivist one of treating both meanings on an equal footing, while retaining the objections that linguists make to descriptivism. I hope I didn't make any mistakes in doing so.

JerryFriedman 00:42, 8 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Conversely, the section on 'criticism' right now is idiotic. I mean, apart from having a section that is just one big quote with no context, what better way is there to make McCaffrey's statement seem ridiculous than to apparently imply that it is somehow a "criticism of grammar." Silly. This article in general could use a huge amount of work -- anonymous, nov.2007. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:34, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Is there a reason why phonetics, phonology, and semantics are listed as subfields of grammar? Everything I've seen treats those fields, and to a certain extent morphology (minus morphosyntax), as distinct from grammar. Syntax on the other hand is always considered part of grammar in my experience. - Gwalla 03:49, Apr 26, 2004 (UTC)

Adding traditional point of view

It is not fair to give only Chomskyan definition of grammar. So having checked this glossary I added the following sentence:

In traditional terms, grammar includes only morphology and syntax.

The only other change was the qualifying phrase 'According to the structuralist point of view' added to the main definition.

Is phonetics really a "subfield" of grammar?

Is phonetics really a sub-area of grammar? My limited exposure to the former suggests to me that it is not properly a branch of the study of grammars. I would like to hear the opinions of those knowledgeable in linguistics. — User:

  • In my experience, phonology and grammar are considered separate branches of linguistic study. Gwalla | Talk 04:54, 4 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I just graduated with a degree in linguistics, and everything I was told indicates that phonology IS definitely a part of grammar from a linguistics perspective. Phonology is very rule-driven. All languages have rules about how their sounds can be used and combined and under what circumstances. I would have a very hard time thinking of it any other way, but if there's someone with a master's degree or Ph.D who disagrees with me, I won't stand in their way. And as for the linguistic perspective on grammar being a POV, I think it has more to do with two different uses of the word. A linguist who talks about grammar his or her way and an English teacher who uses the word grammar his or her way are not disagreeing as much as dealing with different concepts. At least that's my feeling on the issue. 13:34 UTC 24 April 2005

Don't merge with syntax

This article should not be merged with article syntax; the terms have quite distinct meanings. Let me quote from an undergraduate linguistics textbook (Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction, William O'Grady, Michael Dobrovolsky, and Mark Aronoff, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1989):

"...a grammar... is an explicit system of elements and rules needed to form and interpret sentences. All languages have a grammar consisting of the components listed in Table 1.1. Linguists use the term grammar in a rather special and technical sense."

Table 1.1 then lists the five components of a grammar, namely phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, just as in the second paragraph of the current version of the article. This makes it clear that syntax is simply one component of a grammar, and not equivalent to it. Merging the grammar and syntax articles would be like merging the radio and antenna articles. Physicist 13:30, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I agree. I said the same thing on Talk:Syntax. Shall we remove the tags?

Rhesusman 17:30, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Done. Physicist 17:45, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Healthy or healthful?

There is a disagreement at Talk:Healthy eating about whether the title should use "healthy" or "healthful". Anyone care to weigh in over there? Maurreen 2 July 2005 23:05 (UTC)

That sort of question should be asked over at Talk:Disputed English grammar if anywhere, as it is a prescriptive question, not a descriptive one. --Torgo 07:57, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Numerals missing

A discussion of Numerals is missing. That is something else than 'Numbers'. - Ordinal Numerals, Cardinal Numerals and ... (not being a native English speaker) 'indefinite numerals' such as 'some, 'all', 'many'?

Paul Ogilvie

grammar includes phonology, morphology, etc.. not pragmatics?

According to my intro linguistics textbook (Language files 8th Ed., Dept. of Linguistics at Ohio State University, 2001)

"The mental grammar consists of those aspects of a speaker's knowledge of language that allow him or her to produce grammatical utterances... this kind of grammar is made up of knowledge of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics... Knowledge of pragmatics and language variation is not usually considered to be part of grammar proper, though it is an important part of your knowledge about language." (p. 8)

So, regarding a couple of the discussions above, in case there is still any question, yes, grammar includes phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

As a side note, according to this textbook, pragmatics is not considered part of grammar. Can someone second this? I noticed the article includes pragmatics as part of grammar. --Torgo 08:06, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

Calling on grammarians for help on the vandalism page

We need the input of grammarians/linguists at Wikipedia talk:Vandalism at the section entitled "What does nonsense mean?". Your input on the talk page will help immeasurably in the improvement of all wikipedia articles.pat8722 15:34, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

Word order in Sentences

Have unreverted this section of the article, as it should not have been reverted/removed in first place without explanation. Please edit a para and clean it up if necessary but do not just revert it. This section looked substantial to me, and if parts needed correcting then that should have been done, or at least it should have been submitted it to general perusal and if found lacking substantiation, then by all means go ahead and remove it. Dieter Simon 01:17, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

The Basis for Syntax/Word Order section could be removed from this article and added to the syntax article. It would fit better there. Here that section could be replaced with a brief discussion of the various parts of a grammar ie. syntax, phonology, semantics, etc.
Thoughts?--YellowLeftHand 21:14, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
I have removed the Basis for Syntax section and sub sections Noun Declension and Word Order. The reason: Noun Declension and Word Order are grammatical devices but they are not Grammar. Those sections should be moved to Morphology and Syntax respectively. If you feel that some part of either section would enhance this article, I would be ok with your restoring it under a different heading. Also, We could have a subsection on Universal Grammar.--YellowLeftHand 09:01, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
Fine, and I agree. That's all we ever ask for, an explanation why things are being done. Thank you, YellowLeftHand, I see your point. Dieter Simon 23:39, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Re the removal of a large sections of the article

Have unreverted the revert of large sections of the article (Development of grammars). You really cannot just revert large sections of an article, however much you may disagree with what has been said. If you are going to remove sections you should always explain why you are doing so, and give sources of contrary evidence. Dieter Simon 23:29, 6 July 2006 (UTC) Please ignore my brainstorm remarks, apologies for my inadvertent removal of content. I somehow got carried away.Dieter Simon 23:50, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Grammatical links list

Have reverted list for the time being, as I can't see the redundancy of that list in this "Grammar" article. I think such a redundancy should have been made obvious to the average reader, which I think it weasn't. Can we assume that the uninitiated reader can find his way around the history and discussions of the article to know there is such a list? Attention should have been drawn that the list is in "syntax", and what kind of list it is. As it stands, the syntax link is one of quite a number of other links in yet another list, not at all obvious. Dieter Simon 00:07, 4 October 2006 (UTC)Dieter Simon 23:56, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

The New "Bad Grammar" section.

This section doesn't belong in this article. It's prescriptive (rather than descriptive) and is, at any rate, wrong. In addition to misspelling the word "ain't," using a word considered by many to sound informal and uneducated has nothing to do with grammar. It should be deleted in my opinion, but I didn't want to upset anyone by unilaterally doing it myself. So I'll let everyone else decide what to do with it. Cereal Box Conspiracy 18:36, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

The section as it is should not stay in the article (delete it). However, the word grammar means more than just descriptive linguistic grammars. Bearing this in mind, some section of the article should be dedicated to describing the sociology of prescriptive grammars. The section could also clarify the difference between nonstandard usage and nonnative usage. --YellowLeftHand 10:35, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

I have deleted the section titled Bad Grammar. Add it back if 1 you can explain exactly what it means (remember there is a difference between prestigious usage of language, erroneous usage of language, and incorrect nonnative usage of language.) The example, ain't, provided is not prestigious but it is also not erroneous nor is it incorrect. 2 you link to the article Linguistic prescription 3 you provide information about register, prestige, errors, and native speaker knowledge.--YellowLeftHand 20:56, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Agreed. I would add that it should probably not be titled "bad grammar". — Gwalla | Talk 07:21, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

On the goodness of description and evil of prescription

The article on grammar suggests in many ways that teaching people how to listen and read is good, but teaching them how to speak and write is wicked. Linguists are said to be concerned "normally" with the former, implying that there is something abnormal about the latter. The notion that we are all culpable when helping people decide how to communicate, when seeking such help, and when making such decisions ourselves, is not only perverse and deplorable, but also patently wrong. We begin our lives incapable of speech. Is it wrong to acquire the ability? Is it right to call instruction in the application of the rules of grammar an invalid activity? Banning prescriptive grammar from the general article on grammar and suggesting that it is illegitimate are serious mistakes, motivated, I suspect, by timidity, laziness, irresponsibility, and ignorance. Only a stubborn, intentional, dedicated ignorance can maintain that proficiency in English composition must not be taught, nor properly called "grammar". D021317c 12:48, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

Here's how I understand it. Since linguistics is a science (or aspires to be one, depending on how you feel about the "soft sciences"), modern linguists try not to make value judgments. It's not that they are not interested in how people speak or write, but that they are interested in describing how people speak and write (and how this changes over time) rather than telling people how they should speak and write. Some dialects allow certain things that others do not: for example, the sentence "The beer here is lousy anymore" is perfectly acceptable in some dialects of the northwestern United States. However, some dialects or features may be considered inappropriate in some contexts based on social factors. This is the province of the study of pragmatics, not grammar.
I don't think many linguists would say that people should not be taught how to speak. But that's not what they're talking about when they use the term "grammar". — Gwalla | Talk 08:03, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
Discussion of prescriptive grammar has not been banned from this page. If you feel that a section on prescription can be worked into the article, then by all means go ahead and add it yourself. However, we should try to avoid saying things like, "Ain't is bad grammar." Also, we should avoid confusing grammar with style and register. --YellowLeftHand 11:56, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
The article is very poor in my opinion. I don't write very well so I invite D021317c to rewrite the article. Our goal, as I see it, is to inform our readers that grammar has several distinct meanings including: the prescription of proper speech and writing, and the description of the rules which allow for all the possible meaningful utterances of a language. Interested readers should then be able to direct themselves to articles which discuss the subareas of these meanings.--YellowLeftHand 11:56, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
The trouble is, I think, "Political Correctness" is raising its ugly head somewhere along the line. How would a student feel if I as a teacher told him/her, oh don't worry, write it down as you feel right, as somewhere in the English-speaking world this is how they speak it, let me just describe it how they speak/write it, etc. Then he/she is trying to apply for a job with that attitude at the back of his/her mind? Writing his CV in the style he feels most comfortable with, without however taking due regard of the finer points of grammar (or linguistics) as he ought to have been taught - yes, and this should have been prescriptive to save him from some of the inevitable pitfalls of writing. He/she would not get very far in his job applications, I can assure you. We are really talking about practicalities here, not 'Never, Never Land' that may or may not one day become the solution of all our linguistic problems. Dieter Simon 23:44, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
I will not address straw men. --YellowLeftHand 06:15, 9 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't see political correctness here at all. Modern linguistics has abandoned prescriptivism not out of some desire to avoid giving offense, but because the subject's goal is to figure out how the human brain processes language in general. The existence (or nonexistence) of a rule in a given dialect shows that the brain can interpret the language that way (because it does for some people); throwing out evidence like that because it's not "proper English" (or whatever the language at issue is) just hinders understanding.
Your CV example is one of register and social context: it is appropriate to use a formal register and the rules of standard written English in that case, rather than, say, Cockney. But again, this is a matter of pragmatics, the social (rather than structural) aspect of language.
As for "never-never land" and "the solution to all our linguistic problems", I don't know what you're trying to say. — Gwalla | Talk 07:24, 11 March 2007 (UTC)
I fully concur with the worthy aim of finding out how the human brain processes language in general. However, I was not referring to the former practice of pillorying people for not using “proper English”, and I fully agree with you that continuing in this way would indeed hinder understanding.
What I meant was that in formal register the rules of standard written English do indeed apply, as you agree, but that it is precisely the formal styles that need the framework of rules of grammar. Can one however imagine grammatical rules without some kind of prescriptivism?
Certain conventions, such as those where to place parts of speech within a sentence or whether to use the controversial modifier “hopefully” as an indicator of the speaker’s attitude, may be one aspect of grammar which may be acceptable, but the dropping of the suffix –ly in adverbs; the incorrect use of the apostrophe in “it’s”; or ‘dangling modifiers’, are examples which indicate a much more serious failure of the writer’s understanding of grammar. These are not merely style insufficiencies which might be laughed off, but errors that should be prevented at all cost in the teaching of English and therefore require some kind of prescriptive teaching of the language.
As for the "never-never land" mention, yes it might have been "over the top" somewhat on my part, but it is a reflection on my part that the teaching of English in general appears not to get the serious approach it deserves, and, yes, if a more prescriptive procedure were adopted it might be prove beneficial in the long run. Dieter Simon 01:34, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
I can imagine grammatical rules without prescriptivism. They are used all of the time by native speakers. First language acquisition is through exposure and trial-and-error. Even in modern literate societies with school systems, formal teaching of the native language is secondary to experience. Native speakers may not know how to explain the rules behind why some utterances sound wrong and other sound right, but they use them all of the time, unconsciously, when they communicate.
You may be right that a prescriptive approach is desirable in education. In my experience, the problem is really that there is less and less emphasis on teaching grammar at all, either prescriptivist "how to/how not to" or descriptivist "how it works". Any approach is probably better than none at all. Although I believe any prescriptivist approach should be tempered by actual usage: insisting upon the use of "whom" is clearly an archaism, as it's no longer present in the spoken language; the artificial rule against "split infinitives" should finally be laid to rest; and as for absolutely prohibiting so-called "dangling prepositions", I believe Winston Churchill said it best: "That is the sort of language up with which I shall not put."
Also, "it's" vs. "its" is really more a matter of spelling. — Gwalla | Talk 02:33, 13 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes, Gwalla, indeed, but it is the secondary experience of learning the formal usage of their language which will allow native speakers to progress in their lives.

I agree with you entirely that first language acquisition is by trial-and-error and that youngsters may be unaware of why speech sounds wrong if it is wrongly used by others, but that doesn't really alter the fact, I feel, that later in life, if and when they come in contact with more advanced states of learning such as that at college or university, they may become painfully aware of the lacunae that show up when they express themselves which then may take some time to remedy.

I agree, too, that split infinitives are really of no importance these days, but I can't agree with you about "dangling modifiers/prepositions". Statements, such as "Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house much cheaper" are instances which are not just part of the lack of style training, but have to be warned against and guarded against if these risible results are not to creep up on the unwary writer. Dieter Simon 01:53, 14 March 2007 (UTC) Dieter Simon

Note that I specifically said dangling prepositions, not the more general dangling modifiers. So-called dangling prepositions are the particle components of phrasal and prepositional verbs, and are a natural feature of the English language (Churchill's quote demonstrates the problems caused by dogmatically avoiding them). The problem with your example is not that the modifier is "dangling", but that an adjective is being used where it does not fit: an adverbial phrase is required there.
At any rate, IMO the point of this conversation is moot because I don't think it is our job as an encyclopedia to recommend educational approaches. Wikipedia is not a how-to guide. — Gwalla | Talk 19:55, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, of course, you are right, I did not do justice to "dangling prepositions", I did really not feel I needed to, as these days it is not problem, we should realise English is after all a living language, and I would really call this another one of the conventions which change over time. To call it a rule is taking it a little too far. The fact that Churchill was "lampooning the official view" (as the Devil's Dictionary so quaintly put it), is really neither here nor there, as is the fact that some eyebrows are still being raised if anyone places a preposition at the end of the sentence.
What we should be doing in Wikipedia is warning that there are still things which can lead a writer into embarrassing statements which, as in this case, include "dangling modifiers" (or "dangling participles"). It is not an approach to put the clock back but something that must be of benefit to those who consult Wikipedia. For this reason our conversation is worthwhile as Wikipedians and not moot. We are not rewriting the rules, nor setting them for ever in stone but are showing up things the way they are, and that must be important to those who write an encyclopaedia. If that is being prescriptive, so be it, surely. Dieter Simon 00:53, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
At this point it's really an issue for the English grammar article, not the general grammar article (which applies to all languages). — Gwalla | Talk 06:10, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
Here, Gwalla is exactly right.--YellowLeftHand 12:09, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

Good point, but the original comment was added to the talk page of the "Grammar" article rather than the"English grammar" one.
The only thing that worries me here, is how you can generalise to the extent you would like. What would a French person think of your comments, with the Académie Française breathing down his neck in their endevour to maintain purity of the French language? How indeed a German when the official bodies have merely been able to change a few instances of the sharp ess and some very minor other ones since for the last seventy-odd years? I still think English is one of the most protean languages, which can change almost to any demands made on it. Dieter Simon 02:43, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
Why is it I get harangued by my well meaning friends for drooping my tees and aitches in English and for adding consonants to French? What is it with people who jump through verbal hoops to avoid splitting infinitives whilst simultaneously keeping prepositions from the end of sentences? Still, the other day I heard a child ask his mother "Where the man's gone?" to which she replied "No Charlie, where's the man gone." Children should be taught grammar up to the age of five and that it's. 12:45, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

It's a matter of register, isn't it? I am sure if you were to apply for a job where it mattered whether you drop your tees and aitches , you wouldn't drop them, would you? Would you get the job if you did? As for children learning by trial-and-error, that was discussed above. Teaching them grammatic "rules" would be most unhelpful until they get into an age when they can make some sense of them. Dieter Simon 22:52, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

I don't believe grammars is even an accepted plural for grammar...

... and that is the most ironic thing that I have ever seen. Someone prove me wrong. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 04:19, 28 March 2007 (UTC).

When used as a term for the general subject (as with "physics" or "biology"), it acts as a mass noun and is not pluralized. However, when used to refer to the grammar of a specific language (or when used as the term for a book about the grammar of a language, as in "a reference grammar"), it is a count noun and can be pluralized in the usual way. — Gwalla | Talk 06:50, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I would agree. (When used to refer to the grammar of a specific language) or of a set of languages, such as "the grammars of the Scandinavian languages..." Examples such as these surely must allow pluralization. Dieter Simon 22:56, 28 March 2007 (UTC)
Grammars is perfectly OK. garik 17:50, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

"... ; thus, ..."

This is in the openning paragraph of the article. I was pretty sure it should be "... , -->

Reference grammar

Should there not be a short article clarifying that "a grammar" often refers to a book summarising the grammar of a language, for learners and/or writers? Itsmejudith (talk) 12:30, 9 December 2007 (UTC

Yes, Itsmejudith, I do see your point as regards to the countable or uncountable noun "grammar", but the way it is written, will it be understood by people who by chance read the sentence? On the practical side, are you saying that a book called "English Grammar" is in fact dealing with a different subject than a book called "an English Grammar"? If so, how does it differ? Is "English Grammar" not only about the English language, but a general book also about the history, etymology, typography or bibliography of the English language, while "an English Grammar" as each individual book published to teach, analyse or summarise English? You see, you suggest "descriptive grammar" but that redirects to Linguistic prescription in Wikipedia. Looks like a bit of a minefield to me.Dieter Simon (talk) 00:09, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
All we need to do is to explain what is meant when someone says "I'll look that up in my grammar" or "I'm going to the bookshop to get a German grammar" or "she co-authored a Tagalog grammar". "A grammar" meaning "a book of grammar" can be prescriptive, descriptive or both. In my experience "a reference grammar" is used as often as "a grammar" in this context. "Students, look up this point in your reference grammar". Itsmejudith (talk) 09:41, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
Yes, please go on and do it then, because as far as I can see there is no definition or encyclopaedic article of "reference grammar" in Wiki, so we can all see what it is. What is the difference between a "a grammar" and "a reference grammar"? As I said, you are telling us about a "descriptive grammar" which then redirects to "linguistic prescription", but nothing about "reference grammar". Dieter Simon (talk) 22:28, 30 June 2008 (UTC)
"A reference grammar" is simply a book of grammar that is meant to be used as a reference book. Searching for it in Amazon I found for example: A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian by Martin Maiden and Cecilia Robustelli; A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish by John Butt and Carmen Benjamin; A Reference Grammar of Syrian Arabic (Georgetown Classics in Arabic Language and Linguistics) by Mark W. Cowell, Karin C. Ryding, and Margaret Nydell. These books are mainly for the use of second-language learners, but they are also used by teachers. They are overwhelmingly descriptive but there is no reason in principle why prescriptive rules should not also be covered. Itsmejudith (talk) 12:15, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

So it's really one and the same thing "grammar" and "reference grammar"? You see, forgive me but what worries me is the fact you can't find any definition of "reference grammar" in any of the dictionaries I have consulted. It seems to me just a modifier plus noun, yes, which might make some sense, but for the person consulting Wikipedia he/she won't be able to see the definition. Yes, there are plenty grammar books which relate to the would-be user who might want to "refer" as he might want to "refer" to any rule book, but surely "grammar" is "grammar" is "grammar"? The difference between "grammar" and "reference grammar" seems rather specious in what one can see in the public domain.

Another thing is, or was, the introductory section to "Grammar", I think it might need rewriting. I have removed the link in "descriptive grammar" as it redirected straight to linguistic prescription, the precise antithesis of "description", which of course couldn't have been more confusing if we'd tried. I am sorry if I sound like a critic harping on about a lot of work done to the page but which doesn't seem to achieve what it set out to do. Perhaps you might lend a hand and rewrite the intro? Would be appreciated. Dieter Simon (talk) 23:03, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

Re:" and indirect"

Re your edit: "Questions can come in many forms direct and indirect a direct question has the words who what where when and why. Indirect questions have inplied words such as tell explain or ellaborate". Don't forget, indirect questions can still have the "Wh-" forms, such as "please explain what the hero of the story intended to do". Of course you can also say "Explain the intentions the hero had". Have reverted your edit for the time being, perhaps you can let us know exactly what is meant. Dieter Simon (talk) 00:26, 14 July 2008 (UTC)


How does the word "singular" function in "Each language has its own distinct grammar (singular)."? Unfree (talk) 22:17, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

Yes, "each language" (singular) has "its own distinct grammar" (singular). You could, of course, put it slightly differently: "all languages" (plural) have "their own grammars", stylistically not so good. Dieter Simon (talk) 23:45, 28 June 2009 (UTC)
I think the intent of the question was, "What is the point of including the word '(singular)' at the end of this sentence?", and I say, it has no point. That the word grammar is singular is obvious from the lack of an -s at the end. I've removed it as superfluous. +Angr 05:39, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I see now where this came from. I first thought it was a general question on the part of Unfree. It is part of the introductory section of the article, and as such I think it is quite alright to leave it there. After all you got to introduce it somehow, but if you want to improve this section yourself, feel free. Dieter Simon (talk) 22:50, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

The Couple have/has

Which is correct/more appropriate:

  • The couple have two daughters; or
  • The couple has two daughters.

Please, no opinions, only answers from knowledgable persons. Regards. Redking7 (talk) 19:27, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

Unfortunately it is not as straightforward as you think. Couple is a collective noun or 'group noun', and should therefore take the singular. However, since the couple also consists of two individuals, nowadays it is becoming more and more common to use the plural. The couple has three children, or the couple have three children may equally often be heard. The same applies to pair, and quite a number of other collective nouns.
It becomes much more obvious if you have larger groups, such as the team: If you are talking about the team as a single functioning body, then it is much easier to use a phrase such as this team has improved a lot over the year, but the team have all contributed to the final result could most certainly be used. Another favourite for singular usage is the government, as in this government is reponsible for so many things, but the government have never denied that they were responsible for having to find the money.
The problem is whether you consider grammar prescriptive or descriptive. Are you describing what is the usage or are you prescribing, in other words, laying down the law how language ought to be used. Linguists nowadays tend to describe the usage in language rather than insist on it. Dieter Simon (talk) 01:26, 5 September 2009 (UTC) Dieter Simon (talk) 01:29, 5 September 2009 (UTC)
I am a native-English speaker but had never heard any one say "The couple has" before now. I would always say "The couple have" and so would all whom I know but my experience is not a rule so it does not help so muc. The points arose in this sentence:

"Ma is married to Christine Chow, and the couple has two daughters. Lesley (Ma Wei-chung, 馬唯中) was born in 1981 in New York when Ma was attending Harvard; she completed her undergraduate work at Harvard University and is currently a graduate student at New York University[1][2]" It is taken from an article on President Ma (leader of the RoC / Taiwan authorities). I had changed the "has" to "have" but this was reverted. Regards. Redking7 (talk) 11:17, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

This is the Wikipedia article on President Ma, President of Taiwan. Dieter Simon (talk) 00:22, 6 September 2009 (UTC)
In american english when you you refer to "the couple" it refers to a singular entity consisting of two people much like "the corporation" refers to a singular entity of many people. Therefor we would state "The couple has a contract." and "The corporation has a contract."
Gentlemen, this is a matter of location. American English favors the singular, while British English favors the plural. 03:11, 28 April 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Yup. And British English has preferred the plural for a long time. That said, there may be some tendency for the singular to be used when the noun refers to something acting as one entity (compare "The government are debating the motion" and "The government has passed the bill"), though I don't know how consistently speakers make this distinction.
I should add, by the way, that this isn't a page for grammar queries! It's too late now, but in future, the correct response is just to delete such queries immediately unless they relate to improving the article. garik (talk) 07:45, 28 April 2010 (UTC)


  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference daughters1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Cite error: The named reference greencard was invoked but never defined (see the help page).


This article appears to be the victim of vandalism. Seeing that I am very inexperienced with editing and do not feel qualified to revert/pinpoint the correct reversion to you I figured I would point the vandalism out to the wikipedia editors at large, and I hope this is the correct place to do that.

"The first systematic grammars originated in Iron Age India, with Jesus, Isaac Newton and his commentators Peter, Paul, and Patrick Ewing." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:26, 11 May 2009 (UTC)

I see you later did decide to fix it yourself. Thanks for helping to rid Wikipedia of vandalism! However, the best way to revert vandalism is not simply to remove the offending sentence, but rather to click "history" at the top of the page, find the most recent non-vandalized version, click on "prev", then click on "undo". That way, you make sure nothing gets lost. The way you did it, some good content got removed with the bad. (Which I've undone now.) +Angr 05:24, 11 May 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the help and the tip. I'm not on here enough to edit consistently, but I'll keep that in mind for the future. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:06, 12 May 2009 (UTC)
While I'm sure it's interesting when it comes to linguistics the "LOL" in the introduction is unnecessary and hurts the article. The issue is I cannot find it in the source, yet it is there. Could a more well versed Wikipedian get rid of this? (talk) 02:45, 30 April 2010 (UTC)
Looks like somebody already reverted it before you posted. You may have been looking at a cached page. — Gwalla | Talk 17:48, 30 April 2010 (UTC)

Ideas for new outline

The article currently confuses three topics 1. Grammar as the structure of (a) language 2. (a) grammar as a book describing the structure of a language 3. grammar as the sanctioned standards of usage in a given community (i.e. the conventions of the standard language). The article should keep those apart. Secondly it should describe the discussion of what grammar is in the first sense within theoretical linguistics: e.g. the Chomskyan view of grammar as a set of formal rules embedded in the brain, functionalist ideas of grammar as a set of tools and patterns, Hopper's emergent grammar, etc. Then it should also give an overview of central topics of grammar such as grammatical categories, morphosyntax, typology and the different theoretical approaches to describing them. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:51, 29 August 2012 (UTC)


In the History section, first sentence. Pāṇini is said to have lived in the 4th century BC, yet when you click to see his page, he is said to ahve lived in the 6th century. I'm not sure which is right, but it is inconsistent. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:19, 14 May 2013 (UTC)