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Grammar


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Grammar is the field of linguistics that covers the rules governing the use of any given natural language. It includes morphology and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics.

Each language has its own distinct grammar. "English grammar" is the rules of the English language itself. "An English grammar" is a specific study or analysis of these rules. A reference book describing the grammar of a language is called a "reference grammar" or simply "a grammar". A fully explicit grammar exhaustively describing the grammatical constructions of a language is called a descriptive grammar, as opposed to linguistic prescription which tries to enforce the governing rules how a language is to be used.

Grammatical frameworks are approaches to constructing grammars. The standard framework of generative grammar is the transformational grammar model developed by Noam Chomsky and his followers from the 1950s to 1980s.

Etymology

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".

History

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 (Τέχνη Γραμματική), 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.

The first treatises on Hebrew grammar appear in the High Middle Ages, in the context of Mishnah (exegesis of the Hebrew Bible). The Karaite tradition originates in Abbasid Baghdad. The Diqduq (10th century) is one of the earliest grammatical commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. Ibn Barun in the 12th century compares the Hebrew language with Arabic in the Islamic grammatical tradition. 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:




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