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Grammar Obeys Dialogue

What’s up with that title? Everybody knows that prose and speech obey the laws of grammar, and not the other way around! Imagine a world where people write ‘connexion’, and others write ‘connection’, where some write ‘kerb’ and some ‘curb’, where ‘gaol’ and ‘jail’ coexist.

Imagine a world where it is standard grammar to even split an infinitive in literature, or a world where my parents, the serial comma and a serial killer are all acceptable. Imagine a world where ‘who’ also functions as its own objective case. Who am I talking about?

I’m talking about the evolution of a language. The evolution of English.

In Wikipedia, policy is subservient to the product and the process. People don’t do things based on policy; policy is made based on people’s actions. Even legal systems’ foundations are similar, as early laws were codified based on then-current practices.

So why is grammar such a rigid beast? It’s undeniable: the first grammatical guides were created to organize and coordinate (also: co-ordinate, co√∂rdinate) language to increase readability, based on unrecorded conventions at the time. Yet, why do teachers and parents constantly berate us on the intricacies of convention?

(To be fair, modern teachers are moving away from directly teaching English grammar. I don’t recall a single grammar lesson given to me in high school, and the only grammar lessons I received in elementary was from a half-assed attempt at reading a high school grammar manual that I abandoned after half a dozen pages. All my grammatical knowledge comes from French classes…)

Here’s my take on it. Firstly, codified grammar is necessary to ensure broad comprehension (tri 2 undrstd in dis me wat sayd). Regardless of whether we’re Canadian, American, or South African, as long as we can read English, we can read English from any country, from any timeperiod within the last two centuries, and most likely even into several centuries in the future.

Secondly, grammar’s inertia prevents frivolous changes from entering common diction. If it were, like, common practice to like insert these totally radical padding adjectives into, like, prose, literature will quickly become cumbersome with historical idiosyncrasies. There’s no doubt that culture shapes the language of generations, but with information flowing and fads passing as fast as now, grammar needs stability to prevent us all from, like, just totally entering into the latest radical fad.

Finally, grammar isn’t rigid. Not at all. Anybody familiar with Shakespeare’s works can attest to that. In fact, grammar, like all constructed systems, only guides process in the individual level. As a whole, I still think grammar is still guided by that great force which controls all:


What do you think?

P.S. This would be more dramatic if the title were ‘Grammar Obeys Time’, but that doesn’t spell out ‘GOD’ so nope.avi

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