Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Encyclopedia Grammatica

It’s a word. I just wrote it, didn’t I?

In general, grammar is a set of agreed upon rules passed on from generation to generation in order to facilitate communication. While little things, like ending a sentence with a preposition or subject-verb agreement, don’t make the sentence incomprehensible, it does make it more difficult to read. And if every region started using its own rules (even more so than they do already!), we’d soon find it difficult to communicate in the same language!

So grammar does have its place. No matter how annoying it might seem. But what of its origins? Why do we have grammar?

English grammar was heavily influenced by Latin, mostly because that was the linguistic influence on the clergymen of the country. The language formed around the fifth century CE when those in the Germanic region conquered England and their languages spread to the native peoples. It formed what we now call Old English, which stayed until the eleventh century Norman Conquest, when the French brought with them a slew of new words and grammar rules.

In the fifteenth century, there were many different dialects of English spoken. No one considered this a problem since the written word was rare and scholars, those who could read, wrote in either Latin or Norman French. Then William Caxton decided he wanted to print a book in English and make it accessible to everyone.

With so many different ways of speaking, he had to choose one and work with it. He picked the most popular form of English (what we now call Middle English) and gradually, as more and more people learned to read and write, it became the standard. With one form of English and its rules accepted, it made it easier to find books to read, which prompted more people to learn, which meant more books…so grammar accelerated intellectual advancement.

I guess it’s important after all.



  1. It's been years, but I remember lessons on the evolution of the language. This brings a lot back....

  2. Yay, grammar! I kind of wonder, with text and internet speak, what English is evolving into.


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