Grammar and its Place in Human History
The purpose of this essay is to explore the concept of grammar by defining it and explaining its role in society.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Ralph D. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Definition of Grammar
Merriam Webster defines it as: "a: the study of the classes of words, their inflections (see inflection sense 3), and their functions and relations in the sentence. b: a study of what is to be preferred and what avoided in inflection .."
Concisely, it is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. ... Thus, Universal Grammar is grammar is the cognitive information underlying language use.
The Chomsky postulate of Universal Grammar is that a certain set of structural rules are innate to humans, independent of sensory experience.
Someone once said "Grammar is a piano I play by ear".
Grammar in Real Life
Grammar is important to society because it is the system that makes it possible for us to speak about language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that makeup sentences not only in English but in any language.
As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children thus, we can all do grammar. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences — that is knowing about grammar. And knowing about grammar offers a window into the human mind and into our amazingly complex mental capacity.
We associate grammar with errors and correctness. But knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise. Grammar can be part of literature discussions when we and our students closely read the sentences in poetry and stories. Finally, knowing about grammar means finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns.
My University Philosophy studies implied that grammar could denote meaning. Aristotelian logic, as a form of syntax, concluding truth and ascribing meaning to statements.
Grammar's most sophisticated form was in a computer program language. Teaching machine grammar is far more profitable than teaching human grammar.
It seems our concept of grammar is embedded in the concept of human language. Human speech and it uses are what created grammar in my opinion.
Grammar and Biology
Anthropologists discovered an isolated island that was populated by six tribes. Each speaking their own language. It was a small area and everyone lived close. Twelve years later they returned to see how their language evolved. To their surprise, they discovered more inhabitants speaking ten different languages. Amazingly, no outside immigration came to this isolated island. Four additional languages with unique grammar were created in this time. They concluded that new words and grammar were born from their social and biological needs. New language was created to isolate and protect themselves from other tribes. In essence, not to communicate with rivals and protect their treasure. Unbelievably, the language was invented to facilitate misunderstanding and thwart communication. They had the idea that eventually, the whole island would have one language and homogenize their languages into one was a fallacy.
Today, when I teach, I am on that island with people that speak many ways and have many social and biological needs. It is their instinct to assimilate their needs without the social pressures of survival. It is my duty to engender joy, fun, companionship in the learning process. For me, the most important way to start teaching grammar is to create a lesson showing similarities and differences in Mandarin and English. Comparisons to their native grammar will better form their understanding of syntax and aspect. Keeping in mind there is no treasure or rivalry to protect. Everyone can play the same song on the piano with my help.
Are you ready to teach English all over the world?
I am grateful for the tools and insights this course has provided. In an effort to achieve I found it difficult to conform to a rigid methodology knowing in the real world, things change and personalities are different. Everyone learns differently. I can appreciate a dogmatic approach now and hope to achieve a higher grade in the classroom.
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