Traditional and Generative Grammar Grammar is the study of how words combine to form sentences. There are right ways and wrong ways, good ways and bad ways. There are also two ways to look at grammar—according to traditional grammar and according to generative grammar. Traditional grammar developed several hundred years ago in the British Isles when English became more than just the spoken language of the people and began to be taught in the schools. Until then, the languages of educated people were Latin and Greek, which both had complicated grammars. Then educated Englishmen decided to establish grammar rules for English to make it seem like a smarter language. All they had to go on were the rules for Greek and Latin, so they used those. But English isn’t the same as Greek or Latin, which is why there are so many exceptions to the rules (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar). Generative grammar was invented by Noam Chomsky in 1957. The major difference between traditional grammar and Chomsky’s idea is that traditional grammar tells you what is right and wrong, but generative grammar just shows you what is there. In other words, traditional grammar had a set of rules adopted from Latin, and if you did not follow the rules, you were WRONG. Chomsky was thinking that if a one- or two-year-old could understand and use language without even going to school, then there must be a reason for it. His generative grammar is based on the language patterns that we all use every day without thinking about it, and he realized that these patterns are not that much different in all kinds of various languages. Just the words are different (http://wiki.infoshop.org/Noam_Chomsky). The trouble with traditional grammar is that it makes some people be wrong even though people can understand them. Kids will probably talk the way their friends talk even though it might not be right. Some teachers try to teach students to use good grammar, but others do not care. Maybe they think it is a lost cause, or maybe they think it is too hard to learn or too old fashioned. I think it is important to be able to use good grammar when you want to, say for a job interview or when you want to impress someone. You do not have to use it all of the time, especially when you are with your friends, because they would think that you were being a snob. But it’s like your clothes. Usually you like to dress casual, but sometimes you need to dress up even though you do not want to. You should learn good grammar just like you should have a suit in your closet just in case you need it.
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