Posted: Jul 09, 2012 8:25 am
by don't get me started
Good work Zwaarddijk. A very thorough accounting of some quite tricky stuff.
I'll add to what you wrote in a somewhat tangential manner, if I may.

I have the suspicion that a lot of folk views of what grammar is and how it works comes from the status and nature of Latin.
Basically, for several hundred years in western Europe, if you wanted to call yourself educated, you had to be familiar with Latin.
Lectures at Oxford and Cambridge were in Latin into the 19th Century I believe.

Now, if you're a native speaker of English, then Latin seems to come with a lot of what what Anthony Burgess called 'the needless baggage of inflections'. Hard to master if you are coming at as a second language if your first language is not so inflectional, but, and here is the point, very easy for a pedant pedagogue to pick to pieces if you get it wrong.

I'm guessing that generations of students being dragged through declension tables and the like helped to fix the idea that grammar IS inflection and morphology in the popular mind, leading to notions that some languages (usually highly inflected) have more 'grammar' than other languages.

In modern times this has also found expression in the Chomskian preoccupation with syntax. It still seems the case that being conversant with 'grammar' means that you are 'clever', and that if you play fast and loose with grammar (as all speakers do in 'talk-in-interaction' (Schegloff's term), then you are producing a corrupt and degraded form of the language, and displaying low intelligence.
In actual fact, research has shown that speakers don't pay much attention to grammar in ongoing talk*. Matters of meaning and social roles take precedence over form everywhere except the language classroom.

*References available on request.