Western tradition

Approaches to grammar

- Prescriptive / normative (how to use forms) – since 16th century (W.Lily, Ch.Butler, J.Brightland, R.Lowth, L.Murray)

- Descriptive / explanatory / scientific (what forms are used) – 19th century (H.Sweet, O.Jespersen, E.Kruisinga, H.Poutsma, G.Curme, H.Gleason, J.Nesfield, R.Zandvoort)

- Structural / transformational / generative (how to generate, what happens in transforming) – 20th century (N.Chomsky, Ch.Fries, N.Trubetzkoy, L.Bloomfield, W.Francis, P.Roberts)

- Sociolinguistic / communicative / functional (how forms work / are used) (N.Slyusareva)

- Cognitive (how grammar forms reflect mental models)

- Variation(how grammar forms vary and transform)

Western tradition

- The Western tradition for the study of grammar derives from the Greek philosophers, who treated it in their discussions of logic and rhetoric, and the study was taken up by Roman scholars.

- This tradition continued in the works on Latin grammar that were produced in the medieval and renaissance periods, when Latin was the language of learning.

- The grammar that was taught in the early grammar schools in England was Latin grammar, not English grammar.

Scientific grammar period


Classical scientific grammar

- 1890s – 1940s

- Systematic grammar studies (< comparative studies)

- Descriptive & explanatory (by historical, comparative, & general grammar)

- Henry Sweet New English Grammar. Logical and Historical. (1891):

“…I confine myself to the statement and explanation of facts, without attempting to settle the relative correctness of divergent usages. If an ‘ungrammatical’ expression such as It is meis in general use among educated people, I accept it as such, simply adding that it is avoided in the literary language.”


n Meaning, form, and function of parts of speech

n Priority of synchronic approach over diachronic one

n Priority of oral speech over written (attention to phonetics)

n Correct = whatever is in general use

John Collinson Nesfield

n English Grammar Past and Present, Aids to the Study and Composition of English (1898)

n written for the market in colonial India

n 4 parts of the sentence: 1) S, 2) P, 3) Attr Adjuncts to the S, 4) Adverbial Adjuncts to the P (O = part of P)

n 5 cases

Common case + Genitive + Dative (indir. obj) + Accusative (dir. obj) + Vocative

¨ Otto Jespersen (Есперсен), Danish linguist, 7-volume Modern English grammar on historical principles (1909-1940):three ranks (the furiously barking dog); delimitation of morphology & syntax

¨ Hendrik Poutsma (1904–1929)> “composite sentence” = compound+complex;

¨ Etsko Kruisinga (1909–1932): close (a country doctor) & loose (men and women) syntactic groups

Structural descriptive grammar

¨ 1940s

¨ Intensive development of American linguistics: focus on formal operations (aim: to discover & describe phonemes / morphemes); IC analysis of the sentence

¨ Leonard Bloomfield. Language.

¨ Endocentric (containing a head-word: Poor John) & exocentric (non-headed: John ran; beside John) phrases

¨ Charles Fries. The Structure of English (1952): distributional analysis, substitution

¨ Form-classes and function-classes of words

3 1 2 3 4

The concert was good there.

good food is foreign here.

¨ Lexical meaning is not important:

¤ Woggles ugged diggles.

Schools of structural linguistics

¨ American structuralism (Bloomfieldian linguistics)

¨ The Prague School (N.Trubetzkoy):

¨ Oppositions

¨ Neutralization (reducing functioning oppositions)

Transformational generative grammar

¨ Noam Chomsky (Хомский). Syntactic structures (1957), Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965)

¨ Surface & deep structure of the sentence

¨ Kernel (elementary)sentences: min difference btw SS & DS

¨ transformations

¨ Derived sentences

Transformations: rearrangement, substitution, expansion, deletion

¨ The man hit the boy. ¨ The boy was hit by the man. ¨ Kernel sent. ¨ Sag – Vact – O ¨ Derived sent.

To GENERATE sentences = to enumerate & determine rules for forming the infinite number of sentences