In linguistics, traditional grammar is a theory of the structure of language based on ideas Western societies inherited from ancient Greek and Roman sources. The term is mainly used to distinguish these ideas from those of contemporary linguistics. In the English-speaking world at least, traditional grammar is still widely taught in elementary schools.
|1 History |
|2 Key concepts |
|3 Controversy |
|4 References |
Traditional grammar is not a unified theory that attempts to explain the structure of all languages with a unique set of concepts (as is the aim of linguistics). There are different traditions for different languages, each with its own traditional vocabulary and analysis. In the case of European languages, each of them represents an adaptation of Latin grammar to a particular language.
 Key concepts
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Traditional grammar distinguishes between the grammar of the elements that constitute a sentence (i.e. inter-elemental) and the grammar within sentence elements (i.e. intra-elemental). Concepts of inter-elemental grammar for the English language • subject
• predicative (aka complement)
• adverbial and adjunct
Concepts of intra-elemental grammar for the English language • noun
The term is mainly used to distinguish these ideas from those of contemporary linguistics, which are intended to apply to a much broader range of languages, and to correct a number of errors in traditional grammar. Although modern linguistics has exposed the limitations of traditional grammar, it is still the backbone of the grammar instruction given to the general population in Western countries. As such, while very few people have encountered linguistics, nearly everybody in a modern Western culture encounters traditional grammar. This is one of the big difficulties that linguists face when they try to explain their ideas to the general public. Modern linguistics owes a very large debt to traditional grammar, but it departs from it quite a lot, in the following ways (among others): • Linguistics aims to be general, and to provide an appropriate way of analysing all languages, and comparing them to each other. traditional grammar is usually concerned with one language, and when it has been applied to non-European languages, it has very often proved very inappropriate. • Linguistics has broader influences than traditional grammar has. For example, modern linguistics owes as much of a debt to Panini's grammar of Sanskrit as it does to Latin and Greek grammar. • Linguistics is in many ways more descriptively rigorous, because it goes after accurate description as its own end. In traditional grammar, description is often only a means towards formulating usage advice. While there is a large overlap between traditional grammar and prescriptive grammar, they are not entirely the same thing. Traditional grammar is best thought of as the set of descriptive concepts used by nearly all prescriptive works on grammar. Linguists' critiques of prescriptive grammar often take the form of pointing out that the usage prohibition in question is stated in terms of a concept from traditional grammar that modern linguistics has rejected.
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