6
   

How was grammar conceived?

 
 
Leafish
 
Reply Sat 19 Jun, 2010 08:42 am
The meanings of most words in the English language have evolved from the quite simple and material to something a lot more complex and abstract. For example, the word 'consider' is made up of both Latin words, 'con' (with) and 'sider' (stars). Before making any venture, the primitive people would consult with the stars. I assume, as humanity evolved, individuals would also start to perceive certain mental processes, perhaps realised that a certain pondering process was apparent when viewing the stars and also in other situations as well, and then they gradually mapped that new meaning to 'consider' (or it evolved from it old meaning).

My question is, if most words stem from primitive, material meanings, does grammar do to?

When did something qualify as being a subject or object? People often say the subject is what the sentence is about but I'm not so convinced. For instance, "The cat ate the fish." This sentence isn't necessarily about the cat, it's about the whole thing IMO.

I started wondering what a subject really was and I think it might be the sensation of having something prominent in the 5(6?) senses. It's an idea that doesn't have a word in English but is denoted through the system of sentence order.

But this sensation certainly isn't a simple, material entity that a primitive person would recognise. (after all, you can't see it or hear it). In ancient times did they have a simplified word to do this so they could successfully transmit their messages?
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Question • Score: 6 • Views: 2,648 • Replies: 16
No top replies

 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 10:16 pm
@Leafish,
Quote:
I started wondering what a subject really was and I think it might be the sensation of having something prominent in the 5(6?) senses. It's an idea that doesn't have a word in English but is denoted through the system of sentence order.

But this sensation certainly isn't a simple, material entity that a primitive person would recognise. (after all, you can't see it or hear it). In ancient times did they have a simplified word to do this so they could successfully transmit their messages?


Language long preceded the words that were developed to describe how languages work. If I'm following you, Leafish, a primitive person wouldn't need to know or grasp the meaning of any grammatical terms anymore than a child needs to know or grasp the meaning of grammatical terms, or for that matter, most adults.

We all have internal grammars that allow us, actually force us, to make grammatical sentences.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 11:49 pm
@Leafish,
"The cat ate the fish".

Sure, the sentence is about the whole thing, but something was eaten. The grammar comes in when we start to wonder what was eaten by whom. Anyway, you might have come up with an interesting topic, though I'm not sure where you are going with the final two paragraphs.
0 Replies
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 01:31 am
I can understand the problem language (words and grammer) does on the English-speaking world, and an English-thinking mind.

The OP brought out the etymology of the word 'consider'........ very forcefully laid out. It may well describe how the concept-word evolved.

But the origin or developemnet of a word is not directly related to grammer. Grammer, in simple terms is just the means and ways to relate and communicate with others using the words and its meanings within a language.

Grammer is like the mortar and words are like bricks. Grammer has a functional value, while words have necessary and inherent value.

Grammer, i speculate may have come into being, as our vocal chords became more and more sophisticated. There may be a social and pragmatic use which was necessary for refinement of language. For example, the description 'He is a boy', - can be conveyed by just saying 'he ...... boy', or 'him........ boy', or 'it ....... boy'.........

This message is simple and iinnocous at first, but if a succeeding message which is based on the initial proposition/observation/premise, than grammer helps to convey the realtionship between each of the words and their meanings in a coherent manner or fashion.

The succeeding sentence being, for example - 'Therefore, he goes to a boys school' , can be related (here is a causal relationship) and is reasoned out in a meaning ful manner to a noun or concept called school.

Conjunctions like 'therefore' thus helps in establsihing and relating all the important subjects/nouns/concepts terms etc.







0 Replies
 
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 07:32 am
@Leafish,
Quote:
The meanings of most words in the English language have evolved from the quite simple and material to something a lot more complex and abstract.


Is this true? The example you provided seems not to be a good one, in my opinion. I don't see why "consulting stars" is a simpler concept than "thinking." Nor do I think it's more complex. They're different, but I'm not seeing a self-evident difference in complexity.

I'm sure one could produce a more solid example of a language moving from the simple to the complex, but there are as many examples of language doing the reverse (certain verb tenses and moods becoming obsolete, etc.). I don't think the evolution of language is as unidirectional as you're suggesting here.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 07:59 am
Its hard to know; mainly, because I wasn't there. That being said...

... I think I'd pretty much agree with Leaf; it only stands to reason that the individual parts of <something> (read: words - the basic representations) would have to have preceded nomenclatures that described the anatomy of how those representations are combined (read: grammar). From the simple to complex seems to be relatively universal in the development of... well... pretty much anything.

As far as this subject/predicate (or subject/object) relationship (The cat ate the fish), this could easily be seen as having multiple viewpoints. The cat is the subject, the fish is the object (since the subject has acted upon the object). But the overall message (the munching) seems to be the message - the basic thought - this sentence wants to communicate. I wouldn't want to think of something like this down into too many permutations, lest my head become even moreso like unto mashed potatoes.

Thanks
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 08:03 am
@Khethil,
Quote:
From the simple to complex seems to be relatively universal in the development of... well... pretty much anything.


Again, it's not something I'm willing to take on faith, especially in the world of culture, at least not without some examples and an explanation about why the examples trump the equally abundant counterexamples. You may be right that words preceded grammar, but the logic of the OP suggests that the evolution of words themselves, or grammar itself, is unidirectional, in which case the movement from one domain to the other is not evidence in support of this. The real test would be to show that the direction of evolution remains consistent within one domain: i.e. to show that meanings of words always move from simple to complex, or that grammatical rules and syntax always move from simple to complex.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 08:28 am
@Shapeless,
Shapeless wrote:

Quote:
From the simple to complex seems to be relatively universal in the development of... well... pretty much anything.


Again, it's not something I'm willing to take on faith, especially in the world of culture, at least not without some examples and an explanation about why the examples trump the equally abundant counterexamples. You may be right that words preceded grammar, but the logic of the OP suggests that the evolution of words themselves, or grammar itself, is unidirectional, in which case the movement from one domain to the other is not evidence in support of this. The real test would be to show that the direction of evolution remains consistent within one domain: i.e. to show that meanings of words always move from simple to complex, or that grammatical rules and syntax always move from simple to complex.


Of course you're right; just from what I've seen (or believe I know), this almost assuredly wasn't a unidirectional development across the totality of the human race. As I mentioned, since I wasn't there (for eons, taking notes on a very big clipboard) I don't know and neither does anyone else; what happened within any domain of communicators is lost, unrecorded and unrecoverable. We can draw clues and likelihoods, postulate, kick it around and think on it, but that's about it.

If you're looking for "proof" you can probably probably stop right there and save yourself some consternation - its not going to happen.

Thanks
Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 08:41 am
@Khethil,
Even within what is observable, there is no shortage of things moving from complex to simple. Western tonal music used to have eight primary modes, now it has two. Minimalist sculpture followed representationalism. The gamut of functional human organs no longer includes the appendix. In Spanish, the future subjunctive is all but extinct. And so on.

So I agree with you that there is no hard proof about the general direction of evolutionary tendencies, but with qualification: proof is impossible not only because some of it is lost from memory but also because there was no such thing to begin with. Sometimes things change from simple to complex, sometimes they change from complex to simple, and sometimes they just change.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 04:26 pm
@Leafish,
Quote:
How was grammar conceived?


I'd say in a totally unconscious fashion. I believe that the cultures and societal influences may have had some effects, but there has never been any successful conscious plan for the formulation of grammar.

It would really be interesting to have a record of how the initial attempts at language progressed.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  2  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 05:38 pm
@Leafish,
Quote:
When did something qualify as being a subject or object? People often say the subject is what the sentence is about but I'm not so convinced. For instance, "The cat ate the fish." This sentence isn't necessarily about the cat, it's about the whole thing IMO.


Two different meanings of 'subject' here. First there is the 'topical subject and then there is the 'grammatical subject'.

This distinction is what I attempted to explain to Pom, the English teacher who feels so strongly [as do her colleagues] that pre-college young adults can't grasp the subject of a sentence.

From the limited discussion she would engage in, it seemed that she didn't make clear the distinction herself.

From this thread, it seems that there is confusion among more than just those young adults.
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 06:21 pm
@JTT,
I have a feeling the problem lies with how grammar is generally and usually taught. Most teachers, when they come to the topic, tend to be pedantic and -- to use a term that you often use yourself, JTT -- prescriptive. When I was teaching English, I would often use the analogy of a scene on TV to explain what you need to have a grammatically complete sentence. (Everyone watches TV or goes to the movies, even if they've never read a book in their lives.) Imagine a person, maybe famous, maybe totally unknown, standing in the center of your TV screen. How long will you watch him just standing there? Gonna get boring soon, no? That's what it's like if you have a subject without a predicate. So have him stand up and walk across the set. Ahh, now he's doing something -- anything -- and that's what we call the 'verb', the action word. He's going somewhere. Where is he going? And so on. You might be surprised at how quickly students catch on to what is needed to have a complete, grammatically meangful sentence.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Dec, 2011 06:49 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Quote:
I have a feeling the problem lies with how grammar is generally and usually taught. Most teachers, when they come to the topic, tend to be pedantic and -- to use a term that you often use yourself, JTT -- prescriptive.


That's true, Merry. You can never teach grammar by teaching prescriptions because those are not of the language. But that's all most teachers can do. And by getting hung up on these ridiculous notions, it blinds them to the beauty and the exceedingly complex nature of language.

Look at Gracie's teacher, demanding that students follow guidelines for 'who/whom' that nobody follows illustrates that the stupidity hasn't come anywhere close to being stopped.

Quote:
That's what it's like if you have a subject without a predicate.


Whoa, Merry!
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Thu 29 Dec, 2011 04:58 am
@JTT,

I think by-and-large that grammar was conceived by some (the grammarians) so they could tell other people that they (the others) were stupid, ill-informed, uneducated.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Thu 29 Dec, 2011 09:33 am
@McTag,
You've hit the nail on the head, kind Sir. Aren't you glad, nay, ecstatic, that the dark shadows cast by unthinking prescriptivists are finally starting to lift?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Thu 29 Dec, 2011 09:50 am
@McTag,
McTag wrote:
I think by-and-large that grammar was conceived by some (the grammarians) so they could tell other people that they (the others) were stupid, ill-informed, uneducated.

All languages have grammars, not all languages have grammarians.
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 03:42 pm
@joefromchicago,

Oh yeah?
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

Is this comma splice? Is it proper? - Question by DaveCoop
Is this sentence grammatically correct? - Question by Sydney-Strock
Is the second "playing needed? - Question by tanguatlay
should i put "that" here ? - Question by Chen Ta
Unbeknownst to me - Question by kuben123
alternative way - Question by Nousher Ahmed
Could check my grammar mistakes please? - Question by LonelyGamer
 
  1. Forums
  2. » How was grammar conceived?
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.05 seconds on 02/19/2020 at 01:05:45