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Types of Grammar

David Crystal lists six types of Grammar:

Descriptive Grammar
An approach  that describes the grammatical constructions that are used in a language, without making any evaluative judgements about tyheir standing in society. These grammars are commonplace in linguistics, where it is standard practice to investigate a 'corpus' of spoken or written material, and to describe in detail the patterns it contains.

Pedagogical Grammar
A book specifically designed for teaching a foreign language, or for developing an awareness of the mother tongue. Such 'tecjing grammars' are widely used in schools, so much so that many people have only one meaning for the term 'grammar': a grammar book.

Prescriptive Grammar
A manual that focuses on constructions where usage is deivided, and lays down rules governing the socially correct use of language. These grammars were a formative influence on language ttitudes in Europe and America during the 18th and 19th centuries. Their influence lives on in handbooks of usage widely found today, such as the Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) by Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933).

Reference Grammar
A grammatical description that tries to be as comprehensive as possible, so that it can act as a reference book for those interested in establishing grammatical facts (in much the same way as a dictionary is used as a 'reference lexicon'). Several North European grammarians compiled handbooks of this type in the early 19th century, the best known being the seven-volume Modern English Grammar m(1909-49) by the Danish grammarian Otto Jespersen (1860-1943), and A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985) by   Randolph Quirk (1920-) et al.

Theoretical Grammar
An approach that goes beyond the study of individual languages, to determine what constructs are needed in order to do any kind of grammatical analysis, and how these can be applied consistently in the investigation of linguistic universals.

Traditional Grammar
A term often used to summarize the range of attitudes and methods found in the period of grammatical study before the advent of lingustic science. The 'tradition' in question os over 2,000 years old, and includes the owrk of classical Greek and Roman grammarians, Renaissance writers, and 18th-century prescriptive grammarians. It is difficult to genrealize about such a wide variety of approaches, but linguist generally use the term pejoratively, identifying an unscientific approach to grammatical study, in which languages were analyzed in terms of Latin, with scant regard for empirical facts. However, many basic notions used  by modern approaches can be found in these early writings, and there is now fresh interest in the study of traditional grammar, as part of the history of linguistic ideas.

Source: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press. 1997. (p. 88).


Dr. Carol Jamison
Gamble Hall 202B
Armstrong Atlantic State University
11935 Abercorn Street
Savannah, GA 31419
Phone: 912.927.5237

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