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The History of Grammar and Social Influences That Have Impacted My Grammar

Essay by   •  April 23, 2011  •  Case Study  •  2,481 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,084 Views

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The History of Grammar and Social Influences That Have Impacted my Grammar

The basic notions about grammar are generally broad and different people have their own ideas about the subject. The suburban notion that grammar should be spoken in the right contexts with no errors, is one notion. On the other hand, the urban notion in my opinion, suggests that using slang in everyday grammar is no big deal. Of course these notions do not generalize every urban or suburban community, but from the ones I have encountered these notions exist. Learning about the history of English and evaluating grammar as influenced by my social surroundings, will better help me understand these notions as a whole.

It is important to start with noting the historical contexts of grammar. In an article published in the Journal of Linguistics, Dick Hudson breaks down the history of the English language. Dating back as far as the Ancient world, grammar was used and taken very seriously for persons to perfect their writing skills. The word grammar stems from the Greek word gramma, which means 'written character.' Prescriptive grammar developed in 18th century, where Latin grammar and English grammar were considered to be the same. As we progressed toward the 19th century however, historical linguistics in which comparing other languages to that of the English language was explored (Hudson).

Very little school grammar was being taught during the 19th century. During the early 20th century however, grammar teaching was merely abandoned. One explanation for this was the fact that no one really knew exactly what English grammar was. In the later 20th century, grammar had completely been abandoned, so no systematic structure in grammar was being taught. Towards the end of the 20th century however, grammar began to make a comeback as the decline in grammar teachings became undeniably noticeable. With this history being explained, the differences in today's grammar among individuals can be examined (Hudson).

Furthermore, the family history of grammar can play an influential role in ones grammar as well. An example of this could be my family, whose grammar style is more of the "urban" style grammar. Although they tend to speak more casually, sometimes even making up their own grammar, I tend to stray away from this style. My style of grammar tends to be more "proper" than anyone else in my family. This difference in grammar style caused me to carry the title of "white girl" because I "talked white." This really bothered me because "talking white" was in my opinion speaking proper English. On the other hand my family was "talking black" which meant to me talking in an ignorant manner. This concerned me seeing as though my family thought of themselves as ignorant.

Krisha Cowen of Youth Radio expressed her opinion of this very issue, "One way that people's race is redefined by society is their behavior, the way they act and speak. Talking white, talkin' black, acting proper, and actin' ghetto all affect how others are viewed and accepted in certain societies"(Cowen). With this being said I then began to think about the different class structures historically, that my family belonged to. With my grandmother growing up in a lower class structure and my mother being raised in a lower class structure, it started to make sense. Continuing on, my family history reverts back to being in a lower class, which in return compelled my family to use the type of grammar, which normally would not be used in a typical upper class environment. Using this type of grammar was a way to adapt to the lower class environment in which they lived. As Garrard McClendon explains in his interview on Black English, "Speaking Standard English or getting good grades is not being white, it's about excellence." As I grew to appreciate my way of speaking, the backlash I received from my family did not phase me in the least.

Family has played a major role in the development of my grammar style, but being separated from that family influence allowed me to explore grammar in a different way. School has also played a major role in the way I speak. Learning about the different grammar rules and styles, helped me become more aware of the errors in my own grammar. Although getting educated in the field of grammar was very helpful, it also hurt me in a lot of ways. I felt as though I had to change the way I spoke to fit the way a textbook said I should speak. The teachers were not willing to correct my grammar when need be, which sort of disabled me in a way. It seemed as though they were teaching the material but no material was being retained. With no corrections being made, I assumed my grammar style was correct.

As I transferred grade levels, I felt as though my grammar was at is full potential. With this being said, being at home, it was my obligation to correct my family's grammar to overcompensate for my teachers not correcting my grammar. As I progressed in school, the teaching of grammar began to diminish. I was fed textbook examples of grammar with no explanations as to what it all meant. I relied on my majority white counterparts to learn how to speak. This is where my style of "talking white" began to create me as a person. My environment was "shaping" me in a way, which is something I did not expect.

Moreover, I began to realize why my family could not accept my grammar style. They felt as though I was allowing the suburban environment in which I lived to dictate the way I spoke. The urban environment in which they grew up in shaped their grammar style, so why couldn't my environment shape mine? For example in an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will and Carlton say their goodbyes before moving out. Carlton, being from an upper class environment speaks in a proper tone. Will on the other hand, being adopted into the family from a more urban area, speaks with more slang. Even though they spoke in different styles, in the end they learned to appreciate each others way of speaking. This example supports my thought that the environment you grow up in will potentially shape your style of grammar. It is my wish however, that my family will learn to accept my way of speaking as well. In closing, school did not have a dramatic impact on the way I speak. It more or less helped me feel more comfortable being around peers who spoke in the manner that I did.

In conclusion, grammar has opened up my world in many ways. The environment in which I grew up had the biggest impact on my grammar. In contrast, my families style of grammar did not influence my way of speech, but rather helped me accept it. School had a slight impact but helped create

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