Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From whence does the grammar come?

I got thinking -- actually, this little comic got me thinking -- about where we get our grammar. Sure, English mugs grammar from other languages, but where do you and I get our grammar?

In school -- high school, elementary school, middle school -- I didn't learn grammar in English classes. I was able to fake it, however, because of my mother.  My mother had gone to junior high, elementary, with the nuns. Yes, the nuns.  The ones that smacked you with rulers when you misspelled something.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But they were definitely big on the grammar.

And so I sort of got the feel of grammar through osmosis. Mother's nuns and reading a lot of books to pick up other stuff.

But I did learn parts of speech in high school. But not in English classes. In French classes. So I can tell you what verb tense is being used ... but odds are I can only tell you it's name in a foreign language.  Passe compose. Imparfait. Plus parfait. I'm only take stabs at what these things are called in English.

In college I learned more style than grammar. No, really, I learned thought and development of thought. Any grammar and style I garnered were accidental.

In my less than one semester of law school, I learned how to use a semicolon.

In my writing MFA program I learned style, clarity, specificity. And some other weirdness.  Useful weirdness. I got grammar told to me in a  I can't believe you don't already know this sort of way.

It wasn't until Odyssey Writing Workshop that I learned comma rules in a meaningful way.

Odd that.  It wasn't until I took a voluntary course focused in science fiction and fantasy that I finally learned how grammar rules work (and thus had the ability to explain them to someone else).

Where'd you discover grammar? Did you have to mug anyone to get it? Beat any foreigners?

Edited to add: I guess this becomes even more strange when I consider that I got my most recent job on the various degrees I have, but that job expects me to teach grammar -- something which my degrees taught me, but didn't teach me well enough to teach someone else.

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