Grammar is a field of linguistics that involves all the various things that make up the rules of language. Subfields of linguistics that are considered a part of grammar includesyntax, phonetics, morphology, and semantics. Grammar is also used as a term to refer to the prescriptive rules of a given language, which may change over time or be open to debate.
Grammar may beseparated into two common broad categories: descriptive and prescriptive. Both views of grammar are in wide use, although in general, linguists tend towards a descriptive approach to grammar, while peopleteaching a specific language — such as English — might tend towards a more prescriptive approach. Usually, there is a bit of give and take in any approach, with a prescriptivist being at leastsomewhat descriptive, and a descriptivist having some prescriptivist tendencies.
A descriptive grammar tries to look at the grammar of any spoken language or dialect as it actually exists, judging whether asentence is grammatical or not based on the rules of the speech group in which it is spoken, rather than an arbitrary set of rules. For example, in many speech communities, a sentence such as, "Hedone got thrown off the horse," would be entirely grammatical, and an entire set of rules of grammar can be deduced that explain why that formation is grammatical. In another speech community, however,this sentence might be considered ungrammatical, while a version such as, "Him isa throwned offa horse," would be the grammatical version. In yet another speech community, both would be consideredungrammatical, with only a version such as, "He was thrown off of the horse," being considered acceptable.
A prescriptive grammar looks at the norms of speech as given by authoritative sources, such asan upper-class or academic subculture, and creates strict rules by which all speech within that language must abide to be considered grammatical. Few linguists take a prescriptive approach to...