1. In his chapter “On the Need of Some Grammar” found in Modern American Usage, Wilson Follett argues that we need grammar to govern our language.
2. Follett explains that the type of grammar we need is traditional. A traditional approach to grammar involves an emphasis on syntax. Syntax deals with how words relate to each other in a sentence. This knowledge of how words work together provides the type of logical analysis necessary to speak and write correctly. An emphasis on syntax demonstrates the conservative view that language is an art of expressing meaning.
3. Although conservatives advocate syntax, linguists say that we need morphology. Morphology is the most basic grammar which deals with principles such as word formation. According to linguists, morphology should be emphasized because language is a science, not an art. As a result, linguists denounce prescriptive grammar that differentiates between what is correct and incorrect. Also, linguists claim that language is only a collection of facts and tendencies instead of a system of judgments.
4. Follett continues by explaining that although early descriptive grammarians were helpful, the activity of modern linguists is now harmful. Before linguists’ harmful activity began, early descriptive grammarians included men such as Henry Sweet who inspired the Danish scholar Otto Jespersen to produce A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. These men and their works were helpful by laying the foundation for traditional grammar. However, after these early grammarians, modern linguists introduced speechways, an idea which claims that writing and grammar books are artificial and unnecessary. This denial of the need of our need f...
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...don’t exist. If we examine the actions of these linguists, we can assume that they do believe in the principles they denounce.
13. Follett concludes by explaining that if we wish to express ourselves well, we must reject the linguists’ ideas. The ideas that we must reject all stem from viewing language as a science instead of an art. If language is viewed as a science, standards become useless in favor of the natural instincts of the mind to choose what is correct. If we do not reject the linguists’ ideas, the standards which allow us to express ourselves well are in danger of being lost in the name of science. However, if we instead view language as an art, its value becomes obvious along with the necessity to preserve its rules. Therefore, it is the duty of every English-speaker to resist the harmful ideas of linguists and defend language as the art of expression.
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