Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Get skewled: grammar is classist

Grammar. No other word can bore a person more quickly except, perhaps, the word “mathematics.” The importance of “proper” grammar has been a topic of recent history, especially with the rise in social media and texting, as modes of communication. 

You’ll find popular articles like “Does proper grammar matter in text messages?” or “Text-messaging isn’t, like, ruining young people’s grammar” or “Why text messaging is butchering grammar.”

You know the arguments: words in shorthand typed in text messages are transferring to schoolwork and professional work emails, and so this action is detrimental to language. People write “wud” instead of “would,” or “lyke” instead of “like.” They write sentences like “I njoyd the shows impossibru nding” with no punctuation. Translation: “I enjoyed the show’s impossible ending.”

For many people, grammar is dying and the world is becoming a copy of the film “Idiocracy.” In other words, a world full of idiots.

I, lyke, disagree.

Martha Kolln and Robert Funk’s “Understanding English Grammar” breaks grammar down into three categories. Grammar 1: the system of rules in your head that you internalized as a child growing up and speaking/writing the English language. Grammar 2: a formal academic description of how grammar is used. Grammar 3: the social implications of usage, or “linguistic etiquette.”

The grammatical definition people use when they talk about the dumbing down of grammar in society is number three, the idea of “poor” and “proper” grammar. The do’s and dont’s. In other words, prescriptive grammar.

Language evolves. Saying the word “hurry” is more socially acceptable than the now-archaic word “hasten.” Language also evolves within the country, via grammar one, creating regionalisms and dialects.

What is happening across the country across the world with social media and texting is that language is evolving again. A new regionalism has formed, but it’s spreading throughout the nation, on the peripheral of the “standard” usage.

Various dialects throughout America have created a variety of English usage. So, arguing that a singular usage is “correct” over another usage becomes irrelevant, as they are all grammatically equal. The argument is not one of “proper” grammar, but, simply, which usage “sounds” more educated, meaning the choice of words that make up “proper” grammar is arbitrary.

Paul Roberts in his textbook “English Sentences” reveals two sentences that demonstrate my point:

Henry brought his mother some flowers.

Henry brung his mother some flowers.

According to Roberts, we prefer sentence one over sentence two “because in some sense we prefer the people who say sentence one to those who say sentence two. We associate sentence one with educated people and sentence two with uneducated people.”

He goes on to say, “mark this well: educated people do not say sentence one because it is better than sentence two. Educated people say it, and that makes it better. That’s all there is to it.”

The argument of proper grammar is actually one of classism. How words are spelt in the sentence have nothing to do with grammar. “Brought” and “brung” are different spellings, yet their spellings function appropriately within the sentence and both sentences are still grammatically correct.

If I write “I ain’t usin’ it,” people who operate by grammar three will argue this sentence is incorrect English usage. However, it is grammatically correct.

A grammatical sentence, at its simplest, consists of a noun phrase followed by a verb phrase, such as “I ran.” In the sentence I wrote, this simple construction can be found. “I” is the noun phrase and “ain’t” is a contraction of “am not,” so “am using” is the verb phrase, the adverb “not” enhancing the verb “am” with additional clarification and meaning. A more in-depth discussion can be had on this sentence; however, I ain’t plannin’ on borin’ ya with all my grammar talk.

“I ain’t usin’ it” simply “sounds” uneducated, so people call it “bad” grammar, but it’s really not a question of “bad” or “good” grammar. The question of English usage actually exists in which people we’d rather associate ourselves: people from areas whose regionalisms we consider educated over those we consider uneducated. Strictly speaking, which class we would rather associate ourselves with.

Spanglish, different dialects, regionalisms and text-talk are all simply variations of English usage, yet all grammatically correct. Arguing that one variation is “better” than another is not an argument about grammar but one of class and social status.

More to Discover