Exploding Myths Some Languages Have No Grammar 1
The myth: Primitivity of languages • Especially aboriginal, minority or unwritten • These kinds of languages have no grammar • Their vocabularies are simple and lack detail; or they are cluttered with details and unable to deal with abstractions • They may be okay for the limited context of use, but not really suited for the 21 st century demands, socially and intellectually complex worlds (nuclear physics, IT revolution, social media) 2
We have seen what constitutes grammar • Repertoire of speech sounds and sound patterns • Word building • Sentence construction • Meaning making 3
If this were true… (1) • It would be impossible to make a mistake in the language or say that a sentence is ungrammatical • To say something is wrong, rules have to be broken • So for any language, if a mistake is possible or a sentence can be deemed wrong, then that language has grammar 4
If this were true… (2) • There can be no difference between different classes of words • Naming words, action words, describing words, relation words etc. • There can be no pronouns (he, she, it etc.) because by definition they stand for nouns and no other word class. • All of the world’s languages distinguish at least verbs and nouns. 5
If this were true… (3) • There could be no rules for the placement of words in sentences. A sentence with 5 words could be rearranged in any of 120 ways • Rob said Pip hit Lin • Pip said Rob hit Lin • Rob said Lin hit Pip • Lin said Rob hit Pip … • And the hearer would have no idea what was meant/intended.
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