Good Greek Grammar?
Matthew R. Miller
biblicalscribe at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 14 15:37:27 EDT 2001
Andrew Lloyd Wright said, "Form follow function." I have always believed
that "Grammar Follows Usage." Is grammar an arbitrary set of rules,
separate and apart from usage? Is usage the slave of grammar? Any of us
who have spent time studying various languages surely have realized that
the opposite is true: grammar is the slave of usage, and grammar is
nothing but a reflection of usage. Native speakers do not learn grammar
then speak; rather, they learn speech, and foreigners reduce their speech
to grammar as a shortcut to learning. Therefore, whatever the current,
common, majority usage of the day is in a particular area is the grammar.
Merely because a speaker does not follow the universal grammar in his
usage does not mean that he has "bad grammar." For example, in modern
English, grammar states that "whom" is the dative and accusative form of
"who." However, in America, 95% of all speakers use "who" for all cases.
Does this mean that 95% of all Americans use "bad grammar," or that it is
time for the grammar to change in order to fit usage? I say the latter.
There comes a time when language changes, and rigid, unbending grammar
cannot dictate usage. We, 2000 years later, using reconstructed grammar
from Attic Greek, cannot look at the usage of Galilean fishermen and call
it "bad." Rather, we should understand that usage determines grammar. Look
at the modern French language as an example of what happens when people
(l'Academie Francaise) attempt to freeze grammar and enslave usage: silent
letters, orthography that does NOT match speech, and even so, modern
French spoken language is changing! As form follow function, grammr
follows usage. Thanks, Matt Miller
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