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6 Comments

  • Great stuff, Gill. To run a YES/NO poll asking “Does grammar matter?” is completely fatuous. Of course it matters – but first you have to be clear what you mean by “grammar”, In Gwynne’s book, it appears to include spelling , word meanings, and pronunciation, and to be based on the failed effort (in the 18th century, i believe) to try to map the grammar of English on to that of Latin. As for “the gerundive mood”: in Latin (it doesn’t exist in English) the gerundive is quite common, but it is definitely not a “mood”.

  • If the person , or the world understands each other perfectly then there is no need of grammar and even language. But there no understanding between people so if there is no grammar than there will be misunderstanding.

  • Michael: I quite agree. There have been lots of questions in the press and elsewhere: Does grammar matter? Does good grammar matter? Is correct grammar still important? and so on. Of course the unasked question is What is grammar? Certainly not what Gwynne thinks it is – a collection of rules. For me it is both the structure of the language and the description of it, but this needs a whole blog post.

  • Michael: About the ‘gerundive mood’. As you say the gerundive is not a mood, even in Latin. But
    I must quote this. After the bit about the gerundive never having occurred in any book of English grammar before (see above), Gwynne continues:

    “Without doubt the gerundive is a useful concept, so much so that English speakers have long felt the need for it.But how could they set about introducing into our language a verb-form that does not exist and has no obviously practical way of being created? Our resourceful ancestors found an admirable solution. They simply imported it straight from Latin … Thus very much part of our everyday language are ‘memorandum’, often shortened to ‘memo’, meaning ‘what must be remembered, and the plural ‘memoranda’, when there are several things to be remembered”…

    The idea of ‘our resourceful ancestors’ going off to look for a verb-form to apply to a bunch of nouns because they’ve got a useful concept is ludicrous, and reveals a peculiar view of language and its history.

  • Have been enjoying these posts and the comments. On a side note, our resourceful greatest playwright used his knowledge of Latin to create the names of two of his heroines: Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, she who was lost; and Miranda in The Tempest, she who is to be wondered at or admired. Miranda is of course a gerundive. Old Will didn’t have much time for pedants, did he? not if we go by the mockery of Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

  • Liz: I agree that you can appreciate Shakespeare better if you’re across all the classical references and the etymology of names like Miranda. But these words are frozen in a Latin form, and there’s no room for the gerundive in any practical modern description of English grammar. I’m sure you’re not suggesting otherwise. And of course Gwynne’s grammar-quiz gaffe was to mention the non-existent ‘gerundive mood’ – worthy of the scorn of the dreadful Holofernes, who like Gwynne believed that his gift came from the gods.