Re: Re. Grammar vs. linguistics (#520668)

Subject: Re: Re. Grammar vs. linguistics (#520668)
From: Bill Burns <wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 1996 07:42:59 -0700

9-MAR-1996 01:44:56.69

Geoff writes:

> Here's a simplistic explanation of the difference.
> Linguistics is to grammar as electromagnetic theory is to
> electrical engineering: the first of each pair expresses
> the underlying "physical" principles, whereas the second
> represents the application of these principles in a
> specific context.

> --Geoff Hart @8^{)}
> geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

The example you provide is not quite accurate. Linguistics has many foci--some
abstract, some pragmatic. Early in the study of language, a guy by the name
Ferdinand de Saussure distinguished between two elements of language--_langue_
and _parole_. The former is the language in its bits and pieces and its ideal
structure. The latter refers to language as it occurs on a day-to-day basis.
Linguistics can focus on the _langue_ of standard English (either Standard
American, Standard British, Standard Canadian, or what have you). This focus
would be highly specialized. The _parole_ element would come into play when the
linguist describes features of the usage in a linguistic environment and not in
some abstract ideal realm. The problem with this particular scenario is that
very few people learn Standard English as their native tongue. Here in Idaho,
we have several noticeable dialects of English, none of which conform completely
to the rules of Standard American English.

Nonetheless, when we write for a wide range of users, we use Standard English
because we need to to cross over dialectical boundaries. The only language that
most of us share is the standardized version. Trey would acknowledge that this
is also true (as he has to me personally). The problem is that it's still an
imperfect compromise--albeit the only one we have.

Bill Burns
Assembly Training and Documentation Supervisor
wburns -at- micron -dot- com

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