As we prepare for tonight’s Grammar Matters launch (Type Books, 883 Queen Street West, 6pm-8pm), our thoughts turn to–well, grammar matters. As Jila Ghomeshi demonstrates in her book, many people take the subjects of grammar and language very seriously. Ghomeshi’s analysis of language far exceeds the effects of a misplaced comma. She looks at the social and political implications of policing grammar and how the use and perceived abuse or misuse of language can be a contentious topic. A great many people have an opinion about grammar and just how it should be used. So, after reading Ghomeshi’s book, I’ve been thinking about the ways that we learn the rules of grammar and if that affects how we perceive it.
“To use the language of rights, our right to comment on how others use language is as important as our right to choose how we speak in the first place.”
In certain circles, grammar is a hot topic, or even a hot button issue. Any perceived misuse or abuse of language can be the cause for a chuckle* or outrage or anything in between. The assumption is that grammar follows a logical and defined form. However, in Grammar Matters: the Social Significance of How We Use Language, Jila Ghomeshi, a professor of linguistics at the University of Manitoba, shows that this isn’t always the case. While “prescriptivists” might maintain that there is a right and a wrong way, Ghomeshi shows that language is far more personalized than a grammar textbook allows. She examines the fallacy of logic and precision in the English language and points out the hypocrisy and prejudice in claiming there is only one correct use of grammar. Her argument isn’t entirely against this prescriptive view but the belief that one form or use of language is better than another. It is a compelling and interesting argument and one that is sure to incite a reaction from grammar-snobs and grammar-phobes in equal measure.