Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

Geoffery Nunberg's "The Decline of Grammar" explores the notion of whether or

not the English language is in a decline. This decline may take many forms as
Nunberg illustrates over the course of a dense fourteen page essay. These
examples include grammatical abandoment and the inclusion of buzzwords and
jargon into our lexicon. In Nunberg's quest he also investigates the origins of
grammar rules and their logical/prescriptive nature, the limits of the English
language, and the evolution of language itself and within the parameters of
One example Nunberg refers back to time and again is the grammatical error
of in the agreement of a pronoun to a singular antecedent (I.e. anyone). This
serves as a crux of his investigation into the state of language. He states the
inaccuracy in saying a statement such as, "if anyone is late, then they will fail the
class" but understands that it still conveys its meaning versus if the correct way
that would be to use either the impersonal masculine "he" which Nunberg
recognizes is the preferred and correct usage but could simultaneously be
construed as sexist and the clumsy "himself or herself" which would be
acceptable if gender specification were necessary. The reason why this becomes
a main talking point is because it illustrates the dichotomy of the situation:
whether language is sole and fundamental purpose is to serve as a conduit for
the exchange of information -OR- did the standardization of languages bring with
it a set of rules that exalted language from a previous chaotic state and people
should therefore conform their speech/prose to these rules. Nunberg refers back
to other linguists most frequently being Johnson, Epstein, and Fowler to explore
this bisection on different circumstances ( e.g. hopefully, literally/figuratively, to
contact and to gift). What is interesting about Fowler is that Nunberg uses a
passage of his which he then points outs Fowler's method of argument which
Nunberg uses in his own critiques of these issues (which he's mostly in favor of
abiding by the rules due to his fondness for grammar but demonstrates that he
understands both sides of the argument).
Nunberg traces the origins back grammar rules back to aristocrats of the 16th
& 17th century when written words served to reach more people than speech
would. He notes though that these rules, while some having a logical basis, many
were arbitrary and were plucked from the erudite and elites of the time. Due to
the latter, these rules have served as a sort of class structure separating people
into two categories: educated or ignorant? Of course, these have socioeconomic
implications which therefore have racial and political implications as well.
Nunberg comments that their is a factual basis for learning and abiding by the

given rules because, while although unfair, one may be judged on his or her
speech but acknowledges the inherent bias in "correct" English.
Nunberg convers a lot of case by case scenarios which he provides plenty of
evidence for the pros and cons of following grammatical rules some which he
agrees with and some which he does not. He ultimately retires the idea by stating
the whole issue grammatical problems needs to be revisited in a discourse that
is : Well-informed, non-partisan, and tolerant and courageous. Meaning that
professionals with a deft understanding of language but serve no particular
dogma of language should be willing address these issues while maintaining
what a sense of duty to their conscience.