Curzan’s Perspective of Grammar

Anne Curzan’s piece about the rules of grammar intertwined two worlds that I previously thought were separate – spoken language and writing. In the past, I have taken courses that aim to identify different types of speech among different types of people and how these styles of talking identify different types of class, race, and culture. Until I read this piece, I had never thought about this in terms of writing.

The point that stood out to me the most? People hold a certain form of language as the most appropriate and socially acceptable. But why? Curzan makes a point of discussing the difference between “shouldn’t” and “ain’t”. “Shouldn’t” is JUST as grammatical as “ain’t”, however the latter is perceived as lower class. This also leads me to ponder why written language and grammar morph more slowly than spoken words. Traditional grammar is, in some ways, hurting cultures and labeling them as less intelligent and incapable of being taken seriously.

BUT. People who comprehend language that doesn’t match the traditional writing standards as incompetent don’t realize that this is the language that is reaching the most people and having a huge impact on society. For example, Macklemore definitely doesn’t utilize grammar that society has deemed as correct, but his words and ideas are expressed in a way that many more people can relate to than a governmental article about why gay marriage is acceptable. Curzan’s strategies of tying together writing and spoken language, and the gap between the two, was captivating and definitely made me think about why grammar isn’t changing with spoken language.


One thought to “Curzan’s Perspective of Grammar”

  1. This is a really interesting point that I hadn’t thought of when reading the Curzan article, that writing is changing more slowly than speaking.

    In part, I think it’s because when you speak, you don’t have time to think and ponder, what you say is out there whether you want to take it back or not. Words are shot rapid fire into a conversation and people respond just as quickly, giving more chance to differences, adaptation of those differences, and eventual evolvement of the language.

    With writing, it’s different. Someone can write a piece and sit on it for days, months, years. They can draft and think over the rules again and again and they can take the time to format it to “socially acceptable” standards. When given the time to second guess ourselves, we become more uncertain, more prone to sticking with what we know.

    The other thing that I find curious is that there are certain types of communication that reach more people, but is it necessarily the type of communication that will carry us forward in society, or is it just a passing fad that no one will remember in the years to come? Will Macklemore still be relevant in a few years? Will linguists look back and see him as a key movement? The writing that should be emphasized should have the weight to carry through the ages and be a source of learning material. Not to say that we can’t have other forms, or even that they’re not necessary, because they most definitely are. All the different types of communication we have make the societies we are in today, but the ultimate question is, what gets passed on?

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