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smithsgj

What's "correct" and "incorrect" in gram

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smithsgj

I thought it might be useful to set out a linguist's perspective on this topic.

Students of language and linguistics are generally interested in "what is spoken on the street", not on a set of rules that somebody made up. Such rules generally describe the way a language used to be spoken rather than the "state of the art" (has to be, wouldn't be able to keep up otherwise!) and, as I said before, they are often based on the syntactic and morphological properties of some other language, like Latin.

For example, the rule about not splitting an infinitive in English (*to boldly go where no man...) is generally taken to hail from Latin, along with the one about not ending a sentence with a preposition.

Having said that, I agree that if you're learning a new language, you're best off sticking to the official rules. But there's a difference between learning a language and describing it, figuring out how it works. Linguists attempt the latter task.

Someone on another thread wrote: "Grammar isn't taught in Taiwan or China because children are already familiar with the language pattern when they go to school. Unfortunately, this leads to sometimes people speaking with incorrect grammar."

You don't *need* to be taught the grammar of your native language! You learn it automatically, by example: that's the extraordinary thing about first language acquisition. Otherwise how would people who haven't been to school be able to talk at all? And how would they learn to speak languages that aren't taught or used in schools -- like Taiwanese? Wouldn't it then follow that *nobody* could speak Taiwanese grammatically?

And "incorrect grammar"... in writing and formal talk (speeches, maybe, I don't know) a special set of rules has to be followed. But in everyday talk, what is correct is determined by what native speakers find acceptable.

I hope this post is acceptable to everyone. In many cases I will have been preaching to the converted; but if we're going to discuss Chinese on this forum I think it's useful to have a clear idea of what we're discussing. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to know how Chinese works, not how Gobu and Palanka (?) say it works.

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smithsgj

The last word of the title got truncated: it should be "grammar" of course.

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Guest fodun

as far as I know a lot of native Chinese speaker speak Chinese in incorrect grammar.

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akdn
as far as I know a lot of native Chinese speaker speak Chinese in incorrect grammar.

When you say incorrect grammar, do you mean that people have internalised certain grammar 'mistakes', and do like that every time?

Stephen Pinker, in his book 'The Language Instinct', makes the point that grammar 'mistakes' in English are relative. If certain 'wrong' speech patterns are accepted, understood, and followed uniformly by a group of people, how can we say it's wrong? I forget his example. I think he used some street language from the Bronx ("What I be saying ....", kind of thing).

A student of English would never be taught these in class. Should they be?

So, fodun, if this is the kind of 'incorrect grammar' you are talking about, lets have some examples!! Does anyone out there know of any Chinese grammar 'rule' that is consistently broken by certain groups of people in China - the kind of thing we would never find in a book?

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Guest fodun

It's hard to show any examples of incorrect Chinese grammar used suddenly. But it is not difficult to pick it out of speech, news paper, TV program and so on.

Actually, a lot of Chinese people confound with 主,谓,宾,定,状,补, most of them can make sure the differentiation of 的,地,得. the wrong used of 的地得 is very easy be find in books.

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akdn

So, you're just talking about 'slips of the tongue' rather than established changes in 'correct' grammar.

Your mention of 的,得,地 reminds me of when English writers mess up 'your' and 'you're' in their writing!

Can you not think of any acceptable (and widely-used) variations on official grammar rules?

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Quest

when I was in school in Guangzhou, I was taught that the official rule for 的,地, 得 was changed at that time that we could use 的 for 的,地, 得. We even had a practice worksheet to change 地 and 得 into 的. However, these three characters all sound different in cantonese, I never could mix them up, so I never accepted the new rule myself. Many books have since switched to the new rule and used 的 after verbs instead of its usual placement after adjectives.

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smithsgj

> people confound with 主,谓,宾,定,状,补,

I don't quite understand this Fodun. Can you give me any example sentences?

的,地, 得 can only be distinguished in writing.

I was thinking more about the way people *speak*. I would be the first to agree that absolute standards are necessary in writing - I'm not an advocate of incorrect spelling!!!!

But in (vaguely) similar vein, why do people often not distinguish between the different forms of "ta" in writing? Especially using the default 他 when they mean 她?

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