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How grammar can be mastered

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If language is a law governed activity, then grammar is to be seen as a set of rules that helps us understand language in the written and spoken form ...

If language is a law governed activity, then grammar is to be seen as a set of rules that helps us understand language in the written and spoken form

With this section, we will begin a new series of episodes that will help you come closer to the English language. The word ‘grammar’ has come to mean for most people, especially the youngsters or the young learners, something unpleasant or unwelcome like a bitter pill. It is something to be dreaded. However, like most things in life, grammar can be understood, learnt and mastered. Words like grammar and grammarian, in many contexts, carry a pejorative or derogatory connotation.

If language is a law governed activity, then grammar is to be seen as a set of rules that helps us understand language in the written and spoken form. Linguists are those who carry out a scientific study of languages worldwide. They help us see the way languages are acquired and psycholinguists, for instance, study the interface between language and the mind, i.e., the cognitive aspect of language; and socio-linguists study language in the social context.

Both are fascinating areas of study. While most people are struck by the differences in languages, even among sister languages such as the Eastern, Southern or Northern languages of India, or among the European family, linguists are able to identify the core components of languages and identify similarities and differences. Institutes such as the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (now the English and Foreign Languages University) at Hyderabad or the Central Institute of Indian Languages at Mysore have scholars and experts who devote their entire life and career to languages.

Similarly, the Deccan College or the Bhandarkar Institute at Pune has expertise in the study of Sanskrit. Sheldon Pollock of Chicago University, an eminent Professor of Sanskrit of international repute, laments that the number of experts of the classical languages is tragically dwindling over the years. For the same reason, we need to have experts in the field of English and Indian languages too.

We need to take up the study of the English grammar steadily and systematically to see the results over a period in time. In each of the following episodes, I shall give you questions to be answered. You need to remember the logic in each sentence construction so that you can use it in similar constructions, barring exceptions. For, we must remember that there are exceptions in all languages.

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