Once we start to look at naturally occurring language we see that there is systematic variation in the choices people make. These choices relate to both the meaning and the context of the communication. Specifically we have looked at differences in mode between grammar in speech, especially conversation, and in writing.
You may already be familiar with the idea of variation within a language. For example, there are different varieties of English used in different parts of the world. India, the USA and Australia, for example, all have different varieties of the language we refer to as English. But variety also occurs within countries where different lexical and grammatical choices may be associated with regional dialects. Often people have a choice over whether to use their dialect or to communicate using what has come to be called standard English. Exploring the grammar of English can help us look at a level of variation which is much more subtle – in this free course we have used a very crude distinction between written and spoken modes. Grammar is a tool for adapting our communications in ways which present us and our message in different lights and it is dependent on many contextual factors.
In Activity 1 you were asked to note down what you thought grammar was about. Look back at what you wrote down. Have your views changed at all? We hope that in this course you have begun to see that grammar is not just about labelling parts of speech or judging whether something is right or wrong. Studying grammar opens doors into how we organise our world. Exploring grammar can allow you to see how language is intertwined with both describing a view of the world and interacting with others in it.