Grammar vs. Linguistics (Explained) (2023)

Language is one of the most important things around the world. It’s the primary way of communicating with each other. Every language is different and has some rules.

Grammar and linguistics are important in every language since it gives sense to the sentences. Without grammar and linguistics, you won’t be able to understand anything since it won’t make any sense.

Grammar and linguistics are two branches of the study of language. Grammar is the oldest study of language compared to linguistics, and its origin runs back to the 15thcentury. Whereas, Linguisticsis a relatively new branch oflanguage study.

It’s very important to note that grammar only focuses on written language and sentence structure. Whereas, linguistics focuses on speech and considers it as the basic form of language.

In this article, I will tell you what is the difference between grammar and linguistics.

Page Contents

(Video) Traditional Grammar VS Linguistics Grammar Lecture, Traditional Grammar VS Linguistics Grammar PDF

What Is Grammar?

Grammar refers to the collection of prescriptive rules and concepts about the language and structure of the sentences. The origins of grammar can be traced back to the 15th century B.C by Aristotle, Plato, and Greek. However, English was developed as a separate language in the 18th century, and that’s when most grammarians began writing.

The grammar of a language includes basic axioms such as verb tenses, articles and adjectives (and their proper order), how questions should be phrased, and much more about the sentence structure. Any language can’t function without grammar.

People require grammar to communicate, without grammar sentences and words wouldn’t make any sense and it’ll be difficult to communicate with each other.

Speakers and listeners, authors and their audiences must function in a like system to be able to understand each other and communicate with each other.

In other words, a language without grammar is like a pile of bricks without any support to hold them together. Although the basic components are present, they are, for all intents and purposes, useless.

Moreover, grammar includes prescriptive rules that one should follow, and prescriptive rules of usage one should avoid.Books of grammar generally contain a list of grammatical terms, definitions of these terms, and advice on how to use standard grammar. This includes correct punctuation, spelling, anddiction.

(Video) What is grammar? (For a linguist) | Grammar Series Part 1 of 5

What Is Linguistics?

Every human language is a combination of knowledge and abilities which helps the speakers of the language to communicate with each other, to express ideas, hypotheses, emotions, desires, and all the other things that need expressing.

The main aim of linguistics, similar to any other intellectual discipline is to increase our knowledge and understanding of the world. Since language is universal and fundamental to all human interaction, the knowledge achieved from linguistics can be applied practically.

Linguistics is a very vast field and it has some sub-fields as well. Most professional linguists become specialists in some of these fields. The most common sub-field of linguistics are:

  • Phonetics: the study of speech sounds
  • Phonology: the study of language sound system
  • Morphology: the study of word structure
  • Syntax: the study of how linguistic units larger than the word are constructed
  • Semantics: the study of meaning

Besides this sub-field, there’re several different sub-fields that cross-cut them. Such as:

Historical Linguistics

Historical linguistics is the study of how language change over time. It addresses questions such as, why modern English is different from old English and middle English? What does it mean to say that English and German are “more closely related” to each other compared to English and French?


Sociolinguistics is the study of how language is used in society. It addresses questions like, what makes some dialects more “prestigious” than others? Where does slang come from and why does it arise? What happens when two languages come together in “bilingual” communities?

(Video) Syntax versus Grammar


Psycholinguistics is the study of how language is processed in the human mind. It addresses questions such as, how we can hear a string of language noises and make sense of them? How children can learn to speak and understand the language of their environment as quickly and easily as they do? How people with pathological language problems are different from people with normal language?


Neurolinguistics is the study of the actual encoding of language in the brain. It addresses questions such as, what parts of the brain different aspects of language are stored in? How language is actually stored? What is moving on physically in the brain when language is being processed? How the brain retrieves when any brain area is damaged?

Computational linguistics

Understanding and learning a language includes computing the properties of that language that are described in its phonology, syntax, and semantics. The challenge of describing this process relates linguistics with computational issues at a very fundamental level. This address questions, such as how could syntactic structures be computed from spoken language? How are semantic relations recognized? How could these computational skills be developed?

Schools of Linguistics

Linguistics is considered the scientific study of languages, so several schools of thought are allied with it. The four most common linguistic schools of thought are:

School of ThoughtsTime PeriodIntroduced ByThemes
FunctionalismLate 19th CenturyEdward B. Titchener A study involved the functions performed by language, in terms of:
cognitive linguistics (interacting information)
expressive linguistics (specifying mood)
conation linguistics (employing effect)
StructuralismEarly 20th CenturyFerdinand de SaussureFocuses on the fact that languages are a firm system of units interconnected with each other:
Phonology linguistics ( sound pattern)
Morphology linguistics ( Formation of words)
GenerativismLate 19 centuryAvram Noam ChomskyInvolves the acquisition of language
Evolving theories of generative grammar (universal grammar)
Analyzing school of behaviorism
CognitivismThe 1970sLangackerAppear as a response to behaviorism
Study of sociocultural variables
Interlanguage variation
Grammar vs. Linguistics (Explained) (1)

Grammar vs. Linguistics

Language is a neutral medium for conveying a message. It’s present since birth and is the most important and primary way of communicating. We use language constantly in our day-to-day life, it shapes who we are and where do we belong to. Language is our identity and people who share the same language are connected to each other so closely that they are impossible to separate.

Grammar and linguistics are the studies of language. Each study has its own set of rules and concepts that one has to follow. However, these two differ from each other since both of these studies have different rules and concepts.

Grammar refers to the rules of the language. On the other hand, linguistics tries to explain the science of language. As a result, the common understanding of grammar is different from the linguistics sense of the term.

(Video) Prescriptive Vs. Descriptive Grammar | Linguistics | by Muhammad Tayyab

The primary aim of the grammar approach is to produce “aesthetically pleasing” English, or English that sounds correct and function not like any old form of English, but in a specific proper form. However, grammar fails to explain the most basic elements of language, that’s when linguistics is needed.

Rules in Grammar

There are a lot of rules in grammar. Grammar has a set of rules and a list of do’s and don’ts: make subjects agree with verbs, don’t split infinitives, don’t end a sentence with a preposition, and much more, However, many of these rules are often violated by a native speaker.

Grammar books don’t have much about linguistics rules, such as “put adjectives before nouns.” This is a mistake native speakers would never make. Linguistics rules are based on the science of the language and give reasons for why language is the way it is.

Every language has its own specific linguistic rules and these rules are changed over time. Another difference between grammar rules and linguistics rules is that linguistics rules resemble scientific equations, while grammar rules resemble table manners.

You can eat perfectly well with your elbows on the table and make the sound while eating. But if you want to join the local country club, then there are some sets of rules that you’ll have to follow while eating.

Similarly, if we don’t follow the grammar rules, we will be understood by people but our sentences won’t sound nice and we’ll be labeled as uneducated by some people.

Grammar vs. Linguistics (Explained) (2)


Language is very important for communication and for understanding each other. Humans communicate through different languages using different words. Grammar and linguistics are the studies of language and structure.

(Video) Does grammar matter? - Andreea S. Calude

It’s the study of language, it refers to the scientific study of language and its structure. This includes the study of features, such as grammar, syntax, andphonetics. Apart from that, linguists view language as a system, and grammar is only considered as a systematic description of a specific language, either oral or written.

Although there’s a difference between grammar and linguistics. Grammar mainly focuses on written language and it has some rules. Language without grammar doesn’t make any sense. On the other hand, linguistics mainly focuses on the speech form of language. Grammar is prescriptive, while linguistics is descriptive.

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What is the difference between linguistics and grammar? ›

What is the Difference Between Traditional Grammar and Modern Linguistics? Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure, including the study of grammar, syntax, and phonetics. In contrast, traditional grammar is to the type of language study that existed before the beginnings of modern linguistics.

Why is knowing only the grammar rules of a language not enough to speak it? ›

You'll be able to write and speak in a new language with proficiency if you practice imitating the words and expressions you hear from native speakers. The study of grammar is not necessary to make this happen. Grammar only clarifies the rules you are learning by listening.

Do linguists care about grammar? ›

Linguists want to understand how language works. In order to do so, they must understand one of the components of the language: its grammar. However, linguists approach this task quite differently from the traditional grammarian.

What does Chomsky say about grammar? ›

Chomsky's theory of universal grammar states that all languages have formal universals and principles in common, with specific options and limits for variation in grammar and features between languages. Chomsky argued that all languages contain similar elements, such as the word classes of nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

What is the relationship between grammar and linguistics? ›

For linguists, grammar is simply the collection of principles defining how to put together a sentence. One sometimes hears people say that such-and-such a language 'has no grammar', but that is not true of any language. Every language has restrictions on how words must be arranged to construct a sentence.

What is the difference between grammatical and linguistic competence? ›

The term linguistic competence refers to the unconscious knowledge of grammar that allows a speaker to use and understand a language. Also known as grammatical competence or I-language. Contrast with linguistic performance. As used by Noam Chomsky and other linguists, linguistic competence is not an evaluative term.

What language has the most confusing grammar? ›

The grammar of Hungarian is significantly different from that of Indo-European languages such as English. The language has no grammatical gender and it uses suffixes instead of prepositions which makes Hungarian one of the most difficult languages in the world.

Which is more important grammar or language? ›

The truth is that grammar is critical for learning any language. Grammar is a set of rules that dictates how a language works, making it easy to comprehend. Without proper grammar, one would have no idea how to speak or write in English. It helps us make sense of our words.

Can any language survive without grammar? ›

All major languages have a grammatical structure. Grammar allows us to structure our sentences and even our thoughts and ideas. Some experts think that, without grammar, language itself would not exist.

Why are linguists interested in describing rather than prescribing grammar? ›

Linguists are more concerned with descriptive grammar than with prescriptive grammar because they are interested in the natural evolution of language and in describing how grammar patterns evolve through processes in mental grammar. They are interested in how language is used in real life.

Should you learn grammar when learning a language? ›

According to some, it's crucial for developing a good foundation for language learning. It's undeniable that grammar is essential for language structure. Focusing on understanding grammar can be a language learning tool. This approach is almost exclusively analytical.

Why does grammar still matter? ›

Studying grammar helps make communication between people clearer. Once you understand your own language and appreciate its patterns and varieties, you can more easily understand how other languages are constructed, making them easier to learn.

Why is linguistic relativity controversial? ›

There are those who argue against linguistic relativity such as Pinker (1994, p. 58-59) who points out that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that language shapes thought and the only reason why this idea used to be plausible was because scientists did not know enough about how thinking works.

What are the 4 types of grammar Chomsky? ›

Specifically, Chomsky's Hierarchy has four distinct levels – Type 0, known as Unrestricted Grammar; Type 1, known as Context Sensitive Grammar; Type 2, known as Context Free Grammar; and Type 3, known as Regular Grammar.

What are the three theories of grammar? ›

Functional theories of grammar can entail functional linguistics, lexical functional grammar, as well as Role and Reference Grammar (RRG) model.

What is grammar called in linguistics? ›

In linguistics, grammaticality is determined by the conformity to language usage as derived by the grammar of a particular speech variety. The notion of grammaticality rose alongside the theory of generative grammar, the goal of which is to formulate rules that define well-formed, grammatical, sentences.

What is linguistic theory of grammar? ›

Linguistic Theory was formed by Noam Chomsky who described language as having a grammar that is largely independent of language use. Unlike Behavioral Theory, Linguistic Theory argues that language acquisition is governed by universal, underlying grammatical rules that are common to all typically developing humans.

Is grammar a linguistic feature? ›

Today, grammar exists as a field within linguistics but still retains a relationship with these other disciplines.

What are the 4 competencies in linguistics? ›

components of communicative competence. They are grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence.

What is the difference between grammar syntax and semantics? ›

Syntax refers to the set of rules that create sentence structure. Writers can also call these the grammar rules. Semantics refers to the study of the meaning of sentences. Sometimes, grammatically correct words do not make sense, even when they are correct grammatically.

Is mental grammar the same as linguistic competence? ›

Mental grammar is the generative grammar stored in the brain that allows a speaker to produce language that other speakers can understand. It is also known as competence grammar and linguistic competence.

Which language has easiest grammar? ›

Languages with Simple Grammar Rules
  1. 1) Esperanto. It is the widely-spoken artificial language in the world. ...
  2. 2) Mandarin Chinese. You did not see this one coming, right? ...
  3. 3) Malay. ...
  4. 4) Afrikaans. ...
  5. 5) French. ...
  6. 6) Haitian Creole. ...
  7. 7) Tagalog. ...
  8. 8) Spanish.

Is it better to learn vocabulary or grammar first? ›

While vocabulary may just have the upper hand over grammar in the pecking order, the most efficient way to learn a language is through learning grammar and vocabulary at the same time.

Is vocabulary easier to learn than grammar why why not? ›

Unlike grammar, vocabulary is not governed by any fixed rules, thus making it harder to learn.

Is grammar the most difficult part of learning a foreign language? ›

Contrary to what most people believe, pronunciation is not the hardest feature of a language to master. Nor is grammar. A language—any language—has three distinct components: pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. A closer look at these components will reveal that the third is the most difficult to master.

What language has the closest grammar to English? ›

Closest Major Language: Dutch

Like Frisian and English, Dutch is another West Germanic language that developed from Proto-Germanic. Because of this, Dutch possesses many words and phrases similar to English and has a similar grammatical structure.

Will English eventually be the only language? ›

English will most likely not become the dominant world language as more people speak more than one language, a language expert reports. The world faces a future of people speaking more than one language, with English no longer seen as likely to become dominant, a British language expert says in a new analysis.

Can you forget a language if you don't speak it? ›

While some people can remember their native language after years, even decades of not speaking or hearing it, many others begin to lose fluency after only 3-5 years.

Why am I interested in linguistics? ›

You like to learn foreign languages, and enjoy the challenge of mastering speech sounds and grammatical rules that are different from those in English. You've been fascinated by how a child acquires his or her first language, or by the difficulties an adult faces in learning a second language.

Is linguistic similar to grammar? ›

An informal and broad definition of grammar is that grammar is a branch of linguistics that studies the form and structure of words (morphology) and the way in which the units of sentence structure are combined in sentences (syntax).

What makes linguistics special? ›

Linguistics is a major that gives you insight into one of the most intriguing aspects of human knowledge and behavior. Majoring in linguistics means that you will learn about many aspects of human language, including sounds (phonetics, phonology), words (morphology), sentences (syntax), and meaning (semantics).

Is grammar important for fluency? ›

Correct grammar is your key to speaking English fluently and with confidence. Knowing your grammar can help you avoid errors that build your English sound strange to native speakers.

Should we learn grammar first or communicate first? ›

Most sentences they write are naturally grammatical. When you form sentences that communicate well, they will naturally be grammatical. Communicating well typically comes first.

Why is grammar no longer taught? ›

Almost everything is now done online. Many schools are going completely paperless, using iPads and Moodle classrooms as teaching tools, and in some schools, kids don't even carry pencils-- ya, seriously! As learning becomes increasingly supported through digital media, grammar is getting outmoded.

Does grammar equate to intelligence? ›

A lot of students' talents are not recognized if they do not adhere to society's standards of intelligence.

When did grammar stop being taught? ›

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) started discouraging grammar being taught in schools, by 1985. A switch was made to focus more on language arts than grammar. Why should My Child Know Proper Grammar and Language Arts? Your child needs to know proper grammar and language arts to be an effective writer.

What does linguistics mean in grammar? ›

: the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language.

What are the 4 types of grammar? ›

Kinds of grammar.
  • prescriptive.
  • descriptive.
  • transformational-generative.

Are English and ASL both the same in syntax and grammar? ›

Why is ASL a different language? In American Sign Language, the syntax (word order) is different than English. In general, the word order follows a “Subject” + “Verb” + “Object” sentence structure. You will also see the structure “Time” + “Subject” + “Verb” + “Object”, or “Time” can be at the end of a sentence.

What is an example of linguistics? ›

Linguistics looks at: The general phenomenon of human language. Different families of languages (example: Germanic, including English, German, Dutch and Scandinavian, among others). Specific languages (example: Arabic, Mandarin and French).

What is the simple definition of grammar? ›

grammar, rules of a language governing the sounds, words, sentences, and other elements, as well as their combination and interpretation. The word grammar also denotes the study of these abstract features or a book presenting these rules.

What are the 2 main types of grammar? ›

In English, there are two kinds of grammar: prescriptive grammar & descriptive grammar.

What is the study of grammar called? ›

Linguists study every aspect of language, including vocabulary, grammar, the sound of language, and how words evolve over time. The study of language is called linguistics, and people who study linguistics are linguists.

What language has the same grammar rules as English? ›

Closest Major Language: Dutch

Like Frisian and English, Dutch is another West Germanic language that developed from Proto-Germanic. Because of this, Dutch possesses many words and phrases similar to English and has a similar grammatical structure.

What is the difference between the grammar rules of semantics and syntax? ›

Put simply, syntax refers to grammar, while semantics refers to meaning. Syntax is the set of rules needed to ensure a sentence is grammatically correct; semantics is how one's lexicon, grammatical structure, tone, and other elements of a sentence coalesce to communicate its meaning.


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