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The grammar instinct

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1 Author(s)
Manning, A.D. ; Dept. of Linguistics, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, UT, USA

Previously, D. Leonard and J. Gilsdorf (1990) presented 45 instances of questionable usage, in full-paragraph contexts, to both academics and working business executives. These usage elements included sentence fragments, assorted punctuation problems, pronoun-antecedent (dis)agreement, and various examples of questionable word choice. Their intent was to assess the "botheration level" of each usage "error"; their conclusions were that: 1) academics are (nearly) always bothered by usage "errors" more than executives; and 2) usage elements that bothered survey respondents the least were evolving over time into acceptable English usage. Setting aside for now the problem of ongoing language change and its causes, the article focuses on the problem of predicting what will remain unchanged in language-usage rules and proposes an explanation for why certain rules will remain unchanged. This problem is critically important for anyone who is mentoring the writing of younger people, people whose primary audience will not follow our rules, but rather the rules of the next generation of readers

Published in:

Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:45 ,  Issue: 2 )