HISTORY OF PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR
Many punctuation marks are less venerable than we might imagine. Parentheses were first used around 1500, having been observed by English writers and printers in Italian books. Commas were not employed until the 16th century; in early printed books in English one sees a virgule (a slash like this /), which the comma replaced around 1520.
HEMINGWAY'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS PUNCTUATION
"My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. . . . You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements."
(Ernest Hemingway, letter to Horace Liveright, May 22, 1925)
Hemingway's attitude toward punctuation sounds eminently sensible: make sure that you know the rules before you break them. Sensible, maybe, but not entirely satisfactory. After all, just who made up these rules (or conventions) in the first place?
A brief history of grammar teaching in England
You may wonder why grammar teaching has been out of fashion for some time, and why it has come back. The following very brief history may help you to put the recent history into context. Click here for more details about developments in the twentieth century.
• The ancient world took grammar teaching very seriously as a foundation for instruction in writing skills - hence the link between the word grammar and the Greek gramma, 'written character'. Another perceived benefit was for thinking skills, where grammar was paired with logic and rhetoric.
• The 18th century developed prescriptive grammar teaching, and tried to analyse English grammar as though it was the same as Latin grammar. Grammar teaching in school was mainly about (a) Latin and (b) avoiding 'errors' in English.
• The 19th century developed historical linguistics as an important university research subject, with heavy emphasis on how languages are related but little impact on school grammar teaching. Meanwhile, English literature, in the struggle to establish itself as a university subject, saw language as its competitor for the title 'English'.
• The early 20th century saw a steady decline in the quality of grammar teaching in English schools, and increasing calls for its abandonment. One reason for this decline was the complete lack of university-level research on English grammar, which led a government report in 1921 to conclude that [it is] “…impossible at the present juncture to teach English grammar in the schools for the simple reason that no one knows exactly what it is…”. Another reason was an energetic campaign on behalf of literature, presented as a liberal and liberating alternative to the the so-called 'grammar-grind'.
• The later 20th century (from about 1960) saw two competing trends.
• Most schools stopped teaching grammar in English (and somewhat later in MFL); meanwhile, Latin teaching had largely died out too, so pupils no longer had any systematic instruction in grammar. This is the educational background of most young English teachers.
• English grammar became an important research subject, partly driven by the overseas publishing market in English as a Foreign Language and partly by the intellectual impetus of theoretical linguistics. Most universities now have a department of Linguistics or of English Language where undergraduates study English grammar. This is the research background of the 'modern grammar' espoused by the KS3 Strategy.
History of Grammar
The first attempts to study grammar began in about the 4th cent. B.C., in India with Panini's grammar of Sanskrit and in Greece with Plato's dialogue Cratylus. The Greeks, and later the Romans, approached the study of grammar through philosophy. Concerned only with the study of their own language and not with foreign languages, early Greek and Latin grammars were devoted primarily to defining the parts of speech. The biblical commentator Rashi attempted to decipher the rules of ancient Hebrew grammar. It was not until the Middle Ages that grammarians became interested in languages other than their own. The scientific grammatical analysis of language began in the 19th cent. with the realization that languages have a history; this led to attempts at the genealogical classification of languages through comparative linguistics. Grammatical analysis was further developed in the 20th cent. and was greatly advanced by the theories of structural linguistics and transformational-generative grammar (see linguistics).
Read more: grammar: History — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0858447.html#ixzz1bkE2479H