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「【TED】文法真的重要嗎?」- Does Grammar Matter?


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You're telling a friend an amazing story, and you just get to the best part when suddenly, he interrupts, "'The alien and I,' not 'Me and the alien.'" Most of us would probably be annoyed, but aside from the rude interruption, does your friend have a point? Was your sentence actually grammatically incorrect? And if he still understood it, why does it even matter?
你正在和朋友說一個很精彩的故事,當故事正要到最高潮時,他突然打斷你:「『外星人和我(I)』不是『我(Me)和外星人』。」大部分的人可能會感到不開心,但除了沒禮貌地插話外,你的朋友說的是否有點道理呢?你說的句子真的文法錯了嗎?如果他還是聽得懂,那文法不對又有什麼關係?

From the point of view of linguistics, grammar is a set of patterns for how words are put together to form phrases or clauses, whether spoken or in writing. Different languages have different patterns. In English, the subject normally comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object, while in Japanese and many other languages, the order is subject-object-verb.
站在語言學的觀點,文法是一套讓單字構成片語或子句的模式,無論是在口語或是寫作上。不同語言有不同模式。英文中,主詞通常擺第一,後面跟著動詞,接著是受詞,而在日文和其它許多語言中,順序則是主詞、受詞,然後動詞。

Some scholars have tried to identify patterns common to all languages, but apart from some basic features, like having nouns or verbs, few of these so-called linguistic universals have been found. And while any language needs consistent patterns to function, the study of these patterns opens up an ongoing debate between two positions known as "prescriptivism" and "descriptivism." Grossly simplified, prescriptivists think a given language should follow consistent rules, while descriptivists see variation and adaptation as a natural and necessary part of language.
有些學者嘗試找出所有語言共通的模式,但除了一些基本特性,像是都有名詞或動詞以外,很少有這些所謂的語言共通性存在著。雖然任何語言都需要有固定模式才能好好運作,研究這些模式卻開啟一場持續不斷的爭辯,被稱作「規範論」和「描述論」的兩派間的對抗。簡單來說,規範論者認為一個語言應該遵守一致的規則,而描述論者則將多樣性和適應性視為語言中正常且必要的一部份。

For much of history, the vast majority of language was spoken. But as people became more interconnected and writing gained importance, written language was standardized to allow broader communication and ensure that people in different parts of a realm could understand each other.
歷史上,語言的主體大多是口語。但隨著人們互動越來越密切以及文字的重要性提升,書寫語言被建立標準,好讓交流的範圍可以擴大,並確保不同地區的人們可以互相理解。

In many languages, this standard form came to be considered the only proper one despite being derived from just one of many spoken varieties, usually that of the people in power. Language purists worked to establish and propagate this standard by detailing a set of rules that reflected the established grammar of their times. And rules for written grammar were applied to spoken language as well. Speech patterns that deviated from the written rules were considered corruptions or signs of low social status, and many people who had grown up speaking in these ways were forced to adopt the standardized form.
在許多語言中,這種標準形式被當成唯一正確的一種,儘管它只是從許多口語種類中選出的一種,而那通常是上位者的語言。講究文法規範的人致力建立並宣傳這種標準,藉由詳列出一套規則,反映當時已確立的文法。而書寫的文法規則也被套用在口語上。不符書寫文法的說話方式被認為是訛用或社會地位低下的象徵,許多從小就這樣說話的人被迫接受標準形式。

More recently, however, linguists have understood that speech is a separate phenomenon from writing with its own regularities and patterns. Most of us learn to speak at such an early age that we don't even remember it. We form our spoken repertoire through unconscious habits, not memorized rules. And because speech also uses mood and intonation for meaning, its structure is often more flexible, adapting to the needs of speakers and listeners. This could mean avoiding complex clauses that are hard to parse in real time, making changes to avoid awkward pronunciation, or removing sounds to make speech faster. The linguistic approach that tries to understand and map such differences without dictating correct ones is known as descriptivism. Rather than deciding how language should be used, it describes how people actually use it and tracks the innovations they come up with in the process.
然而,近年來,語言學家了解到口語和寫作是不同的現象,它自有其規律和模式。多數人在還很小甚至沒有記憶時就學會說話了。透過無意間形成的習慣,而非背下來的文法規則,我們形塑出自己的口語能力。而因為說話時還會運用情緒及語調來傳達意涵,它的結構常更為彈性,會隨說話和聆聽的人的需求而改變。這可能代表說話時避免使用很難立刻理解的複雜子句、調整內容來避開難發出的音,或是省略一些音來讓說話速度更快。試圖理解並標出這些差異性,但卻沒有要規定哪些是正確文法的這種語言學取向,它被叫作「描述論」。描述論不會決定語言應該如何被使用,它描述人們真實使用語言的情況,並記錄過程中人們發明的新用法。

But while the debate between prescriptivism and descriptivism continues, the two are not mutually exclusive. At its best, prescriptivism is useful for informing people about the most common established patterns at a given point in time. This is important not only for formal contexts, but it also makes communication easier between non-native speakers from different backgrounds. Descriptivism, on the other hand, gives us insight into how our minds work and the instinctive ways in which we structure our view of the world.
不過,儘管規範論和描述論之間的爭論仍持續上演著,這兩種學說並非互不相容。規範論的優點就是有助讓人理解某時期間最普遍被接受的文法規則。這不僅在正式場合上很重要,也能使來自不同背景的非母語人士溝通起來更輕鬆。而另一方面,描述論則讓我們一窺大腦思考的方式,以及我們本能看世界的方式。

Ultimately, grammar is best thought of as a set of linguistic habits that are constantly being negotiated and reinvented by the entire group of language users. Like language itself, it's a wonderful and complex fabric woven through the contributions of speakers and listeners, writers and readers, prescriptivists and descriptivists from both near and far.
終歸一句,文法最好被視為一套語言習慣,由所有語言使用者不斷商量並改造而建立。正如語言本身,它是一匹瑰麗且繁複的布料,透過講者和聽者一同編織、出自作者和讀者、規範論者和描述論者,這些來自各地的人。

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