Every once in a while I remember to check my referrer log and am rewarded by discovering an interesting blog I hadn’t been aware of; such is the case with Barrie England’s Real Grammar. England is “a former British diplomat and an occasional teacher of English to foreign students,” and he has not only a properly descriptive approach to language but a lively way of expressing it; from this post: “Don’t be fooled by these people [The Academy of Contemporary English]. They are not the experts they claim to be. Left to them, English would become a bland and ineffective tool for expressing thought and emotion instead of the vigorous and infinitely varied medium it always has been.” His FAQ begins:
1. What is grammar?
A question perhaps not asked as frequently as it should be. Grammar is all sorts of things to all sorts of people, but if you don’t define it before you start discussing it, then you can expect trouble. Linguists use it to describe how a language allows smaller units of meaning to make words (morphology) and how it allows words to make sentences (syntax). Adult native speakers use their language grammatically most of the time. Many people think that a sentence such as ‘We was robbed’ is ungrammatical because, they say (if they know the relevant grammatical terms), the first person plural of the past tense of ‘be’ is ‘was’. They’re right, but only up to a point. That is certainly the case in the variety of the language called Standard English. It is not the case in some non-standard dialects where we find that ‘was’ is used for all persons and numbers.
And the section “What is correct English?” concludes: “The failure to appreciate that English comes in so many varieties, and can be used for so many different purposes, is at the heart of much unnecessary argument about the language. We should extol, and not malign, its diversity.” Well said, and I’m glad that some foreign students are being taught by someone as sensible as that.