Grammar is the study of the rules governing use of language. As such, it is part of the discipline of linguistics.
A "Grammar" (from a linguistic point of view) catalogs the various parts of speech in use by the language, including: verbs, nouns, pronouns, prepositions; it catalogs how actions are described, almost exclusively through use of verbs, and how those verbs are conjugated within a sentence; it catalogs how a language codifies for both mode and tense; and it attempts to quantify other less precise aspects of written or oral communication like metaphors, enclitics, onomatopoeia, and others.
Some Grammar Concepts
Syntax is the study of the rules for forming grammatical sentences. When linguists describe sentence structure in languages, they typically look at the relationship between the Subject, the Object and the Verb and classify the language by the order of those words.
- Subject is the agent of the action (such as a person).
- Verb is the action being undertaken (the thing being done e.g. buying).
- Object is the item, person or thing that has the action done to it (e.g. the paper).
SVO refers to subject, verb, object. An English example of this is I (s) buy (v) the book (obj). In German this would be rendered Ich (s) kaufe(v) das Buch(o).
Besides SVO, the two most common are SOV (subject, object, verb), as used in Japanese (hon(s) wo katta (v)), and VSO (verb, subject, object), as used in Biblical Hebrew. Some languages have free word order because the subject and the object have different case endings.
Gender is an attribute of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives in some languages. Languages like French and Spanish use different articles (e.g., le and la in French, el and la in Spanish) to indicate that certain nouns are masculine or feminine. Remembering which words are masculine or feminine is a substantial feat for foreign learners. While words specific to male and female people are easy (El Señor vs. La Señorita), a word's grammatical gender may or may not indicate the sex of what the word describes. For example, le chateau or la maison. In Spanish and some other languages, the ending of the noun often, but not invariably, corresponds to the gender.
Depending on the language, typical gender distinctions include masculine/feminine, masculine/feminine/neuter, masculine singular/feminine singular/neuter singular/genderless plural, and animate/inanimate. Not all languages have grammatical gender; for example, some languages have a single pronoun corresponding to the English "he," "she," and "it." In Hebrew, the word for "it" is the same as the word for "this", so "I like it" would literally translate as "I like this”. Depending on the language, gender and number may or may not be encoded separately, i.e., represented by separate morphemes.