The Properties of Structured Language

Today, I was looking at an MIT article on language genetics and it had me thinking about some important aspects of how we deal with language. I’ve spent a lot of time going through language structure, as I actively study Japanese as a second language. This has lead me to come to some interesting conclusions about “structured language”.

You often heear people referring to “That’s not proper grammar”, or citing some rule about sentence structure. Where does this so-called “proper grammar” come from? Most would point to school, where teachers instill the foundations of “proper grammar”. However, do we really get our day-to-day grammar from educational institutions?

It’s my opinion that language is actually circumstance based. This is how slang tends to travel so fast. People here it from someone and think it’s cool to say, then another person thinks the same, etc. Finally, enough people start to use it in certain situations, to where it becomes a defacto standard to use this word/phrase in that situation.

I think it’s this sort of situational learning that establishes how language ends up being structured. How else would the word Google end up in a dictionary? People used “Google it” enough that it was decided it was the best word to use in such situations.

This theory, is in my opinion, a good way to approach languages. In fact, a lot of language books that I went through for learning Japanese, the ones that stood out where the ones that used this approach. You can also see it in various “Situational (Language)” series books. I really wonder what would happen if teachers didn’t just teach grammar, but actually had their students use it frequently in class, and at home.