Professional translators are, above all, language scholars who, day by day, continue to train ourselves to better carry out our work as “invisible doers”. As we saw in our article 5 tips to be a professional translator, in order to practice this profession it is not enough to be able to speak a language or know its vocabulary, but you have to become a true expert in language issues such as grammar, spelling and style.
In the universe of linguistics (understood as the “scientific study of the origin, evolution and structure of language”), knowledge of grammar is especially important for a professional translator, since it establishes the set of rules and principles that regulate the use of language, composition and the syntactic organization of sentences.
As is to be expected, each language has its own grammar with its laws, its logic and its particular way of organizing linguistic signs, and consequently, of naming reality and putting thoughts into words.
The 5 types of grammar
Very different approaches coexist in the study of grammar. The main ones are the following:
• Prescriptive or normative grammar: This approach is the one that presents the norms of language use. Its study is based on an “ideal of the language” that has sufficient prestige to embody the correct or recommended use of the language. Although normative grammar is still widely used in pedagogy and foreign language teaching, in modern academic linguistics it lost some of the supremacy it enjoyed over other types of grammar.
• Descriptive grammar: Unlike the normative, this grammar type tries to describe the actual use of a language in the community, avoiding judging in a prescriptive way. Descriptive grammar aims to understand the particular rules of language used by a community.
• Traditional grammar: It is the set of ideas and documents surrounding grammar that Western societies inherited from ancient civilizations such as Greek and Roman. The interesting thing is that prescriptive grammar is usually formulated through the descriptive concepts inherited from this traditional grammar. However, modern descriptive grammar “corrects” errors in traditional grammar by making the actual use of the language by speakers the norm.
• Functional grammar: Its intention is to become a “general grammar of natural language” establishing basic norms (typological, pragmatic and psychological) that can be applied to different languages with different grammars.
• Formal grammar: Is the “abstract grammar” that can apply its logic to non-verbal languages, such as those of mathematics and computer programming.
Discover the different parts grammar has
As professional translators, we are very familiar with the various parts of grammar. Although it is often believed that this set of norms and rules for the use of language is compact and unified, the truth is that four parts coexist within grammar that relate to very different aspects of each language. These are:
• Phonetics: It is the part of linguistics that studies the production and order of the sounds of a language in its oral manifestation, as well as the changes that sounds undergo according to the grammatical context.
• Morphology: It is the part of the grammar that deals with the internal structure of words to define, delimit and classify their units, what is the root of the different terms and the formation of new words.
• Syntax: This subdiscipline is based on the study of the rules that organize the combination of words and the formation -from them- of phrases and sentences.
• Semantics: This part of grammar deals with the meaning of words and their function within the whole of the language. Studies the way in which meanings are attributed to different words, added to their transformations and changes over time.
• Etymology: This branch of linguistics analyses the origin of words and the reason for their existence, their meaning and their form.
Therefore, studying the grammar of a certain language is much more complex than knowing the meaning, pronunciation and different uses of words. A challenge that is undoubtedly worth undertaking on the path of becoming a professional translator.
We hope you have enjoyed this journey through the world of linguistics, grammar and its different parts. Until next time!