Grammar: Rules of a language governing its phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics; also, a written summary of such rules. The first Europeans to write grammar texts were the Greeks, notably the Alexandrians of the 1st century BC. The Romans applied the Greek grammatical system to Latin, The works of the Latin Grammarians Donatus (4th century BC) and Priscian (6th century) were widely used to teach grammar in Medieval Europe. By 1700, grammars of 61 vernacular languages had been printed. These were mainly used for teaching and were intended to reform or standardize language. In the 19th-20th centuries linguists began studying languages to trace their evolution father than to prescribe correct usage. Descriptive linguists (see Ferdinand de Saussure) studied spoken language by collecting and analyzing sample sentences. Transformational grammarians (see Noam Chomsky) examined the underlying structure of language (see generative grammar). The older approach to grammar as a body of rules needed to speak and write correctly is still the basis of primary and secondary teaching.
Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.