People who think that grammar is just a collection of rules and restrictions are wrong. If you get to like it, grammar reveals the hidden meaning of history, hides disorder and abandonment, links things and brings opposites together. Grammar is a wonderful way of organising the world how you'd like it to be.
Delphine de Vigan
You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does -- but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use.
Let me just acknowlege that the function of grammar is to make language as efficent and clear and transparent as possible. But if we're all constantly correcting each other's grammar and being really snotty about it, then people stop talking because they start to be petrified that they're going to make some sort of terrible grammatical error and that's precisely the opposite of what grammar is supposed to do, which is to facilitate clear communication.
Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain Beauty. When you speak, or read, or write, you can tell if you've spoken or read or written a fine sentence. You can recognise a well-tuned phrase or an elegant style. But when you are applying the rules of grammar skilfully, you ascend to another level of the beauty of language. When you use grammar you peel back the layers, to see how it is all put together, to see it quite naked, in a way.
Universal grammar is about what language is: it is to be distinguished from prescriptive grammars, often distilled in newspaper columns, which tell us what language should be. We are all entitled to our own opinions of what is appropriate, be it in the arrangement of words or flowers - as long as we keep in mind that these are just opinions. The properties of universal grammar linguists have unearthed, however, are a useful defense when language "authorities" try to rationalize their pontifications: none of the don'ts they advertise can be found in the book of universal grammar.
By a generative grammar I mean simply a system of rules that in some explicit and well-defined way assigns structural descriptions to sentences. Obviously, every speaker of a language has mastered and internalized a generative grammar that expresses his knowledge of his language. This is not to say that he is aware of the rules of the grammar or even that he can become aware of them, or that his statements about his intuitive knowledge of the language are necessarily accurate.
Language guardians have often blamed linguists as defenders of bad language: moral and cultural relativism is often tossed in at no extra charge. We as a profession are supposedly promoting the idea that anything goes in grammar... But no, we have never said anything goes in grammar. (...) When it comes to the proper use of language, universal grammar is the ultimate authority. It is not about what rules are deemed reasonable or popular; it is about what rules are true. And one sign for a true rule is that it appears in young children, long before they are polluted by dubious grammatical advice.
Hence, a generative grammar must be a system of rules that can iterate to generate an indefinitely large number of structures. This system of rules can be analyzed into the three major components of a generative grammar: the syntactic, phonological, and semantic components... the syntactic component of a grammar must specify, for each sentence, a deep structure that determines its semantic interpretation and a surface structure that determines its phonetic interpretation. The first of these is interpreted by the semantic component; the second, by the phonological component.
I remember one English teacher in the eighth grade, Florence Schrack, whose husband also taught at the high school. I thought what she said made sense, and she parsed sentences on the blackboard and gave me, I'd like to think, some sense of English grammar and that there is a grammar, that those commas serve a purpose and that a sentence has a logic, that you can break it down. I've tried not to forget those lessons, and to treat the English language with respect as a kind of intricate tool.
It takes more time and effort and delicacy to learn the silence of a people than to learn its sounds. Some people have a special gift for this. Perhaps this explains why some missionaries, notwithstanding their efforts, never come to speak properly, to communicate delicately through silences. Although they "speak with the accent of natives" they remain forever thousands of miles away. The learning of the grammar of silence is an art much more difficult to learn than the grammar of sounds.
The true structure of the Welsh grammar will be revealed only when we look at sentences slightly more complicated than its basic VSO pattern. Welsh is no different from the rest of the world: it does involve an extra step, but even that isn't all that unusual. Welsh is like Shakespearean English on acid: the verb always - not just in questions - moves to the beginning. Alternatively, it can be viewed as taking the French grammar a step further. While the verb stops at tense in French, it moves further in Welsh to a position that traditional grammarians call the complementizer (don't ask).