Monday, August 11, 2008

Is Spelling More Important than Grammar?

We've had an interesting discussion on Wordcraft, where the linguist gurus seem to think it's far more important to have spelling standards than grammar standards. We've had great discussions for years on how communication is understood even though there are grammar errors. We've laughed at Truss and Strunk & White, and I've made a 180 degree turnaround about my views on grammar (I used to recommend Strunk & White to my college students!). Now, though, I am hearing how important spelling standards are with communication. Yes, they are important in formal communication, I agree. But so are grammar standards. Yet, when one texts or uses hip-hop lyrics is spelling any more important than grammar for understanding the communication?

Perhaps the answer is that creative spelling slows down the communication. For instance, Bob says, "Youer argewmend iz perfickly tru, ahn thee uthah harnd yu cannut deeneye thart thiziz harduh tew reed than these last few words are." Yet misplaced phrases or the wrong use of a comma surely can cloud the clarity of sentences.

Are spelling standards more important than grammar standards? Can you be a prescriptivist with spelling but a descriptivist with grammar? That's what I am seeing.

1 comment:

outerhoard said...

You may find this a useful resource: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/ling/stories/s40363.htm (not saying I necessarily agree with it)