The invention of grammar, peeving, and counterpeeving

From Stan Carey, a link to this Cyanide and Happiness cartoon:

For “article adjectives”, read just “articles”. And add verb inflections.

And note that the cavemen’s speech before the “invention of grammar” did in fact have a grammar of its own. So what we get here is the usual view that grammar means ‘correct grammar’ — that is, the grammar for the formal written standard variety of the language. (Of course, you can ask how standardization would work in caveman society.)

4 Responses to “The invention of grammar, peeving, and counterpeeving”

  1. Robert Says:

    Isn’t the last panel an attempt to show how standardization would work in caveman society?

  2. Greg Lee Says:

    And note that the cavemen’s speech before the “invention of grammar” did in fact have a grammar of its own.

    How can you tell that?

  3. Joseph F Foster Says:

    Evening, Mr. Lee,
    For one thing, the two people appear to understand each other’s evidently novel utterances. If there were no grammar, that would be hard to explain.

    Let me give you a hint that’ll help you answer your own question. Consider things like nouns and verbs and S[ubjects],
    V[erbs[, O[bjects], and predicate adjectives. Do you see any recurring or regular patterns in their order? Of the six possible orders: SVO, OVS, VSO, VOS, SOV, OSV, can you tell from the data in the first two frames which is the Basic Order in this language ? If you can, it has a grammar.

    • Greg Lee Says:

      Evening Joseph.

      Are you concluding that there is communication going on from frame 2 where the other guy says “OOH”? And even if there is, there are plenty of non-human creatures that communicate without any grammar (that I know of). So I don’t think it’s safe to conclude that communication implies grammar.

      No, I don’t see any nouns, verbs, or recurring patterns in the first two panels (which precede the invention of grammar). Do you? Which are the verbs, and how do you know they are verbs? (This is a problem that also crops up in the study of human child language — adults can categorize children’s words into nouns and verbs, but they are using their own adult understanding of language to do so, so probably one shouldn’t trust them.)

Leave a Reply to Robert Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: