Which grammar? That grammar?

Arnold Zwicky over the Language Log on the age-old that/which con­tro­versy:

The usu­al scheme for choos­ing rela­tiv­izers is what I’ve called Fowler’s Rule: that in restrict­ive rel­at­ives, which in non-restrict­ive rel­at­ives (it’s more com­plic­ated than that, but this is the slo­gan ver­sion).

I’m with Fowler, but there are some authors — Douglas Adams, for one — who con­sist­ently uses which in a restrict­ive sense. Yet more evid­ence of the futil­ity of a pre­script­iv­ist approach, ah guess.

Zwicky makes anoth­er point:

I guess I should remind you that in some quar­ters, “gram­mar” cov­ers abso­lutely any­thing in lan­guage that can be reg­u­lated: dis­course organ­iz­a­tion, syn­tax, word choice, mor­pho­lo­gic­al forms, styl­ist­ic choices, polite­ness for­mu­las, punc­tu­ation, spelling, whatever

This gets on my nerves, too. I tend to use ‘gram­mar’ to mean ‘syn­tax’.

What’s wrong with this pas­sage?

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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