THE GRAMMATICALITY VERSUS THE ACCEPTABILITY

The grammaticality of a sentence is things that conform to the linguistic rules or syntactic rules (Fromkin and Rodman 1998:106). Fromkin and Rodman (1998:107) describe the grammaticality, in sentences or phrases, that conform to the syntactic rule and the word order rule. Meanwhile, according to Skadhauge (2003), a structure of a sentence which is not meeting the constraints is ruled unacceptable, thus mirroring the traditional concept of grammaticality. Gawron (2004), like Fromkin and Rodman (1998:106), proposes that the grammaticality is a sentence that conform to the rules of a language. Basically, according to these linguists, the grammaticality is usually considered as the structure of sentences, the order in which they are combined together to form sentences. A sentence can conform to the syntactic rule, if it constructs in a grammatical form (Fromkin and Rodman 1998:107). For example:

The boy found the ball.

The sentence (1) must have the string of words that conform to the rule of syntax, such as subject the boy, predicate found, object the ball. The predicate is a transitive verb, so it must need a noun as an object, not an adjective or an adverb after such predicate. Conversely, an intransitive verb (as the predicate) does not need a noun (as the object) after such a verb, so it must need an adverb as seen in (2), as provided by Fromkin and Rodman (1998:107).

(2) Disa slept soundly.

Nevertheless, Lyons (1971:140) describes there are other kinds of acceptability and unacceptability which have nothing to do with whether an utterance is meaningful or not. In other words, the grammaticality do not depend on whether the sentence is meaningful or not (Fromkin and Rodman 1998:108). Besides, Gasser (2003) cites that the grammaticality or the acceptability can occur in some non-standard dialect, but ungrammaticality in the standard dialect. Gasser (2003) provides examples as in (3a) and (3b).

(3) a. I come back last night.
b. I came back last night.

The use of come in (3a) as the past tense of come is grammatical in some non-standard English dialects but not in standard English. Furthermore, Gasser (2003) also provides another example as follows.

a. How did y’all like the party?
b. How did you like the party?

In some non-standard dialects of American English, y’all as in (4a) means ‘you plural’. It is perfectly grammatical in those dialects but not in the standard dialect (Gasser 2003).
Similarly, Gasser (2003) proposes that the grammaticality or the acceptability can occur in the context but not appropriate in the context, such as in an example of an eight-year-old boy speaking to his mother as follows. I could say that (5a) and (5b) are grammatical and acceptable.

a. When I exited the bed this morning, my hair looked like rabbit ears.
b. When I go out of bed this morning, my hair looked like rabbit ears.

The use of exited in (5a) is grammatical but not appropriate in this relatively informal context (Gasser 2003). Nevertheless, Gawron (2004) proposes that a sentence may be phonologically, morphologically, syntactically, and semantically acceptable but pragmatically unacceptable. Gawron (2004) provides these following examples.

(6) a. Look at the cross-eyed elephant (pragmatically acceptable)
b. Look at the cross-eyed kindness (pragmatically acceptable)
c. *Look at the cross-eyed from (syntactic ungrammaticality)
d. *Strive for kind-ity (morphological ungrammaticality)

According to Gawron (2004), both (6a) and (6b) are definitely pragmatically acceptable. However, (6c) is the syntactical ungrammaticality and (6d) is morphological ungrammaticality.
A sentence must demand a semantic agreement since the semantic grammaticality and acceptability lies in the relationship between its sentence and the real-world (Alwi et al.1998:316—317), as in

(7) a. Horses are animals.
b. *Horses are plants

The sentence (7a) is grammatical and acceptable since all horses are animals. In the real-world, however, all horses are not plants as in (7b).
Another kind of acceptability is determined by a number agreement in a sentence (Alwi et al.1998:317). And I would say that (8a) is both grammatical and acceptable perfectly, while (8b) is ungrammatical but acceptable for some speakers, and it is meaningful.

a. This man is rather unhappy.
b. *This men is rather unhappy.

An acceptability can occur in a false sentence, as proposed by Gawron (2004) within his example of (9). However, I do not agree with Gawron (2004) if an acceptability can occur in a false sentence. I could say that a false sentence must be unacceptable since it does not make senses. In other words, I would say that a grammaticality does not depend on the truth of sentences. Gawron (2004) provides the following example.

(9) Two plus two is five.

There is a grammaticality that occurs in the English sentence but English teachers, language mavens, and grouches say it is not (Potts 2004:4). But, I do not agree with Potts (2004:4) since (10) commonly occurs in the English sentence as in a passive voice of the past perfect tense, as proposed by Azar (1989:39), that expresses an activity that was completed before another activity or time in the past.

(10) The cake had been eaten by the time we arrived.

Duffield (2004:1) distinguishes between a grammaticality and an acceptability: sentences can be grammatical without being acceptable in a particular context. In other words, a grammaticality concerns of what is stipulated by an abstract grammar, but an acceptability concerns of what is actually accepted in communication. Furthermore, Duffield (2004:1) provides some examples of this distinction between grammaticality and acceptability by using English into some cases.
The first case is a basic word-order. In most sentences, in the English basic word-order, the subject (S) comes from before the verb (V) which in turn comes before the object (O) (Duffield 2000:1). In more complex sentences, in English, a certain adverbs (Adv) such as often can appear between the subject and the verb but not between the verb and the object. Duffield (2000:1) provides some examples as follow.

(11) a. She bought a book.
b. She often bought books in Borders.
c. *She bought often books in Borders.

These examples (11a), (11b), and (11c) also shows that a grammaticality is different from an interpretability making sense: the ungrammaticality sentence (11c) makes sense—we can understand it perfectly—but we just can’t say it that way (Duffield 2000:2).
Meanwhile, the second case, proposed by Duffield (2000:2), is appropriateness versus grammaticality. Either Lyons (1971:152) or Duffield (2000:2) cites that sentences can be unacceptable for many different reasons, while the ungrammaticality is the only one possibility. In (12a) dan (12b) are grammatical, but in the real-world are unacceptable and seem odd. According to Duffield (2000:2), linguists indicate this type of unacceptability by putting a slash mark # at the beginning of these following sentences.

(12) a. #The elephant bought the sky.
b. #A stone kissed the princess.

Like Lyons (1971:140), Duffield (2000:2) also proposes that if (12a) and (12b) can be acceptable in a different world, such as in a folk-tale or a fairy tale, (12a) and (12b) would be acceptable sentences in English. Conversely, there is no situation, if the following sentences (13a) and (13b) would be acceptable. In other words, I could say that (13a) and (13b) are either ungrammatical or unacceptable and also are meaningful.

(13) a. *The bought elephant sky the.
b. *A kissed stone the princess.

Duffield (2000:2) cites that another type of acceptability is due to social appropriateness. It means that a sentence that is acceptable in one social setting may be unacceptable in another social setting, because it is considered too impolite or perhaps too polite (Duffield 2000:2). In (14a) it is appropriate if you addressing a stranger, but seems odd if you asking to a close friend. Conversely, in (14b) it is appropriate if you addressing a close friend, but seems impolite if you asking to a stranger. However, both sentences are grammatical sentences of English.
(14) a. Excuse me. I wonder if you could tell me what time it is.
b. Bring me that book, will you?

Duffield (2000:3) finds types of sentence are incorrect or wrong, though these sentences are in fact fully grammatical and frequently used. Duffield (2000:3) called it as a case of the prescriptive rules. Sometimes these prescriptive rules, according to Duffield (2000:3), make it difficult to judge grammaticality. In English, for example, children are sometimes told not to end sentences with prepositions with, as in (15a) and not to split infinitive to leave, as in (15b) (Duffield 2000:3). Duffield (2000:3) compares (15a) to (16a), then so (15b) to (16b) as follow.

(15) a. I like the girl that Richard came to the party with.
b. He persuaded me to quickly leave the country.

(16) a. I like the girl with whom Richard came to the party.
b. He persuaded me quickly to leave the country.

Although (15a), (15b), (16a), and (16b) are fully grammatical in English, in fact, (15a) and (15b) sound more natural (Duffield 2000:3). Nevertheless, I would say that in (15a) and (15b), the information that conveys in these sentences could be acceptable while they are ungrammatical. In other words, they can be understood by the English native speakers.
The last case of the grammaticality, proposed by Duffield (2000:3), is dialect differences. Duffield (2000:3) finds that dialect differences often occur in the sentence structure. He provides some examples of those dialect differences, as in (17), (18), (19), and (20).

(17) The girls promised their mothers to work hard.
Who did you say that liked pizza more than hot-dogs?

In (17) and (18) are ungrammatical (but are acceptable and meaningful) for some English speakers, whereas in (19) and (20) are grammatical (and, of course, are acceptable or meaningful) in all English dialects.

The girls promised their mothers that they would work hard.
Who did you say liked pizza more than hot-dogs?

Conversely, Duffield (2000:3) cites that (21) and (22) are ungrammatical in all dialects.

*The girls are very difficult to do work.
*Who did the girls see the dog?

Nevertheless, I could say that (21) and (22) are ungrammatical in all dialects but acceptable. According to my intuitions, the hearers of English could understand the intention of the English speakers ‘it is difficult for the girls to work’ and ‘which girls saw the dog’. Therefore, the acceptability is more basic rather than the grammaticality since all hearers of English could understand or interpret what those speakers convey. It means that most sentences, in all situation or context, can be acceptable without the grammaticality of the sentences.
Therefore, I conclude that the grammaticality and the acceptability can occur in a writen and spoken language. A sentence (in a written) or an utterance (in a spoken language) could be grammatical, but it could be unacceptable. Otherwise, an acceptable sentence or an acceptable utterance could be ungrammatical. In other words, in a communication one can understand what one’s speaking without using a good grammaticality. Finally, I would also assert that according to the examples above, the acceptability deals with the basics rather than the grammaticality.

References
Alwi, Hasan et al. 1998. Tata Bahasa Baku Bahasa Indonesia. Edisi Ketiga. Jakarta: Balai Pustaka.

Azar, Betty Schrampfer. 1989. Understanding and Using English Grammar. Second Edition. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc.

Duffield, Nigel. 2000. “Making Judgements of Grammaticality and Acceptability”. http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/programs/linguistics/projects/Vietnamese/VGP/GJTs/grammaticality.html. Accessed on 26 October 2004.

Fromkin, Victoria and Robert Rodman. 1998. An Introduction to Language. Sixth Edition. Orlando:Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Gasser, Michael. 2003. “What Linguists Do, What Linguists Don’t Do”. Second Edition. 2 February 2003. http://www.indiana.edu/~hlw/Introduction/problems.html. Accessed on 26 October 2004.

Gawron, J. 2004. “Linguistics 522: Introduction to Syntax”. www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~gawron/ syntax/lectures/lec1.htm. Accessed on 26 October 2004.

Lyons, John. 1971. Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Potts, Chris. 2004. “Getting at Grammaticality”. people.umass.edu/potts/syntax04/401-assign-1-28.pdf. Accessed on 26 October 2004.

Skadhauge, Peter. 2003. “Probabilistic Typed Feature Structure: An Implementation”. http://www.id.cbs.dk/~prs/research/probfeat.html. Accessed on 26 October 2004.

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