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The mathematical and scientific facts, laws, or principles are dictated by the nature. We, humans, only discover them and find relations between them - how one affects the other. This is the essence of objectiveness of scientific approach where one couldn't incorporate one's own personal beliefs and prejudices in one's findings.

It's true that almost all the languages around the world share some similarities between them. I haven't ever consulted any grammar book on my native language except when they forced me to memorize some of it in the schooldays. That's why it's called the native tongue. I remember once someone, I believe it was Amy (Yankee), who told me that a preposition is always followed by a noun phrase. This a kind of rule in English language. Who made this rule? Why can't one break this rule? A language is not an invention of a single individual - it's a colllective ownership. I'm sure there would be many other rules of this kind and surely I have practiced them infinite times. In general, how such rules come into being? Please do list some of them. I'm not a linguist, so I request you to keep your approach simple and straightforward. Thank you.

preposition
a function word that typically combines with a noun phrase to form a phrase which usually expresses a modification or predication
[M-W's Col. Dic.]
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Comments  
Jackson6612In general, how do such rules come into being?
Hi Jack:

This has been the subject of considerable academic study and debate. I don't think the answer has been settled.

In the past decades, linguists have developed the theory that language is innate to our nature, and can be studied using the scientific approach.
Here are a couple of references.

http://csli-publications.stanford.edu/koskenniemi-festschrift/18-aaltonen-uusipaikka.pdf

http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mnkylab/publications/languagespeech/FitchHauserChomksyLangFacCog.pdf
Jackson6612In general, how such rules come into being?
Although the two scholars (Aaltonen and Uusipaikka) referred to in AS's post are Finns, their exposition is far too long for me to read.Emotion: smile

I think "rules" emerge from usage. In essence, all grammarians describe a language. They notice that people say I say, you say but he says, and consequently there is a "rule" that an s is added to a verb in the third person present singular. No grammarian could invent such a rule. The rule is based on what people actually say and write, not on the whims and arbitrariness of grammarians.

Some grammarians are more prescriptivist than others but even the most prescriptivist grammarians cannot expect anyone to take their advice seriously if no one uses the suggested structures.

CB
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Jackson6612a preposition is always followed by a noun phrase. This a kind of rule in English language. Who made this rule?
Hi Jack:

It's an interesting question on the study of language and its evolution.
First of all, in English, a word is a preposition only if it's used as a preposition.
The book was on the table. (On is a preposition here simply because it heads an adverbial phrase = preposition + noun phrase)
Turn the light on. (On is not a preposition here, it is an adverb)

So the grammatical part of speech for a word depends on its specific(local) function.
That's why a noun phrase always follows a prepostion. It's the essence of the definition of a preposition.
Jackson6612In general, how such rules come into being?
Well, the rules change - over time and over distance. When accepted patterns of speech change, the rules change, and are replaced by new rules.

Over time, English has gone through different rule systems. The major ones are Old English, Middle English and Modern English.
For instance, we used to say "he doeth," but now we say "he does."
The -s on third person singular is probably a vestige of a more highly inflected conjugation (as in Latin and the modern day Romance languages).

In early Modern English, we had the pronoun thou, its plural form ye, and case forms (thee, thine, thy). Well, you still see these forms in old literature and songs, but in modern English, they are all replaced with you, your, yours. Pronouns have undergone drastic changes over history. href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I %28pronoun%29">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_(pronoun )

In terms of variation with distance, present day English has many regional varieties (dialects, pidgins, creoles). Here is a good illustration:

http://www.hawaii.edu/satocenter/langnet/index.html

Speakers of these varietal languages may use different rules. An example is African American Vernacular English. And even this language has changed over time and in social environments.

As an interesting note, "Standard English" has the persistent remnants of old rules. (For example, be is rather unique - in SE, we say, I am, you are, etc. In AAVE, the modern rules are adapted - I be, you be; as in: He be laughing. AAVE also often drops the -s in 3rd person singular present tense.
Jackson6612Who made this rule?
The "rules" are exactly like the rules of physics. Some scientists (linguists) observe something (language) and then try to describe it (with theorems, rules, etc.)
So, for example, in English you need to put the object after the verb because that's what's been observed (Everyone says "I like apples" and not "I apples like").
Jackson6612Why can't one break this rule?
Because if you don't talk like many native speakers do, then you might not be talking their language, or you might sound silly, or you might not be understood.
Jackson6612how such rules come into being?
Nobody knows. Some linguists might know where some "rules" or "words" come from, that is, they know how some specific things changed in the past. However, as far as I know, they don't know much. For example, I don't think anyone knows why in English you must put the object after the verb. Why can you put the object before the verb in Japanese? Why is English different from Japanese? What was the first language spoken on earth, and what was it like? I don't think there are answers to those questions.
It's also difficult to figure out which "rules" are necessary or important in a natural language, and which ones are not. You might say that inflected verbs like "talk (present) - talked (past)" are important in a language, but why? Chinese, which is the most spoken language, doesn't seem to have inflected verbs. Some linguists have tried to make up some artificial languages to try to figure out the "limits" of human language. I don't know if they have discovered anything though.
AlpheccaStarsSo the grammatical part of speech for a word depends on its specific(local) function.
That's why a noun phrase always follows a prepostion.
Emotion: hmm That depends on what you want to call for examplein in this sentence: What is he interested in? A question mark follows in, not a noun phrase. Most English grammarians call in a preposition in that sentence even though it isn't before (pre) a word at all. In Finnish it would be called a postposition as it follows the word it is associated with (interested).
AlpheccaStarsFor instance, we used to say "he doeth," but now we say "he does."
The -s on third person singular is probably a vestige of a more highly inflected conjugation (as in Latin and the modern day Romance languages).
It is no vestige. It just began to be used, especially in northern England, instead of th in the 15th century and became the standard ending in the next century.

CB
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CB;

You are entirely right, I stand corrected.
Grammar rules in interrogative sentences call for a different word order than in indicative sentences. Also, to think of it, a prepositional ending is more common than we admit: e.g.

Your impertinence is something I will not put up with.

Phrasal verbs are also a variation on the pattern.... I wonder how many more cases we can come up with!Emotion: smile

On the verbs, I meant to say that Modern English has lost the verb conjugation forms that were present in Old English. In present tense, the -s ending for 3rd person singular, and conjunction of "be" are what is left of the old system. As you say, the relatively minor change of -th to -s is much more recent. But it is an example of a language change that we can recognize.

I'm no expert, but read this on an academic site:

As we will see, Old English words were much inflected. Over time, most of this apparatus was lost and English became the analytic language we recognize today, but to read early English texts one must master the conjugations of verbs and the declensions of nouns, etc. ...

Old English verbs are conjugated according to person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), number (singular or plural), tense (present or past/preterite), mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive or perhaps optative), etc.

http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/engol-0-X.html

Thanks for the clarification!
Regards,
A-Emotion: stars
AlpheccaStarsI'm no expert, but read this on an academic site:

As we will see, Old English words were much inflected.
I don't consider myself an expert on Old English either but I do know something about it as I had to take a course in Old English and I took examinations based on several books dealing with the history of the English language. This happened in my younger days when I majored in English Philology at Helsinki University.

Familiarizing oneself with Old English, Middle English and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was required of all students, among other things! I still have in my possession some of the books I had to read, such as Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer, revised by Norman Davis of Glasgow University. The total number of the books was about 150, but not all of them had anything to do with the language. We were required to read about things like British institutions as well and the history and present-day structure of British society.

It is of course entirely a matter of definition what "much inflected" means.Emotion: smile I am not trying to contradict you in the least. However, an Old English noun had a maximum of about half a dozen inflected forms. Many of the scholars who consider less than ten forms a lot ("much inflected") speak as their mother tongue languages such as the Germanic and the Romance languages, none of which is highly inflected compared with truly highly inflected languages. This explains why less than ten forms is "much inflected" to them. A Finnish noun, for example, can have thousands of different forms even though only a few hundred of them are actually used.

I don't think a Finnish linguist would ever say Old English was "much inflected".
AlpheccaStarsThanks for the clarification!
You're welcome, A-S! (I can't find a star in the emoticons window!Emotion: sad)

CB
Cool BreezeI don't think a Finnish linguist would ever say Old English was "much inflected".
True. But someone who speaks Texan would!Emotion: smile
Cool BreezeA Finnish noun, for example, can have thousands of different forms even though only a few hundred of them are actually used.
I find it hard to imagine what use a language would make of a hundred different grammatical forms of a single noun, except perhaps as modifier (adjective) + case combinations.

I wonder why some languages evolve towards higher degrees of inflection, while others go in the opposite direction - dropping inflections and irregular forms. In AmE "learnt" has disappeared in favor of "learned." And old Latin plural endings "ii" and "ae" are changing to -s (antennas/antennae, formulii/formulas...). Subjunctive forms are becoming more erudite, "whom" has almost evaporated, and "shall" as the first person inflection of "will" now is only commonplace in legal documents.
I can't think of a counter-example where a commonly used regular form is changing to irregular.
Cool BreezeYou're welcome, A-S! (I can't find a star in the emoticons window! Emotion: sad )
Hint: It's there, but hard to see. I just use the string: open square bracket+star+close square bracket.

A-Emotion: stars
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