Grammar is dry and soporific; it’s also hip and deep. It is overlooked; and it is found everywhere. Actual grammar gets little publicity; false sightings are rampant.
A recent false sighting: the supposed (hip and deep) “grammar” of emoticons. Then there’s the supposed grammar of prairie dogs, and that of ornamentation.
The fact that something occurs in a sequence does not make it a grammar—particularly if that sequence is fixed:
Actual grammar is structure; it’s a set of iterative rules for grouping and ordering elements. E.g.:
A sentence consists of optional modifiers plus noun phrase plus verb phrase
A verb phrase consists of a verb plus optional noun phrases plus optional prepositional phrases plus optional modifiers
A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition plus a noun phrase
A noun phrase consists of an article plus optional adjective phrases plus a noun plus optional modifiers
An adjective phrase consists of an optional adverb plus an adjective
And so on…Thus even a relatively simple sentence derives from multiple rules and has structure:
[The quick brown fox] jumped [over [the lazy [prairie dog]]].Grammars aren't limited to human languages; consider math, e.g., simple algebra:
An expression consists of a list of simple or complex terms connected by plus and/or minus symbols
A simple term consists of a single number or variable
A complex term can consist of simple terms connected by times and or division symbols, or parenthesized expressions connected by times and division symbols.A small set of unstructured symbol sequences, or unstructured sequences of animal calls, is only a grammar in the most degenerate sense—however hip an deep it sounds to call it grammar.
Then there’s the dry, soporific version of “grammar”: what is actually punctuation, spelling, or both. Classic examples are its vs. it’s; your vs. you’re; there vs. their vs. they’re.
Real grammar is hipper and deeper than all of these.