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Getting Smarter through Language

Grammar Series | Part 3

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When Standard Grammar “Messes up” Your Internal Grammar

Linguistic Anxiety

Perhaps one of the most damaging consequences of over emphasizing standard grammar stems from the idea that you must use standard grammar “to sound educated.” It is widely accepted that, when applying for a job, for example, you must use your very best grammar when communicating with your prospective employer. Or else. This creates linguistic anxiety and feelings of linguistic insecurity.

People do their best to change their normal speech patterns to conform to the standard language variety. Especially if they do not know it very well, they may end up overdoing it and sounding unnatural.


Other times, people are try to apply standard grammar rules without actually understanding them very well and end up falling prey to hypercorrection. Hypercorrection happens when you over correct yourself.

A common example of hypercorrection is saying “between you and I” instead of “between you and me.” Let’s say young people get corrected frequently when they say something like “Me and my friends were playing games.” They end up learning incorrectly that you should always say “my friends and I” or “you and I.” Then they say, “between you and me,” which is grammatically correct, and the past corrections echo in their minds. “It’s you and I. You and I!” They end up saying “between you and I” because now it sounds more correct to them,. Hypercorrection shows that standard grammar can be in conflict with speakers’ internal grammar, which creates self-doubt and confusion.


Activity 4: Watch When standard grammar messes up your internal grammar on YouTube. This should be a fun video meant to show how standard grammar can be out of sync with spoken language and how many grammar rules can be unintuitive.