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My friend and I both agree that Cambridge and Oxford publications are the highest authorities for grammar in the UK and they even have a lot of valuable information about how grammar differs in the USA. I personally consult the Oxford Guide to English Grammar by Eastwood on a regular basis, however I find it strange that I cannot readily find a US authority such as Oxford or Cambridge for Standard American English grammar.

Who is the authority here? Or do we in the US let institutions in the UK define our grammar for us?

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  • They are so similar it's probably easier to just document the differences. Aug 23, 2021 at 20:27
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    There is no "authority" for US English; English is not like French with the Académie Française or Spanish with the Real Academia Española. There are books which can provide guidance, but ultimately English is defined by how people use it every day.
    – stangdon
    Aug 23, 2021 at 20:45
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    There is no official authority for any English. UK or AmE or any other, as far as I know, really. In the States, academics and editors for "high-level" publications are generally considered authorities. for example. Generally, academics and editors will not disagree on most high-register usage (s) and uses. As for grammar, there really are no high-level register differences in grammar. There is some vocabulary usage difference (and I don't mean elevator/lift). Even "mid-level registers" are the same, It is the peoples' registers that would be the most different, perhaps.
    – Lambie
    Aug 23, 2021 at 21:41
  • [ I have some typos, sorry.]
    – Lambie
    Aug 23, 2021 at 21:50

2 Answers 2

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You and your friends are wrong. There are experts, but there are no authorities on the English language.

One of the features of the dialects of English is that, although they have diverged in vocabulary and accent, their grammar has actually remained closely aligned, so that the various grammar books by published by Longman and Cambridge can claim to be comprehensive, and include examples from corpora of American English, as well as British. This contrast with, for example German or Spanish, in which there are very significant grammar differences between the various dialects.

From the American side, grammar books have tended to be prescriptive and include grammar as an aspect of good style. Most well known is Strunk and White The Elements of Style. While its grammar is dated, and it does not claim to describe American English in use. Its purpose is to instruct writers on how to write effectively.

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  • Who are the respected authorities (experts) of the grammar of American English in America? Are there none? That is what I'm driving at. See this definition for authority: oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/… 6.expert ​[countable] authority (on something) a person with special knowledge
    – Gary Moore
    Aug 24, 2021 at 0:02
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    The Strunk and White people... for example, but as noted this is not the same as the descriptive grammars of Spivak etc. The Brits do seem to have that market sewn up, but the Cambridge Grammar etc do have American editors. There just doesn't seem to be the demand for a US specific book, when the comprehensive books already cover US English.#
    – James K
    Aug 24, 2021 at 0:36
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Most languages have prescriptive rules from some authority that defines what usage “should” be, and anyone who breaks those rules is wrong.

In contrast, English is defined by how native/fluent speakers (a collective authority) actually use it, meaning grammar books are at most descriptive: they devise rules to explain how people are using it. That means when a native/fluent speaker breaks the rules, it is the rules that are wrong (or at least incomplete).

Regarding dialects, there is surprisingly little variation in accepted grammar. If one group of speakers finds a new grammatical pattern useful, it will quickly spread to the other groups too, so they all stay in sync even as the language evolves over time. There is therefore no need for entire dialect-specific grammar books, just the occasional note about minor variations.

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