Originally Posted by sequitur
Does MLA cover all grammar? I doubt it.
It contains pretty thorough and has descriptions of most grammar and usage issues. I suspect that the Chicago manual is more thorough, though, but I didn't have it within reach when I responded. I can check it tomorrow when I get back to work.
Further, if the texts we use were completely wrong, I'm sure someone or some organization (organisation) would have challenged the publishers by now.
I'm not really sure what texts you're referring to. If it is the Evergreen guide, it is important to understand that Evergreen is the hippiest of hippie colleges with regard to English composition instruction. Didn't Evergreen even go through a phase where they didn't assign grades on student papers in Composition courses?
I don't know how long they've been publishing this text, but I've been using it with its many updates for over 20 years. No controversy so far!
That doesn't mean it isn't in error. And again, I'm not sure what text you're talking about, so I can't say for certain.
My university English Seminar professor (who had two law degrees as well as a doctorate in English) had a philosophy: "The rules of English grammar were NOT handed down to Moses along with the Ten Commandments." He meant they were man-made. They were not even codified and written down, unlike other languages, until a few hundred years ago. They have been evolving ever since. For evidence of that evolution, you just have to follow the OED as it enfolds the latest jargon. It's not a pretty sight.
Well, I have a Ph.D. in English, too, and your professor is absolutely correct. And I'm certainly not a pedant when it comes to grammar. I think the best we can say about the 's (and, as an aside, the comma) is that it's working its way out of the language, just like the OE genitive -es ending did (in, what, the c17?), or the long f (in the c18), or the k in "publick" (in the c18). The language changes. That's what language does. But that doesn't mean that we can't attempt to describe the rules of usage, and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't make some effort to help folks understand what we're writing.