When I asked which of "ungrammatical" or "grammatically incorrect" is prefered and why? at an English language forum I got the following "linguistic perspective":

Both are used, but I believe linguists prefer the former. Grammaticality, as one linguist explained it to me, means "following the rules of the relevant scientific model that is used to describe how people speak". So it is strictly dependent on the model used, but in practice many linguists presume that there is consensus about most elements of the relevant model, so it mostly overlaps with "people actually use this within a certain group and they consider it normal".

The word "incorrect" may suggest that there is something wrong with straying from grammatically; I suspect that linguists do not use this much because they resent the implication. So I think that's why you will mostly see ungrammatical.

Could you please comment on the linguistic accuracy of this answer?

  • 1
    I am not a syntactician, so I don't feel comfortable giving a full answer but in my department we tend to talk about things be "grammatical" or "not grammatical" with the implication being that it's short for "not grammatical in my dialect". The reason is that the alternatives you give imply a right way and a wrong way when in linguistics it's more about attested/unattested. What's "ungrammatical" in one dialect may very well be grammatical in another. Of course, in casual conversation the two options you give are essentially the exact same thing.
    – acattle
    Sep 21 '13 at 0:56
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    Yes linguists, as describers rather than prescribers, still have a need to distinguish between grammatical and not but don't have a need to distinguish between correct and not. Sep 21 '13 at 4:35
  • I'm not exactly a linguist, but I see no difference between ungrammatical and grammatically incorrect. I can't imagine a sentence that is one, but not the other.
    – prash
    Sep 21 '13 at 14:50
  • I agree with the quote.
    – Alex B.
    Sep 21 '13 at 16:13
  • 5
    @prash. Language mavens would say split infinitives or dangling participles are either "ungrammatical" or "grammatically" incorrect. But linguists would say they are "grammatical" because speakers use them all the time and listeners always comprehend. Linguists would not enter into making a judgement about whether those constructions are "correct". Linguists would say "I ain't got no money" is "grammatical" and "I aren't haves no moneys" is "ungrammatical" because our shared language rules permit the former and not the latter. Sep 21 '13 at 17:34

I received a fairly detailed answer at Lingforum.Com

  • 3
    Consider adding some excerpt from the linked Web source. Once the linked page gets moved or deleted, this link-only answer would lose all its value.
    – bytebuster
    Sep 26 '13 at 20:48
  • Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.
    – Alenanno
    Oct 25 '13 at 12:59
  • I think that that was an extremely good answer. I would recommend everyone read it thoroughly; it covers matters that have been being rehashed in other items as well, which is why I linked to it here. Again. The only place I would disagree is that I think he underestimates individual variation by at least an order of magnitude.
    – jlawler
    Oct 25 '13 at 16:28
  • 1
    The link is dead.
    – Pharap
    Jul 14 '18 at 21:06

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