In a general sense, a grammarian is a linguist. One who studies language, in other words.
However often grammarian is used in a slightly more restricted sense for a person who writes grammar books and looks only at the way language is put together.
In the past, grammarians would merely document the way language worked as they perceived it. This gave grammar books a very idiosyncratic or subjective flavor. However, in later years a more scientific approach was taken and, especially with the advent of computational linguistics grammar research tended to look more at how masses of people used the language rather than how one scholar used it. This led to a more objective view of grammar.
Grammarians have come and gone through history. A few have become known for their work, amongst whom are:
- Michael Halliday
- Albert S. Hornby
- Otto Jesperson
- Samuel Johnson
- Geoffrey Leech
- Randolph Quirk
- Michael Swan
- Noah Webster
Grammar Nazi – usually a grammarian who has got out of control.