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LINGUIST List 16.2551

Sun Sep 04 2005

Review: Textbooks/English Lang: Huddleston&Pullum (2005)

Editor for this issue: Lindsay Butler <lindsaylinguistlist.org>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Sheila Dooley at dooleylinguistlist.org.
        1.    Ingrid Mosquera Gende, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar

Message 1: A Student's Introduction to English Grammar
Date: 01-Sep-2005
From: Ingrid Mosquera Gende <ingridudc.es>
Subject: A Student's Introduction to English Grammar

AUTHORS: Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K.
TITLE: A Student's Introduction to English Grammar
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2005
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-630.html

Dr. Ingrid Mosquera Gende, Department of English Philology, University of
A Coruña, Spain


The authors of this book are both distinguished linguists. Huddleston is
well known for his numerous publications in the fields of English grammar
and linguistics, as well as for many distinctions; Pullum is Professor of
Linguistics and Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of
California, Santa Cruz; his publications cover many different areas of

This book is aimed at undergraduate students with little or no background
in English grammar. It could be very useful for a first year student at the
university level, as a first introduction to English grammar. Moreover, it also
could be very useful for a general audience who will find answers to many
questions related to grammar, since it does not require previous knowledge
of linguistics. Apart from that, professionals can get excellent support
for their classes including explanations.


The book begins with a due section devoted to the enumeration of Contents:
Notational conventions; Preface; 1. Introduction 2. A rapid overview 3.
Verbs, tense, aspect, and mood 4. Clause structure, complements, and
adjuncts 5. Nouns and noun phrases 6. Adjectives and adverbs 7.
Prepositions and preposition phrases 8. Negation and related phenomena 9.
Clause type: asking, exclaiming, and directing 10. Subordination and
content clauses 11. Relative clauses 12. Grade and comparison 13. Non-
finite clauses and clauses without verbs 14. Coordination and more 15.
Information packaging in the clause 16. Morphology: lexemes and their
inflectional forms; Further reading; Glossary; Index. After this, there is
a page devoted to 'Notational conventions', in which the authors present
the abbreviations they use, as well as other main features used in the

In the Preface, the authors explain the aims of the book. Firstly they
indicate the potential audience of the book. Secondly, they enumerate
several reasons why an "educated person ... should know something" (vii)
about English grammar. Thirdly, they also explain the foundations of the
book, which is the much larger volume, The Cambridge Grammar of the
English Language. [Reviewed in http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-1853.html -
Eds.] Fourthly, they examine the process of writing itself.

The body of the volume comprises sixteen chapters that have already been
mentioned. Each of these chapters is divided into subsections whose titles
are very explicit in content and ideas, so that with just one quick look
it is possible to get an idea of the themes dealt within each of them,
which makes it easy to read and follow the text. At the end of every
chapter there is a selection of exercises, both related to the text itself
and to its content, therefore making the reader reread what he/she has
just had a look at. In some of the chapters, we can also find some charts
in blue, devoted to different grammar notes, in order to underline their
importance. Apart from this, the book is full of examples, diagrams and
charts that together with the numerous exercises provide a rapid way of
understanding the text. At the same time the chapters include footnotes
when necessary instead of notes at the end of the book, a correct
arrangement since the potential audience of the book is mainly young
people who, unfortunately, would not bother reading notes at the end of
the book. Also these footnotes, of which there are not too many, do not
discuss fundamental content, but simply provide exemplifications of some
of the points treated, or deeper explanations.

The relatively extensive 'Further Reading' section is divided into books
for the general reader and bibliography for linguistic students, including
many titles recently published. It is not a mere enumeration of titles;
the readings are thoroughly described in order to show their content and

The seven page Glossary defines technical linguistic and grammatical
terms, and the Index can be used to easily find references to relevant
themes and concepts dealt with in the book.


On the whole, the book is a quite original and novel approach to English
grammar studies. The informal style of the book will appeal to its main
intended audience, making the density of the content easier for potential
students. The deeply entrenched tradition of English grammar is revised
and corrected in many of its points, highlighting new linguistic
approaches to grammar.

One possible drawback could be the structure of the book, because it
differs from other grammar manuals. However, this is only a first
impression, since the book's organization makes sense as a whole. Another
possible complication is the density of some explanations and terms but,
since these are very well introduced, explained and widely repeated, with
the help of very good and easy-to-follow charts and diagrams, at the end
one has accumulated a large amount of specific new vocabulary. Chapters 1
and 2 provide a very good introduction to the book, which points out that
much of the apparent complexity of the material derives from the fact that
a new linguistic approach to English grammar, distinct from the manuals to
which students are used to, is being taken. From my point of view, far
from being a drawback, this is one of the most important achievements of
the authors, because it forces students to open their minds and to
understand English grammar from a fresh perspective.

From the titles and section headings of the chapters, one can see how
syntactic features are mixed with word types throughout, with morphology
entering at the end, reversing the order in which these matters are
typically discussed. Overall, this book is a very well structured manual
on English grammar.

Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum effectively describe English
grammar using a linguistic approach, with the exact degree of complication
needed for the potential audience of undergraduate students: not too much
as to make them give up, but also not too little as to get bored or as to
not learn anything new.


Ingrid Mosquera Gende teaches at the University of A Coruña, Spain. Her
Ph.D. is in English Philology; her Doctoral Thesis is about Edwin
Muir: "Early Poetry of a Late Poet: Analysis of First Poems". She has had
several research stays in Canada, Germany and Scotland, among others,
supervised by specialists such as Professor Cairns Craig and Robert
Crawford. She is a researcher of projects related to Translation Studies,
Literature and Education. She has many publications and contributions
about Translation, Scottish Literature, as well as other fields of study,
including Education, Irish Literature, and Spanish Literature. She also
teaches courses via the internet in collaboration with The University of
Islas Baleares, Spain, and is a reviewer and translator for various

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