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Review of A Student's Introduction to English Grammar
Date: Thu, 01 Sep 2005 18:10:58 +0200 From: Ingrid Mosquera Gende 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
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 linguistics.
This book is aimed at undergraduate students with little or no background in English grammar. It could be very useful for a first year at University, 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 text.
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 relevance.
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.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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 universities.