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Review of The Grammar of English Morphology & Syntax for English Teachers in Southeast Ais
Deterding, David Henry, and Gloria R. Poedjosoedarmo (2001) The Grammar of English: Morphology and Syntax for English Teachers in Southeast Asia. Prentice-Hall, paperback ISBN- 0-13-093009-1, iv+267pp.
Reviwer: Pranita Gopal, Centre for Educational Studies, Indian Institute of Education, Pune, presently at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai
[For a review of the authors' previous book "The Sounds of English: Phonetics and Phonology for English Teachers in Southeast Asia", see http://linguistlist.org/issues/10/10-1348.html --Eds.]
Knowledge of grammar is a prerequisite for language teachers. The prevalence of 'Englishes' in different societies across the world complicates the case of English language teaching. The 'Englishes' could be the 'standard Englishes' (such as British English, American English, or Australian English) or the 'new English' which have originated in the oriental region, as in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. This book for practising teachers and student teachers of English in Southeast Asia tries to provide a comprehensive overview of Standard English grammar. It uses references from the local varieties of English to familiarise the teachers with the features within English. The authors have categorised the content of the book into five core subject areas: Traditional model of the morphology and syntax of standard English (Chapters 2-9); Functional Grammar of English (Chapters 10-16); Ideas of Noam Chomsky (Chapters 17-19); Grammars of other languages (Chapters 20-23); Computers in the analysis and teaching of grammar (Chapter 24). The first sixteen chapters of the book are considered a "must-read" by the authors. For those readers who are not familiar with the works of Chomsky, chapters 17-19 are also essential, as they provide a glimpse into Chomsky's model of grammar. Most chapters are followed by supplementary sections, which include Practice Activities, Discussion Questions and Further Reading.
Chapters 1- 9, focus on Traditional model of the morphology and syntax of standard English. Chapter One, purports to acquaint the reader with the descriptive approach followed throughout the book, while educating about the structure of Standard English. The second chapter on Morphology concerns itself with the way words are broken into morphemes. The chapter also explains how some of the most common processes are used to introduce new words in a language. The eight processes described include 'Coinage' 'Borrowing', 'Derivation' and 'Acronym'. The basics of grammar involves identifying and naming parts of a sentence and the assigning each word to a particular Word Class (Lexical Category or Parts of Speech).The third chapter of the book focuses on 'Word Classes', it introduces the terms, Content and Functional Words. The authors categorise content words as Nouns, Verbs, Adverbs, and Adjectives while functional words as Articles, Prepositions, Conjunctions, Pronouns, etc. Verbs are the central members of the word-class. The fourth chapter on 'Verbs' concentrates on the concepts of 'Head verbs and Auxiliaries', 'Tenses', and ' classification of the form of Verb Phrases'. The chapter explains the concepts through simple examples and concludes with a useful tabulated summary of Verb Phrases: a classification of their forms.The other content words are discussed in the fifth chapter on ' Nouns, Adjectives, and Adverbs'. The Practice Activity at the end of the chapter is particularly useful. 'Phrases', the sixth chapter begins with a simple definition of 'Constituent': Using a very small number of examples, the chapter describes the notions of Noun Phrase, Adjective Phrase, Prepositional Phrase and Verb Phrase. This chapter is too short to cover such a large area. But, the chapter manages to clarify the concept of why English is a 'Head-First-Language'. The seventh chapter on 'Objects and Complements' discusses the role of phrases within a sentence. The chapter could do with more examples to illustrate the concepts of of 'Direct and Indirect Objects', 'Pre- and Post-Modifiers' and 'Determiners'. However, it includes a very useful table summarizing the various grammatical functions, and a diagnostic test for identifying them. The eighth chapter considers 'Finite clauses', which are clauses with a finite verb. The ninth chapter on 'Non finite clauses' admits that identification and classification of non finite clauses is rather more difficult than the finite clause. Here, the nonfinite clauses are classified according to the type of the non finite verb they contain and also by whether or not they have an overt subject. The chapter looks into occurrence of non finite clauses along with its function with a subject.
Knowledge of the vocabulary and concepts is necessary to analyse well formed English sentences, but many linguists feel that this knowledge is, in itself incomplete. A need to understand why some well-formed sentences may not be appropriate in some contexts and why some fragments may be quite acceptable, led to the analysis of the sentences in terms of their discourse. The tenth chapter 'Functional Grammar: How Language Works in Context' introduces Halliday's model of grammar, and briefly considers the clause as representing simultaneously three different types of meanings. They are referred to as Experiential, Interpersonal and Textual. Chapters eleven to fifteen examine these notions in more detail.
'Transformational Grammar' is the sixteenth chapter of the book, which briefly introduces Chomsky's original concept of generative- transformational grammar, and examines the notions of phrase structure rules, the lexicon and transformations. The strength of this chapter lies in the discussion where the authors have made an attempt to describe the reasons for the abandoning of this neat theory. They highlight the three issues for this :missing generalizations; complications from extending the rule; and transformations changing the meaning of the phrase. The seventeenth chapter 'Minimalist Grammar' is one of the central ideas of Chomsky. 'Minimalist grammar' assumes that there are 'Principles', which are structural constraints that are fixed in all human languages, and 'Parameters', which provide for variation among languages. The chapter considers the Structure dependent principle and the null subject, wh- and head parameters. As it is an introductory book for teachers the authors have used few examples to explain the Tree diagrams, often associated with Chomsky's grammar. Minimalist Grammar provides a framework to explain the structure of all human languages. It assumes that this structure is 'hardwired in the brain' and all humans are born with it. This is the innateness hypothesis,which is the eighteenth chapter. The innateness hypothesis has fundamental implications for teachers because it implies that language acquisition is a natural process and can be nurtured by providing a conducive environment. This chapter summarizes the evidence to support the innateness hypothesis under six headings: Speed, Critical period, Poverty of data, Convergence,Universality and Species specificity.
Chapters twenty to twenty three devote themselves to a brief grammar analysis of Singapore English, Mandarin Chinese (MC) and Tagalog. Focusing on Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases and Word Order within a clause these chapters compare each language with English.
'Grammatical Change: Internal vs. External Forces' is the second last chapter of the book. Many scholars who write about language change distinguish between changes in language that are due to natural or internal tendencies and those which occur because of external influence such as contact with other languages. This chapter briefly considers the internal and external forces which lead to grammatical change. It concludes with a discussion on the role of the teachers dealing with these changes. It provides some practical solutions, which the teachers can make use of in their classroom discourse. Computers have entered almost all walks of human life. The last chapter 'Grammar and Computers' considers three issues: (1)software that can be used to teach grammar, (2) software that can be used to analyze grammar and (3) tools such as grammar and spell checkers which come with standard software packages.
The book is written very simply, and does a good job in introducing the main features of English grammar.
The Traditional Model of the Morphology and Syntax of Standard English dealt in Chapters 2-9 does justice to the topics covered. The chapter on verbs is one of the most exhaustively dealt chapter of the book. What I really liked about these chapters was the section on 'Further issues and problematic matters' which coaxed me (and I hope shall coax the readers of this book ) to analyse English in a more critical way. Each of these sections featured on various unresolved issues pertaining to the grammatical structure of English. At some places, like in the chapter on Morphology and Word Classes, the authors leave the discussion with teasers, while in the chapter on Verbs, the authors take a stance to explain some theoretically conflicting definitions. Most of the practice exercises at the end of these chapters are good. In case reader has problems solving them, these are diagnostic questions have solutions at the end of the book. The solutions themselves provide a learning window, and are self-explanatory.
Functional Grammar of English dealt in Chapters 10-16 is really tough to understand. I thought I would have to rely on Haliday's book to refresh many briefly dealt concepts in these chapters as the authors don't go into great details to cover major aspects of Functional Grammar theory. But on reading the chapters and paying careful attention to the examples I was able to refresh myself. I would suggest any novice reader to look into Halliday's work before taking on these chapters. A reader,familair with Halliday's work would find these chapters a good source for desk references, especially the table on Page 140 dealing with the summary of grammatical processes and their functions.
Ideas of Noam Chomsky dealt in the three chapters 17-19 is to the point. It purports to acquaint the reader with Chomsky's idea rather than going into details of discussing his grammar theory in detail. If the reader is thorough with the first section of the book, understanding Chomsky's grammar is not difficult, as these chapters assume certain proficiency with the traditional morphology and syntax of English.
The last few chapters dealing with the Grammars of other languages (Chapters 20-23) and Computers in the analysis and teaching of grammar (Chapter 24), are very brief. The authors have made it categorical that dealing with these concepts would require entire books, but I think they have managed to pick out very characteristic distinguishing features to compare the grammars of other languages and English. In the last chapter, I feel they could have talked more about the various softwares currently available to users of English and English linguists.
I have reservations of this book being used by teachers who are not very confident about their basic grammar knowledge, but suggest it for those, who are fairly well acquainted with the traditional morphology and syntax of English. This book, as I have already mentioned, serves as a good desk reference and the index does justice to all the topics covered in the chapter.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
About the reviewer: Pranita Gopal is Research Associate for a project titled "Multilingualism , Subalternity and Hegemony of English in India and South Africa" at the Centre for Educational Studies, Indian Institute of Education, Pune. Presently she is at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai. Her work area encompasses the field of Language Acquistition and Language Development in children in a Multilingual society, like India. This work extends to her Doctoral thesis, where she studies the cognitive aspects of multilingualism and aims to design strategies for enhancing language development in multilingual schools, in India.