A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (英語) ペーパーバック – 2005/2/17
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This groundbreaking undergraduate textbook on modern Standard English grammar is the first to be based on the revolutionary advances of the authors' previous work, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002). The analyses defended there are outlined here more briefly, in an engagingly accessible and informal style. Errors of the older tradition of English grammar are noted and corrected, and the excesses of prescriptive usage manuals are firmly rebutted in specially highlighted notes that explain what older authorities have called 'incorrect' and show why those authorities are mistaken. This book is intended for students in colleges or universities who have little or no previous background in grammar, and presupposes no linguistics. It contains exercises, and will provide a basis for introductions to grammar and courses on the structure of English not only in linguistics departments but also in English language and literature departments and schools of education.
'... this grammar is a thought provoking book and a challenging read for grammarians working along more traditional or mainstream lines.' Moderna Sprak
'… this book stands out as a remarkable achievement in both the descriptive and generative textbook tradition …' Acta Linguistica Hungarica
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In brief, this book is written by linguists who believe (quoting Henry Smith): "Whatever is in general use in a language is for that very reason grammatically correct." Of course, there are many linguists who agree with this philosophy; however, there are many linguists and English teachers who do not. On nearly every page of this book the authors promote their own preferences as being absolutely correct, while bullying anyone who disagrees with them.
In this book (as well as the CGEL), the authors describe (as anthropologists might) how people actually speak in the English language. In their philosophy, if people speak a certain way, they must be correct. If you adopt the practices endorsed by the authors, your future employers may conclude that you have been poorly educated.
The authors classify their textbook as a "descriptive" grammar (a grammar that explains how people actually use the language), as opposed to a "prescriptive" grammar (a grammar that establishes rules of usage). And yet the authors stop describing and start prescribing rather too often. In such cases they prescribe their own rules based on personal preferences. I value their insights and think that many of their ideas are original and helpful. However, I did not like the tone of voice they used when talking about other professionals who have different ideas. For example, the authors refer to people who use traditional grammar as "pompous." They portray books by educators who teach traditional grammar as being "deeply flawed" and charge such authors with giving "bad advice." It is possible to have disagreements among professionals without bullying and hurling insults.
- Superb book for students of linguistics or English majors taking a course in English Syntax.
- For the most part, this is an excellent textbook: the subject matter is developed systematically and logically, the text is organized and displayed in a manner that enhances rapid learning, and the writing is succinct, lucid, and clear.
- Bravo to the authors for providing a condensed version of their much larger book.
Fact of Life:
- This book is a textbook: it is not for casual weekend reading. To learn the subject matter, most folks will need to read each chapter multiple times, preferably under the guidance of a professor, with drills, exercises, quizzes, and examinations.
- Poor choice for anyone who wishes to learn how to speak and write customary English using "traditional" rules of grammar. If you need to develop the skill set required to successfully write such things as a dissertation, class reports, journal articles, government reports, technical manuals, corporate documents, legal papers, or the like, then you will be better served by a "traditional" (prescriptive, rule-based) grammar book. This book should never be used for a core-curriculum freshman English class.
- Answers for the book's Exercises are not provided by the publisher. You might be able to find some notes on the exercises (by various professors) with a little web browsing.
- The book's Glossary is insufficient.
Of the seven grammars I considered, "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" is the hands-down winner. The book is well written, clear, to-the-point and based on recent research rather than 19th century grammar dogma. It includes an overview that maps the rest of the book, individual chapters on each of the major components of English grammar and a decent glossary. I find the technical definitions of terms, wealth of examples and clear structure are almost always just what I need to decode the mysteries of grammarian thinking and understand the key differences between English and Tibetan grammar.
I recommend that book to anyone interested in linguistics or studying a foreign language and for whom English is their first language. I don't believe it is well-suited for English language learners; they would likely be better served by a grammar like Yate's "Master the Basics".
This book represents advances in the study of grammar. Authors have demonstrated that many grammar rules that we take for granted don't even pass very simple tests.
I hope that some day the grammar described by authors will be taught in middle and high schools.
In first chapter authors say that "Grammar rules must ultimately be based on facts about how people speak and write. If they don't have that basis, they have no basis at all." and, in my view, this test is not passed by countless books on grammar out there most of which are just reprinted year after year without any change.