LINGUIST List 13.2235

Sat Sep 7 2002

Review: Morphology/Syntax: Deterding & Poedjosoedarmo

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  1. Pranita Gopal, Deterding & Poedjosoedarmo (2001), The Grammar of English

Message 1: Deterding & Poedjosoedarmo (2001), The Grammar of English

Date: Fri, 06 Sep 2002 16:36:05 +0000
From: Pranita Gopal <>
Subject: Deterding & Poedjosoedarmo (2001), The Grammar of English

David Henry Deterding, 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.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

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 --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

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

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

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.
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