LINGUIST List 14.2116

Sun Aug 10 2003

Review: General Linguistics: Jackson (2002)

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  1. Butler, Clay, Grammar and Vocabulary: A Resource Book for Students

Message 1: Grammar and Vocabulary: A Resource Book for Students

Date: Fri, 08 Aug 2003 18:13:54 +0000
From: Butler, Clay <Clay_Butlerbaylor.edu>
Subject: Grammar and Vocabulary: A Resource Book for Students

Jackson, Howard (2002) Grammar and Vocabulary: A Resource Book for
Students, Routledge, Routledge English Language Introductions.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-1466.html


Clay Butler, Baylor University, Waco, Texas USA

In Grammar and Vocabulary Howard Jackson provides an introduction to
two important fields of language study: descriptive English grammar
and lexical semantics. This volume is the third in a series of
introductory books in the Routledge English Language Introductions
series. The series follows a pseudo-hypertext format with parallel
sections in each chapter progressively expanding on topics in greater
detail. This innovative format allows readers to select topics of
interest and jump between chapters and sections to find related
material. The absence of a traditional index, however, is a
significant problem for the book's usefulness as a resource tool. The
book also features numerous activities in the first three chapters.
Most activities are immediately followed by a discussion of the answer
to the activity so that readers have a choice of stopping and working
the activity or continuing to read. The following two sections
provide a summary of the contents of each chapter and a critical
evaluation of the book as a whole.

CONTENTS

Chapter A - Introduction As with other books in the Routledge series,
Grammar and Vocabulary begins with a summary of the key concepts to be
developed in the following chapters. Chapter A begins with a
theoretical discussion of how to define ''word'' and ''sentence'' and
moves on to discuss word formation (i.e., morphology), sentence
patterns, the structure of clauses and phrases, grammar rules, and
vocabulary. While most of the topics are expected ones for a grammar
text, the many activities based on dictionary entries are a sign of
the direction for the rest of the text. Some of the material is a
prelude to more information that is to come, such as the discussion of
Valency Grammar (p 15), a major topic in chapter D. Other material is
mentioned with very little explanation, such as Tagmemic Linguistics
(p 12), or the phonological explanation of plural morphemes. The text
explains that the plural morpheme is -es ''after root-final
sibilants'' (p 10), but lists the phonetic symbols for sibilants
without explaining the meaning of the term.

Chapter B - Development The second chapter returns to the descriptive
grammar themes of the first chapter and develops them further. For
example, Chapter A begins with a description of the concept of
''sentences'', while Chapter B begins with a description of the
various types of sentences: declarative, imperative, etc. This
chapter also explains the count/mass noun distinction, the formation
of new words through compounding, derivation, etc., and offers more
complex definitions for subjects and objects, noun and verb phrases,
and clauses. The chapter ends with a very good description of
prescriptive grammar rules and of the relationship of jargon to
technical vocabulary.

Chapter C - Exploration The third chapter is the longest chapter and
the most detailed. For example, while Chapter B briefly defines the
declarative sentence type, Chapter C spends three and a half pages and
uses five different activities to expand on declarative sentences.
Section C1 makes several assertions about the force of different
sentence types that could be used to introduce a discussion of Speech
Act Theory (Austin, 1962) or Politeness Theory (Brown and Levinson,
1987). The discussion of nouns and verbs in Chapter B is also
extended to include pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions
over eleven pages and eleven separate activities. In section C4
Jackson discusses the idea of theta-roles and arguments (Jackendoff,
1972 & Chomsky, 1981) familiar in syntactic and semantic texts. This
chapter also includes an in- depth discussion of relative clauses;
tense, aspect, and modality; attributive, predicative, and
postpositive adjective phrases; and, time, place, and reason
adverbials. The final two sections of this chapter are familiar
topics in Discourse Analysis. In section C7 Jackson distinguishes
between spoken and written grammar and discusses exceptional forms
used in poetry, advertising, and humor. In C8 the discussion moves to
regional, topical, and formal dialects.

Chapter D - Extension The final chapter contains short readings on
topics developed in the earlier chapters. Section D1 is part of a
chapter by Flor and Jan Aarts illustrating how the various possible
relationships of constituents in a sentence can create structural
ambiguity. Section D2 is a reading by David Allerton in which he
attempts to classify nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs according
to semantic and syntactic categories rather than by the traditional
''notional'' categories. The reading in D3 by Quirk, Greenbaum,
Leech, and Svartik describes the formation of new words, especially
the process of extending an established word into a new category, such
as when someone who applies ''wallpaper'' is called a ''wallpaperer.''
Section D4 makes the complement-adjunct distinction under the rubric
of the Valence Principle. Section D5 continues the discussion of
sentence patterns from the earlier chapters by explaining how
individual words can determine or restrict allowable patterns. The
reading in D6 by M. A. K. Halliday on the relationship between heads
and modifiers seems far too difficult for an introductory text. The
article by Peter Trudgill in section D7 is a sociolinguistic analysis
of the concept of standard and nonstandard dialects. The final
reading by John Ayto describes the history and development of some new
words formed in the twentieth century.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

Grammar and Vocabulary's content is quite sound. With the exception
of the reading by Halliday (pp 162-170), which seems far too complex
for a beginning text, the topics develop methodically. The ubiquitous
exercises and explanations give the reader ample opportunity to work
with the information presented in each chapter. The book is certainly
from a lexicographer's perspective as many of the examples and
exercises rely heavily on dictionaries. In fact, Jackson uses so many
different dictionaries as references that he resorts to calling them
by various acronyms (e.g., NODE for the New Oxford Dictionary of
English).

The emphasis on vocabulary makes this book a possible supplement to a
traditional grammar course. An instructor interested in adding a
discussion of semantics to his or her course could use this book
alongside a more thorough text on grammar, such as Kolln and Funk's
Understanding English Grammar (2002). Howard Jackson has successfully
condensed two earlier books into the discussion of vocabulary in
Grammar and Vocabulary. His 1988 book called Words and their Meaning
has a more lengthy discussion of dictionaries, and his 1990 book
called Grammar and Meaning covers many of the same grammatical topics
from a lexicographer's perspective.

The main drawback to Grammar and Vocabulary is its format. The book
is described as ''a resource book for students,'' but does not offer
much to help the confused student use it to answer his or her
questions. First, the index is inadequate. The index and glossary
are combined so that the only items indexed are those that also merit
a definition. If a reader needed information on ''tag questions'',
for example, he or she would have to know that ''tag questions''
belong to the class of interrogative sentences to find a helpful
explanation on page 58. A reference book should have a detailed index
to help novice readers connect the information they have to the
information they need. Second, the headings used throughout the text
rarely provide information on the content, but indicate instead
''Activity 1'' or ''Commentary'' without suggesting what the
commentary is about. Third, there are very few charts and tables (the
exception being on page 63) to help the reader visualize topics.
Fourth, the fact that almost every exercise is answered in the text
may be a problem for some instructors looking for a textbook.

In conclusion, Grammar and Vocabulary could be a good supplement to
lectures or another text because of its many activities and clear
explanations, but it is less likely to be useful as a reference work
or a primary text.

REFERENCES

Austin, J. L. (1962). How to do things with words. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in
language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht:
Foris.

Jackendoff, R. (1972). Semantic interpretations in generative grammar.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jackson, H. (1988). Words and their meaning. London: Longman.

Jackson, H. (1991). Grammar and meaning: A semantic approach to
English grammar. London: Longman.

Kolln, M. & Funk, R. (2002). Understanding English grammar. New York:
Pearson Education, Inc.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Clay Butler is a lecturer in the English Language and Linguistics
program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, USA. Dr. Butler teaches
undergraduate linguistics courses at Baylor, including a course on
Modern English Grammar. His research interests include pragmatics,
sociolinguistics, and second language acquisition.
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