LINGUIST List 19.1312|
Thu Apr 17 2008
Review: English Linguistics: Ballard (2007)
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Review: English Linguistics: Ballard (2007)
Message 1: Review: English Linguistics: Ballard (2007)
From: Katalin Balogné Bérces <bbkatiyahoo.com>
Subject: Review: English Linguistics: Ballard (2007)
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AUTHOR: Ballard, Kim
TITLE: The Frameworks of English 2nd Edition
SUBTITLE: Introducing Language Structures
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
Katalin Balogné Bérces, Department of English Language and Literature, Pázmány
Péter Catholic University (PPKE), Piliscsaba, Hungary
This is the second edition to Ballard's introductory coursebook to the
structural aspects of English. Although this is not stated explicitly in the
book, it is intended for the native speaker studying English Language (see below
for a comment). No previous knowledge of any linguistics is required; therefore,
it is suitable for virtually any audience (even absolute beginners) interested
in the subject matter.
The book is composed of five parts: after (i) an introductory chapter, it covers
(ii) the ''lexical frameworks'' in two chapters, (iii) the ''grammatical
frameworks'' in four chapters, (iv) the ''discourse frameworks'' in one chapter,
and finally, (v) the ''phonological frameworks'' in three chapters. It is
explained at the very beginning that, since semantics is intertwined with the
other modules to a great extent, no separate chapter is devoted to its discussion.
Part I (''Introduction'') clarifies fundamental concepts like the modules of
linguistic knowledge/description or the distinction between speech and writing.
It also devotes some space to justifying the choice of the English dialect to be
described, Standard British English.
The core of the discussion starts in Part II (''Lexical Frameworks''): the word
classes are introduced one by one, open-class categories first, and then the
most important closed classes. The second half of this part deals with word
formation strategies, from affixation and compounding through the discussion of
multi-word verbs to minor forms of word coinage like conversion or back-formation.
Part III (''Grammatical Frameworks'') is concerned with the syntax of phrases,
clauses and sentences. After Ballard explains the role various types of
inflections play in grammar, she goes on to describe the internal structure of
phrasal categories (nominal, verbal, adjectival, adverbial, and prepositional
phrases, one after the other), adding two sections to the end, one on embedding
and another on coordination and apposition. The chapter on clauses investigates
the functions of the five clausal elements (subject, verb, object, complement,
adverbial) as well as introduces the difference between active vs passive,
finite vs non-finite, and main vs subordinate clauses. Negative clauses and
verbless clauses are also dealt with, each in a whole section. The final chapter
in this part addresses the issue of sentence types (declarative, interrogative,
imperative, exclamative) and compares simple, compound and complex sentences.
Part IV (''Discourse Frameworks'') goes ''beyond sentences'' and discusses the
structure of higher-level linguistic organization, introducing important notions
like cohesion, repetition, reference, ellipsis, discourse markers and register.
Finally, Part V (''Phonological Frameworks'') describes the basics of articulatory
phonetics, transcription, and segmental and suprasegmental phonology in three
chapters. The first one is on phonetics (the IPA, the vocal tract, the
consonants and vowels of Standard British English and a few other accents), but
it also introduces the notion of phoneme and the difference between phonetics
and phonology. The second chapter deals with segmental phonology, including the
distribution of phonemes and syllable structure, while the third chapter is
devoted to suprasegmental features: word stress, rhythm, and intonation. The
functions of intonation are discussed at length.
Each part (except for the introduction) concludes with exercises and suggestions
for further reading. At the end of the book, the answers to the exercises, a
glossary and a subject index help the reader.
On the whole, the book is well-written, crystal-clear and particularly
reader-friendly, this latter feature mainly resulting from the back-up
exercises, the answers to the exercises, the glossary, and the brilliant
cross-referencing across the chapters and the topics. The book is perfect for
self-study because of the clarity of explanation, the appropriateness of the
exercises, and, very importantly, the answers to the exercises at the back of
the book. It rightly defines Standard English (the English described) as a
''yardstick'' (p.8), a reference point which may be used whenever other varieties
need to be characterized and linguistically located; it does not attempt to
overestimate its status in the present-day linguistic situation. It is also
welcome that the book does not ignore the discussion of the linguistic level
above the sentence, and the chapter on discourse is not only informative but
also entertaining, with examples from everyday situations and media which may
attract the attention of the intended audience (viz., young adults), e.g.,
teenagers discussing 'Lost', football, Delia's 'How to cook', etc.
However, perhaps because I teach English linguistics to non-native (foreign)
speakers of English at BA and MA levels, I would have found useful a
straightforward, explicit statement of who the target audience is, in the form
of, for example, a foreword. On p.4, there is a hint at the ''implicit knowledge''
the reader is supposed to have concerning the structure of English, which
suggests that the author has native speakers in her mind. Then, on p.8, she
mentions that the book ''is designed primarily for readers living in the British
Isles.'' However, throughout the book the author is silent on the level of
education the book is meant for - although the fact that she used to work as a
chief examiner for A level English Language is indicative of the intended public.
The chapters discussing phonetics and phonology are particularly well-written.
They describe Received Pronunciation, both its segmental and suprasegmental
aspects in the expected, classical way (although it is a bit surprising that
syllable structure is discussed under the segmental phonology heading). The
strongest parts of the book are found here: the explanation of transcription
(with special emphasis on symbols easily confused), of the cardinal vowel chart,
and the inclusion of consonant and vowel variation in other accents are my
personal favourites. There are just a handful of weak points, mainly due to
imprecision or inaccuracy of expression. For instance, on p.6 of the first
chapter, where the relevant linguistic levels are introduced, it is explained
that semantics operates at all levels, even in phonology, and a possible
interpretation of ''the 'gru-' sound'' (in fact, not a sound but a sound sequence)
is derived from the meanings of English words beginning with it. ''[...] five of
these seven words carry suggestions of impatience or irritability [...] It may
even be that this meaning of 'gru-' has come about because we clench our teeth
when we feel irritated [...]'' Unfortunately, it is not emphasized in the
discussion that such examples of sound symbolism are really marginal, and the
interpretation proposed is quite unnatural and far-fetched. If we were to
translate the words given (e.g., 'grudge, grumpy, grunt') into another language,
I would guess few will start with this magical 'gru-' (even though most people,
whatever their language, clench their teeth when they feel irritated). I think
the discussion at this point of the book is too close to a kind of linguistic
naivety, and it is one of the most elementary tenets of linguistics that meaning
starts at the level of the morpheme.
In addition, the transcriptions used are not always consistent or acceptable.
Throughout the book, the length mark for long monophthongs appears and
disappears in a random fashion. For example, on p.242 (in the chart of
monophthongs), or on p.254, all the long vowel symbols have it, whereas on
p.249, the BEAD-vowel has it but BATH, LEARN, and (TO)WARD do not (and there is
also a typo: the first consonant of 'cup' is transcribed as /c/). On p.275, the
difference between 'record' the noun and 'record' the verb is shown,
erroneously: on the one hand, the book claims that one of the possible
pronunciations of the noun has short /u/ in the second syllable - something I
find highly unlikely; on the other hand, the commentary refers to ''variation in
length of the vowels in the second syllables'' in such a way that the /o/ of the
noun is short, that of the verb is long - another piece of nonsense. (For both:
cf. e.g., Wells 1990/2000)
Despite these minor defects, the phonetics/phonology as well as the discourse
chapters form the strengths of the book. However, those on morphology and syntax
suffer from numerous weaknesses. Let me point out a few.
On p.17, a definition of the notion of 'word' is sought. Although it is worthy
of appreciation that the discussion is entirely based on morpho-syntactic
(rather than semantic) argumentation, some of the arguments brought forward are
not valid. One of the tests proposed for identifying individual words is
mobility: words are supposed to be able to be moved, e.g., to the beginning of
sentences. This is not true - only phrases can be moved that way, and individual
words are only able to undergo movement when they form one-word phrases. A
sentence like ''Hypocrisy, I can't stand'' is well-formed because 'hypocrisy' is a
Noun Phrase (NP) there, but it cannot be preposed in a case like ''I can't stand
his hypocrisy'' as 'his' cannot be left stranded. Therefore, mobility is not a
test for words but for phrases. Another test is the inseparability of the parts
of words: *'I can't hypo-stand-crisy', which does not work in a well-documented,
rule-governed (viz., when the following syllable is stressed) set of cases. The
phenomenon in question has been referred to by various names, let us call it
expletive infixation here, and it subsumes examples like 'a-whole-nother
(problem), abso-blooming-lutely' or 'guaran-damn-tee'. Since even the book
itself mentions it on p.54, it would have been useful to touch upon it at this
point as well, as a type of (in English: marginal) exception.
I find the category identification of some of the words problematic. There are
isolated examples such as 'outside' on p.32, which is categorized as an adverb,
although it is able to take NP complements as in 'outside the house', which is a
''priviledge'' of prepositions (besides verbs, of course). On p.46 (and then on
p.166), 'for' is said to belong to the coordinators of English despite the fact
that both its meaning and its function coincide with those of 'since, as,
because', which are listed among the subordinators (p.46). The suggested answer
(p.293) to Exercise 1 on p.71, and then p.138 give 'that' as a (relative)
pronoun when introducing relative clauses, however, in current syntactic
analysis it is not distinguished from the conjunction (or: complementizer) of
In addition, there are a few inconsistencies. In descriptive grammars (like this
one) possessives like 'my, your' are frequently classified as pronouns, and
sometimes as possessive adjectives. Although the book takes the former stance
(p.35), I prefer the latter solution (possessive adjectives as a type of
determiner), for the following reason. I agree with the definitional difference
between pronouns and determiners explained on p.42: pronouns stand alone (e.g.,
'which is the best way?'), while determiners pre-modify nouns (e.g., 'which
route is the best way?'). According to this definition (found in Ballard's book)
forms like 'mine' are the possessive pronouns of English (cf. 'mine is the best
way'), whereas forms like 'my' are determiners (cf. 'my route is the best way')
and never pronouns (cf. *'my is the best way'). In fact, even the book itself is
uncertain about this category: on p.35 it is called a possessive pronoun, then,
on p.41, where a table of determiners is given, 'my, your', etc. are listed
again, but they are not italicized, unlike other examples of dual-category words
(such as 'which, some').
A few remarks concerning the chapters on ''lexical frameworks'' are in order here.
On p.52 compound words are defined as ''constructed from two free morphemes''.
This is not the precise definition, cf., e.g., 'lukewarm', and all the
''huckles'', where at least one of the terms is bound. The proper definition makes
reference to two roots, and in fact, p.59 defines them that way but the
significance of the definitional difference still goes unmentioned.
P.52 compares the threefold classification of words (into simple, compound and
complex) to the similar typology of sentences. However, the two are not
completely parallel: in compound sentences the subclauses are equal in status,
whereas in (the most frequent types of) compound words one of the terms always
assumes the function of head, at least syntactically (in endocentric compounds
The discussion of antonyms on p.69 gives 'black/white' as a gradable pair. This
is at least debatable. I think that the fact that '''white' is at one end of a
shade spectrum and 'black' is at the other'' is non-linguistic information. There
are no colours which are more white or more black than others, therefore I do
not see the grades which the name refers to. Perhaps the 'dark/light' pair is a
A weakness of the syntax chapters lies in the treatment of auxiliaries and Verb
Phrases (VPs) (especially section 5.3 (p.101ff)). Unfortunately, the book is
couched within an old-fashioned framework in which VPs contain all auxiliaries
but not the verbal complementation. That is, a string like 'must have written a
letter' is not a constituent but is composed of the VP 'must have written'
followed by the NP 'a letter'. As opposed to this, the current practice is to
treat modal auxiliaries like 'must' as a separate category (occupying the
syntactic position of Inflection) and the rest as a multiply embedded structure
of VPs (a Matryoshka doll, as I call it): [have [written a letter]] (cf., e.g.,
Haegeman and Guéron 1999). In addition, auxiliary 'do' is classified as one of
the so-called primary auxiliaries (p.43), together with 'be' and 'have',
although morpho-syntactically it patterns with modals (takes the position of
Inflection in clause structure, has finite forms only, etc.). (It may be said
that 'do' cannot be a modal auxiliary as it does not express a modality (like
ability, permission, etc.), but since 'do' is semantically totally empty (it is
the expletive auxiliary of English) reference to meaning cannot be used as an
argument at all.) In fact, even the author admits on p.44 that auxiliary 'do'
''has a slightly different role from the primary auxiliaries 'be' and 'have'.''
I find it a major defect that throughout the discussion of VPs verbal
complementation (especially the object of the verb) is never treated as part of
the VP (in spite of the fact that in current syntactic theory not only internal
arguments (objects) but even the external argument (the subject) is thought to
be part of the VP, at least at Deep Structure). Even when the book goes on to
deal with embedding (section 5.6, p.114ff.), the argumentation is only used for
the presentation of the intricate internal structure NPs may have, but the
structure of VPs is not revised by analogy to that of NPs.
The discussion and exemplification of relative clauses is also problematic, and
at times incomplete. E.g., on p.48, the examples for nominal relative clauses
are not even relative clauses. In, e.g., ''Where to go was quite a problem'',
'where to go' is a ''simple'' wh-interrogative clause. The examples are repeated
on p.142 (on nominal relative clauses), with two more examples, one of which is
again not a relative clause (''(He asked) what had happened''). The commentary
following the examples claims that ''the nominal relative clause 'what had
happened' could be reformulated as a noun phrase with the head noun postmodified
by a full relative clause: 'the event which had happened'.'' I wonder in what
interpretation and under what circumstances would the sentence ''He asked the
event which had happened'' be a well-formed English sentence. And if we
reformulate ''Where to go was quite a problem'' analogously, we get something like
'The place where we were to go was quite a problem' or 'The place which we were
to go to was quite a problem', which at least receive a different interpretation
from that of the original sentence.
As a conclusion, we can say that this book is like a sophisticated (and
abridged) mixture of a Roach (1983/1991/2000) type book and one from the Quirk
et al. family (for example, Quirk et al. 1985), enhanced with a discussion of
discourse, up-to-date, entertaining examples, and appropriate exercises.
Although there are minor defects in almost every chapter, all but the syntax
chapters are acceptable. The major weakness of the syntax chapters is that
however correct the strategies of sentence analysis (constituency tests such as
movement, substitution, morpho-syntactic agreement (for the identification of
the head)) are, it is difficult to base an advanced syntax course on that part
of the book because of the inappropriateness of the conclusions it frequently
draws. Nevertheless, I believe that the book is a perfect (self-study) guide for
the target audience, and what could prove its success.
Haegeman, Liliane and Jacqueline Guéron (1999) _English grammar: a generative
perspective_. Cambridge, Mass. and Oxford: Blackwell.
Wells, John C. (ed.) (1990/2000) _Longman Pronunciation Dictionary_. London:
Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (1985) _A
comprehensive grammar of the English language_. London: Longman.
Roach, Peter (1983/1991/2000) _English phonetics and phonology: A practical
course_. Cambridge: CUP.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Katalin Balogné Bérces took her PhD in English Linguistics from the Faculty of
Humanities, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest, in 2006. Her field of
research is the phonology, more specifically the syllable structure, of English.
She works as a full-time lecturer in the Department of English Language and
Literature, Pázmány Péter Catholic University (PPKE), and teaches various
courses on English linguistics, phonology, syntax, and dialectology. In 2006,
she co-authored (with Szilárd Szentgyörgyi) ''The pronunciation of English''
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