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LINGUIST List 24.859

Mon Feb 18 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics; General Linguistics: Berry (2012)

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <anjalinguistlist.org>

Date: 18-Feb-2013
From: Cornelia Tschichold <C.Tschicholdswansea.ac.uk>
Subject: English Grammar: A Resource Book for Students
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1025.html

AUTHOR: Roger Berry
TITLE: English Grammar
SUBTITLE: A Resource Book for Students
SERIES TITLE: Routledge English Language Introductions
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
YEAR: 2011

Cornelia Tschichold, Department of English Language and Literature, Swansea
University, UK

SUMMARY

Berry’s book is part of Routledge’s familiar series of resource books, divided
into four sections that can be read horizontally, to give increasing depth to
a topic, or vertically, to start with an overview of the basic concepts and
gradually deepen the topic of each chapter. The textbook is meant as an
introduction assuming no prior knowledge of grammar, but readers need at least
some knowledge of word classes. On this basis, the twelve texts in section A
“Introduction” (A1-A12) are very readable. The texts in section B
“Development” (B1-B12) cover the slightly more abstract areas of grammar that
one would expect to find in a textbook on this topic. Section C “Exploration”
(C1-C12) has a focus on data and the issues that can be discussed when
theoretical categories are applied to usages found in corpora. The final
section D “Extension” gives a number of extracts of published papers mostly by
applied linguists. (D1-D12). I will use this horizontal view for the summary
of the individual chapters. Berry approaches the topic of grammar from a
student’s angle, starting from the kind of traditional, rather prescriptive
ideas his target audience may well have when first encountering linguistics,
and using findings from corpus linguistics to question these.

Chapter A1 launches the topic with definitions of grammar and a first set of
activities that are designed to stimulate reflection and discussion. B1
introduces word classes and their grouping into open and closed classes,
before C1 takes a closer look at word classes by examining concordance lines
for a word with multiple word-class membership, and how the word class of an
individual word can be determined in such cases. Chapter D1 returns to the
question of what grammar is, with an extract from a paper on an imaginary
language without grammar, consisting of words only.

Chapter A2 opens the second ‘horizontal’ layer with a look at the largest word
class, nouns, their inflectional properties and subclasses, and B2 covers
pronouns. Chapters C2 and D2 both have the count and mass distinction as their
topic, the first using concordance lines to show meaning differences, and the
latter an extract from a paper on the cognitive linguistic point of view on
it.

Noun phrases and determiners are the topic of chapter A3, which also
introduces terms such as ''head'' and ''pre-/postmodifiers.'' Articles have a
separate chapter in B3, which also deals with the issue of reference. Chapters
C3 and D3 expand on the issue of determiners, looking at the distinction
between determiners and pronouns and related issues.

Chapter A4 presents the three word classes of adjectives, adverbs and
prepositions. As previously for nouns, inflection and other formal criteria
for the identification of these word class are discussed and contrasted to
less scientific criteria. Chapter B4 is a good example of the author’s
approach to the presentation of word classes by juxtaposing form and function.
Berry points out that the traditional view found in school grammars of adverbs
as modifiers of verbs is too narrow and presents instead the formal criteria
and the main subtypes, e.g. central adverbs, degree adverbs, and so on.
Chapter C4 returns to adjectives and presents corpus examples of adjective
forms that do not follow the prescriptive rules for the formation of the
comparative and superlative forms. Chapter D4 finally gives another extract
from a cognitive linguistics paper on prepositions.

The next chapter starts the section on verbs, where a first distinction is
made between full verbs and auxiliaries. A5 introduces the various finite and
non-finite forms of full verbs in English and points out that English has no
future tense. Chapter B5 goes on to discuss tense and aspect, clearly stating
once more that the idea commonly found in teaching grammars that tense (more
or less) equals time is a fallacy. Chapter C5 continues the focus on
determining the word class of corpus occurrences (of ''-ing'' and ''-ed''
forms in this section) of that strand in the book. The article extract in D5
expands on the ways to express a future meaning in English.

Chapter A6 introduces the ‘verb phrase’ and the auxiliaries. (The term ‘verb
phrase’ is used by Berry to mean the verb group consisting of auxiliaries and
main verb, and does not include the verb’s objects. B6 takes a closer look at
modal auxiliaries, covering modality, the forms of modal auxiliaries and their
meanings. Chapter C6 is something like an extension of the chapter on main
verbs (A5) as the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs is
considered here. The text in D6 returns to the issue of auxiliaries with an
extract from a reference grammar on hedging and boosting.

Chapter A7 continues the strand on verbs with negatives, interrogatives and
contractions, while B7 looks at phrasal and prepositional verbs. C7 deals with
ergative verbs (transitive verbs that can be used intransitively in
constructions such as The book sold). Chapter D7 returns to phrasal verbs with
a text on the difficulties these pose for learners.

Clauses and clause elements (subjects, verbs, objects, predicatives and
adverbials) are introduced in chapter A8. B8 deals with five patterns of verb
complementation, using the traditional terminology for the various valency
patterns of verbs. Chapter C8 shows how to identify and analyse clauses and
clause elements by substituting groups of words with a proform. The text in D8
critically examines the semantic roles of subjects, another instance of the
juxtaposition of form and function.

With chapter A9 we reach the sentence level of grammar. A distinction is made
between major sentences and minor (or incomplete) sentences, and between
simple, compound and complex sentences. The latter type also provides the
reason to introduce the last remaining word class, conjunctions. Chapter B9
describes the four types of clauses, again pointing out the complex
relationship between form and function, as when a formal interrogative is used
for a functional request. Chapters C9 to C12 give the reader a chance to apply
the various categories to longer texts of various genres. The text in D9
explores the form-function discrepancy further, showing the large range of
pairings that are possible in English, e.g. a declarative sentence being used
to request information ("So you’re finished now?"), to give a command ("You sit
here."), to make an offer ("I can go to the post office for you."), or as an
exclamation ("There’s a spider in the corner!").

The next section continues the topic of clauses, with chapter A10 looking at
subordinate and incomplete clauses, and B10 at relative clauses. D10 consists
of extracts of two separate papers both taking a critical view of conditionals
as they are typically taught in schools.

Chapter A11 basically concludes the sentence level section by describing a
number of operations such as inversion, extraposition, and clefting along with
the reasons for using such reordering devices. B11 touches on cohesion and the
tools English uses to create cohesion. An extract on a text on the various
meanings of ''subject'' returns to the book’s focus on the form-function
discrepancy.

The last section considers a number of situations where variation on the
patterns presented so far are likely to occur. Chapter A12 describes the basic
differences between speech and writing. B12 continues this theme by
contrasting direct and reported speech, pointing out the problems with the
rules on ''backshift'' often taught to learners. The final chapter brings the
various issues together in a discussion of grammar in computer-mediated
communication.

EVALUATION

According to the preface, the intended target audience for this textbook are
students of English or Applied Linguistics. In my opinion, it is best suited
for the latter group. It is not an introduction to syntax for students of
linguistics. Many of the activities are clearly aimed at nurturing an interest
in grammatical aspects of English, possibly in students who have an interest
in a teaching career, but only little exposure to grammar. The book also
tries, quite successfully, to lead the reader away from simplistic ideas about
grammar and a prescriptive approach to grammar to a more complex and nuanced
view of grammar. Despite learning descriptive grammar as part of their
training, many teachers later struggle to use this knowledge in the classroom,
and to overcome the view that linguistic change must mean degradation, and
that their task is to teach ''good English'' and ''correct grammar.'' The
transition from the descriptive and sometimes strongly theory-driven grammar
taught at university to the pedagogical grammar in the classroom is difficult,
so the temptation for young teachers is to fall back on the grammar ideas they
held before their studies. As an applied linguist, Berry helps his readers to
at least improve their awareness of the differences between these views. He
also occasionally points out the varying terminology used by linguists and
applied linguists. The terminology used by many linguists will differ from
Berry’s, and this is often a headache for those who teach classes on topics
such as grammar and syntax. (As an illustration, compare the uses of the term
predicate in a number of grammars and textbooks on grammar, sometimes covering
only the verb group, sometimes covering the verb and its arguments.) The
approach Berry takes is one that will suit those readers who teach trainee
teachers or who plan to go on to teach English, including English as a foreign
language, rather than those who have an interest in theoretical linguistics.

The four-strand structure works quite well for most of the chapters in this
book, with perhaps the sections on verbs being the least successful in this
respect. Unlike Mullany & Stockwell (2010), whose volume on the English
Language can be divided up quite neatly into 13 relatively independent topics,
Berry has to deal with issues that are much less easily divided up into
separate areas. The result seems to be the ‘Introduction’ and ‘Development’
texts are used to cover the material that one would normally expect to find in
a textbook on grammar, while the ‘Exploration’ texts systematically use corpus
examples as study material. The ‘A’ chapters have frequent activities to break
up the text and get the reader to think about the topic at hand, thus making
the book an excellent teaching tool. The exercises become more challenging
towards the end and provide ample material for in-class discussion. In
addition, the accompanying website contains a limited amount of extra
material. The one quibble I would like to mention here is that the numbering
of these activities is independent of the numbering of the chapters and
sections they occur in, thus we end up with a confusing mix of referencing
systems. The corpus-focussed texts in the ‘C’ chapters could be used for
self-study. The answers to these are given in the book, so the best use for
classroom teaching would be to use different examples. The extracts of papers
found in the ‘Extension’ texts are well chosen and on their own make the book
a good addition to the bookshelf of any linguist who teaches introductory
classes. On the whole, the book is probably better suited as ‘further reading’
material than for completely independent self-study.

REFERENCES

Mullany, Louise & Peter Stockwell, 2010. Introducing English Language: A
Resource Book for Students. Routledge English Language Introductions.
London: Routledge.



ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Cornelia Tschichold is a lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Swansea University
(Wales, UK). She has taught introductions to linguistics and various other
courses on linguistic topics at Swansea and previously in Switzerland. Her
research focus is on Intelligent Computer-Assisted Language Learning and the
acquisition of the L2 lexicon.
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