Review of Grammar and Vocabulary
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2003 12:32:14 -0500
From: "Butler, Clay"
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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:
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:
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.