LINGUIST List 24.859
Mon Feb 18 2013
Review: Applied Linguistics; General Linguistics: Berry (2012)
Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner
Cornelia Tschichold <C.Tschichold
English Grammar: A Resource Book for Students
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1025.html
AUTHOR: Roger BerryTITLE: English GrammarSUBTITLE: A Resource Book for StudentsSERIES TITLE: Routledge English Language IntroductionsPUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)YEAR: 2011
Cornelia Tschichold, Department of English Language and Literature, SwanseaUniversity, UK
Berry’s book is part of Routledge’s familiar series of resource books, dividedinto four sections that can be read horizontally, to give increasing depth toa topic, or vertically, to start with an overview of the basic concepts andgradually deepen the topic of each chapter. The textbook is meant as anintroduction assuming no prior knowledge of grammar, but readers need at leastsome 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 thatone 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 whentheoretical categories are applied to usages found in corpora. The finalsection D “Extension” gives a number of extracts of published papers mostly byapplied linguists. (D1-D12). I will use this horizontal view for the summaryof the individual chapters. Berry approaches the topic of grammar from astudent’s angle, starting from the kind of traditional, rather prescriptiveideas 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 ofactivities that are designed to stimulate reflection and discussion. B1introduces word classes and their grouping into open and closed classes,before C1 takes a closer look at word classes by examining concordance linesfor a word with multiple word-class membership, and how the word class of anindividual word can be determined in such cases. Chapter D1 returns to thequestion of what grammar is, with an extract from a paper on an imaginarylanguage without grammar, consisting of words only.
Chapter A2 opens the second ‘horizontal’ layer with a look at the largest wordclass, nouns, their inflectional properties and subclasses, and B2 coverspronouns. Chapters C2 and D2 both have the count and mass distinction as theirtopic, the first using concordance lines to show meaning differences, and thelatter an extract from a paper on the cognitive linguistic point of view onit.
Noun phrases and determiners are the topic of chapter A3, which alsointroduces terms such as ''head'' and ''pre-/postmodifiers.'' Articles have aseparate chapter in B3, which also deals with the issue of reference. ChaptersC3 and D3 expand on the issue of determiners, looking at the distinctionbetween determiners and pronouns and related issues.
Chapter A4 presents the three word classes of adjectives, adverbs andprepositions. As previously for nouns, inflection and other formal criteriafor the identification of these word class are discussed and contrasted toless scientific criteria. Chapter B4 is a good example of the author’sapproach to the presentation of word classes by juxtaposing form and function.Berry points out that the traditional view found in school grammars of adverbsas modifiers of verbs is too narrow and presents instead the formal criteriaand the main subtypes, e.g. central adverbs, degree adverbs, and so on.Chapter C4 returns to adjectives and presents corpus examples of adjectiveforms that do not follow the prescriptive rules for the formation of thecomparative and superlative forms. Chapter D4 finally gives another extractfrom a cognitive linguistics paper on prepositions.
The next chapter starts the section on verbs, where a first distinction ismade between full verbs and auxiliaries. A5 introduces the various finite andnon-finite forms of full verbs in English and points out that English has nofuture tense. Chapter B5 goes on to discuss tense and aspect, clearly statingonce more that the idea commonly found in teaching grammars that tense (moreor less) equals time is a fallacy. Chapter C5 continues the focus ondetermining the word class of corpus occurrences (of ''-ing'' and ''-ed''forms in this section) of that strand in the book. The article extract in D5expands on the ways to express a future meaning in English.
Chapter A6 introduces the ‘verb phrase’ and the auxiliaries. (The term ‘verbphrase’ is used by Berry to mean the verb group consisting of auxiliaries andmain verb, and does not include the verb’s objects. B6 takes a closer look atmodal auxiliaries, covering modality, the forms of modal auxiliaries and theirmeanings. Chapter C6 is something like an extension of the chapter on mainverbs (A5) as the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs isconsidered here. The text in D6 returns to the issue of auxiliaries with anextract from a reference grammar on hedging and boosting.
Chapter A7 continues the strand on verbs with negatives, interrogatives andcontractions, while B7 looks at phrasal and prepositional verbs. C7 deals withergative verbs (transitive verbs that can be used intransitively inconstructions such as The book sold). Chapter D7 returns to phrasal verbs witha text on the difficulties these pose for learners.
Clauses and clause elements (subjects, verbs, objects, predicatives andadverbials) are introduced in chapter A8. B8 deals with five patterns of verbcomplementation, using the traditional terminology for the various valencypatterns of verbs. Chapter C8 shows how to identify and analyse clauses andclause elements by substituting groups of words with a proform. The text in D8critically examines the semantic roles of subjects, another instance of thejuxtaposition of form and function.
With chapter A9 we reach the sentence level of grammar. A distinction is madebetween major sentences and minor (or incomplete) sentences, and betweensimple, compound and complex sentences. The latter type also provides thereason to introduce the last remaining word class, conjunctions. Chapter B9describes the four types of clauses, again pointing out the complexrelationship between form and function, as when a formal interrogative is usedfor a functional request. Chapters C9 to C12 give the reader a chance to applythe various categories to longer texts of various genres. The text in D9explores the form-function discrepancy further, showing the large range ofpairings that are possible in English, e.g. a declarative sentence being usedto request information ("So you’re finished now?"), to give a command ("You sithere."), to make an offer ("I can go to the post office for you."), or as anexclamation ("There’s a spider in the corner!").
The next section continues the topic of clauses, with chapter A10 looking atsubordinate and incomplete clauses, and B10 at relative clauses. D10 consistsof extracts of two separate papers both taking a critical view of conditionalsas they are typically taught in schools.
Chapter A11 basically concludes the sentence level section by describing anumber of operations such as inversion, extraposition, and clefting along withthe reasons for using such reordering devices. B11 touches on cohesion and thetools English uses to create cohesion. An extract on a text on the variousmeanings of ''subject'' returns to the book’s focus on the form-functiondiscrepancy.
The last section considers a number of situations where variation on thepatterns presented so far are likely to occur. Chapter A12 describes the basicdifferences between speech and writing. B12 continues this theme bycontrasting direct and reported speech, pointing out the problems with therules on ''backshift'' often taught to learners. The final chapter brings thevarious issues together in a discussion of grammar in computer-mediatedcommunication.
According to the preface, the intended target audience for this textbook arestudents of English or Applied Linguistics. In my opinion, it is best suitedfor the latter group. It is not an introduction to syntax for students oflinguistics. Many of the activities are clearly aimed at nurturing an interestin grammatical aspects of English, possibly in students who have an interestin a teaching career, but only little exposure to grammar. The book alsotries, quite successfully, to lead the reader away from simplistic ideas aboutgrammar and a prescriptive approach to grammar to a more complex and nuancedview of grammar. Despite learning descriptive grammar as part of theirtraining, many teachers later struggle to use this knowledge in the classroom,and to overcome the view that linguistic change must mean degradation, andthat their task is to teach ''good English'' and ''correct grammar.'' Thetransition from the descriptive and sometimes strongly theory-driven grammartaught 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 theyheld before their studies. As an applied linguist, Berry helps his readers toat least improve their awareness of the differences between these views. Healso occasionally points out the varying terminology used by linguists andapplied linguists. The terminology used by many linguists will differ fromBerry’s, and this is often a headache for those who teach classes on topicssuch as grammar and syntax. (As an illustration, compare the uses of the termpredicate in a number of grammars and textbooks on grammar, sometimes coveringonly the verb group, sometimes covering the verb and its arguments.) Theapproach Berry takes is one that will suit those readers who teach traineeteachers or who plan to go on to teach English, including English as a foreignlanguage, rather than those who have an interest in theoretical linguistics.
The four-strand structure works quite well for most of the chapters in thisbook, with perhaps the sections on verbs being the least successful in thisrespect. Unlike Mullany & Stockwell (2010), whose volume on the EnglishLanguage can be divided up quite neatly into 13 relatively independent topics,Berry has to deal with issues that are much less easily divided up intoseparate areas. The result seems to be the ‘Introduction’ and ‘Development’texts are used to cover the material that one would normally expect to find ina textbook on grammar, while the ‘Exploration’ texts systematically use corpusexamples as study material. The ‘A’ chapters have frequent activities to breakup the text and get the reader to think about the topic at hand, thus makingthe book an excellent teaching tool. The exercises become more challengingtowards the end and provide ample material for in-class discussion. Inaddition, the accompanying website contains a limited amount of extramaterial. The one quibble I would like to mention here is that the numberingof these activities is independent of the numbering of the chapters andsections they occur in, thus we end up with a confusing mix of referencingsystems. The corpus-focussed texts in the ‘C’ chapters could be used forself-study. The answers to these are given in the book, so the best use forclassroom teaching would be to use different examples. The extracts of papersfound in the ‘Extension’ texts are well chosen and on their own make the booka good addition to the bookshelf of any linguist who teaches introductoryclasses. On the whole, the book is probably better suited as ‘further reading’material than for completely independent self-study.
Mullany, Louise & Peter Stockwell, 2010. Introducing English Language: AResource 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 othercourses on linguistic topics at Swansea and previously in Switzerland. Herresearch focus is on Intelligent Computer-Assisted Language Learning and theacquisition of the L2 lexicon.
Page Updated: 18-Feb-2013