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Review of  A Glossary of English Grammar

Reviewer: Andrew Caines
Book Title: A Glossary of English Grammar
Book Author: Geoffrey N. Leech
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 18.1749

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AUTHOR: Leech, Geoffrey
TITLE: A Glossary of English Grammar
SERIES: Glossaries in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Edinburgh University Press
YEAR: 2006

Andrew Caines, Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics,
University of Cambridge


This is one of the two glossaries published by Edinburgh University Press
in May 2006, part of a continuing series in which leading authorities
provide an accessible overview of the terminology in their field (see also
Trudgill 2003, Aitchison 2003, Bauer 2004, Crystal 2004, Davies 2005, Cruse
2006, Baker, Hardie & McEnery 2006, Evans 2007, Mixco & Campbell 2007, Carr
forthcoming). This is perhaps the glossary of most general relevance,
grammatical issues being fundamental to all linguistic study. It is
therefore of use to all with an interest in the English language or who
wish for an introduction to grammar. This would include school pupils and
university students alike. It is also a ready-reference -- in that it is
brief (133 pages) -- for teachers of language learners, containing usage
norms and guidelines as it does. And for those in need of clarification on
certain terminological confusions, or an overview of how the various terms
interact, this glossary offers a concise account based on the Quirk et al
(1985) framework. For these various reasons this book will be of interest
and relevance to all, from 'language amateurs' to 'language professionals'.


This will be a straightforward review on the grounds that Leech's Glossary
is a straightforward book. Clear aims are set out in the introductory
chapter: [a] to concisely define current grammatical terminology, [b] to
adopt a theory-neutral approach based on descriptive grammar -- in this
case siding with the Quirk et al. 'stable' (which after 1985 has produced
Greenbaum & Quirk 1990, Leech & Svartvik 2002, and Biber et al. 1999 among
others) rather than the main contender: Huddleston & Pullum 2002 -- and to
furthermore illustrate the definitions with attested examples taken from
corpora, [c] to point the reader in the direction of further texts of
general appeal. In all of these aims it is successful. It perhaps can be
seen as a stepping-stone to works of greater detail, such as Crystal's
Dictionary (1991) and Encyclopedia (1996), to Quirk et al. 1985, Biber et
al. 1999 beyond that, and to one of the many introductory textbooks on
grammar (e.g. Greenbaum & Nelson 2002, Biber et al. 2002).

The strengths of this book come to the fore repeatedly: that it is
corpus-based, that it is written with the teaching profession in mind, and
that it aims to clarify points of terminological confusion. Insights from
corpora are especially noticeable in observations on register variation.
For instance, it is noted in the entry for 'passive' that 'get' is an
informal alternative to 'be': i.e. 'I got fired yesterday' instead of 'I
was fired yesterday'. In 'gender' the increasing use of 'unisex' reference
to the detriment of masculine-as-default is noted: 'everyone thinks he or
she / they have the answer' versus 'everyone thinks he has the answer'.

Many of the entries could be particularly useful for language teachers in
that they set out the appropriate 'ground rules'. Four such rules are given
for 'reported speech', and further recommendations are given for (for
example) the non-specific use of the definite article before an adjective.

Clarification of the terminology is on the whole effective, and without
exception well-written. Witness the explanation of the two meanings of
'functional' -- at a macro and micro level -- and the definition of
'sentence', a seemingly simple concept which is tangled up in all sorts of
other complexities (which themselves require definition elsewhere in the
book) related to the clause, constituency, sentence form and sentence
function (in both senses of the word).

The cross-referencing within the book is impressively comprehensive and
very helpful, and at times it seems as though every conceivable term is at
least included even if it is 'empty' and so immediately cross-refers to
where a definition can be found ('reported command', 'reported question'
and 'reported statement' all surround and link to the fully-defined
'reported speech'). There are a couple of omissions I would question,
though in one case ('anaphor') the superordinate term ('corefer') is
included and so perhaps it was considered a level of detail too far and in
the other case it perhaps would open a whole can of worms leading into a
topic on the borderline of grammar and semantics: that is, 'telicity' and
the 'durative'-'punctual' distinction, which surely are essential and not
overly-complex verb properties. Also, it seems as though the 'active' is
negatively defined by cross-reference to the 'passive' -- a valid
definition, if a little circular. A final minor point on the
cross-referencing is that 'predicative' refers back as equivalent to
'complement' but not vice versa: perhaps it could be 'complement (or
predicative)' as in other such equivalent pairs.

Nevertheless, the chosen terminology is consistent with the Quirk et al.
stable, reflecting developments since the figurehead work (1985) such as
the preference for the more neutral and less Latin-dependent '-ing form'
and '-ed form' rather than '-ing participle' and '-ed participle' a choice
also evident in Leech & Svartvik 2002, for instance (though actually not in
Quirk et al. 1985). The set of terms preferred by Huddleston & Pullum
(2002: 76, 83) -- 'gerund-participle', 'past participle', 'preterite' --
are acknowledged as alternatives to '-ing form' and '-ed form', though of
course there is no room for discussion of the merits and demerits of each
in this glossary.

Despite the introductory claim to be theory-neutral, there are bold
statements to be found and at times alternative analyses are not considered
(mainly because such a discussion would be lengthy). The treatment of
'heads' and 'modifiers' for one (labels which are only deemed relevant to
noun and adjective phrases, not verb and prepositional phrases), and on the
difference between the pairs referring to the clause,
'dependent'-'independent' and 'main'-'subordinate', for another (the former
are treated as absolute terms, the latter as relative; 'independent'-'main'
and 'dependent'-'subordinate' are not treated as equivalents therefore).

Finally, it is one of the book's defining features and advantages that it
is concise, and this means that no reading references are given within the
entries of the glossary -- nor should they be, as the intention of the
'further reading' section is to point the reader towards more detailed
surveys of some of the issues briefly considered. On the whole, given the
limitations of space, definitions are clearly exemplified, though examples
would have been particularly beneficial to contrast a 'compound sentence'
from a 'complex sentence'; a minor criticism, and one entirely
inappropriate to finish on. Instead, I conclude that Leech's Glossary is an
excellent introduction to the language of English Grammar, a
ready-reference guide for those in need of a quick prompt, and a fine
complement to the more comprehensive works on grammar -- whether as an
overview of the Quirk et al. line or a summary of the alternative to
Huddleston & Pullum.


Aitchison, J. (2003). A Glossary of Language and Mind. EUP.
Baker, P., Hardie, A. & McEnery, T. (2006). A Glossary of Corpus
Linguistics. EUP.

Bauer, L. (2004). A Glossary of Morphology. EUP.

Biber, D., Conrad, S. & Leech, G. (2002). Longman Student Grammar of Spoken
and Written English. Harlow: Longman.

Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S. & Finegan, E. (1999).
Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Longman.
Carr, P. (2008). A Glossary of Phonology. EUP.

Cruse, A. (2006). A Glossary of Semantics and Pragmatics. EUP.

Crystal, D. (1991). A dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 3rd edn.
Oxford: Blackwell.

Crystal D. (1996). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. 2nd edn.
Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2004). A Glossary of Netspeak and Textspeak. EUP.

Davies, A. (2005). A Glossary of Applied Linguistics. EUP.

Evans, V. (2007). A Glossary of Cognitive Linguistics. EUP.

Greenbaum, S. & Nelson, G. (2002). An Introduction to English Grammar. 2nd
edn. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Greenbaum, S. & Quirk, R. (1990). A Student's Grammar of the English
Language. London: Longman.

Huddleston, R. & Pullum, G.K. (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English
Language. Cambridge University Press.

Leech, G.N. & Svartvik, J. (2002). A Communicative Grammar of English. 3rd
edn. London: Longman.

Mixco, M.J. & Campbell, L. (2007). A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. EUP.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G. & Svartvik, J. (1985). A Comprehensive
Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.

Trudgill, P. (2003). A Glossary of Sociolinguistics. EUP.


Andrew Caines is in his first year of Ph.D. research at the Research Centre
for English and Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge. His
project is interdisciplinary in that it involves corpus, sociolinguistic
and grammatical study. He is also interested in phonology, dialectology,
the history and evolution of language, and issues of acquisition and

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