Huddleston, Rodney and Geoffrey K. Pullum. 2005. A student’s introduction to English grammar. Cambridge University Press.
Rodney Huddleston is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and has published widely on English grammar and linguistics. Geoffrey Pullum is Professor of Linguistics and Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Pullum has publications in many areas of linguistics.
The book (SIEG) by the authors (H&P) is an introductory textbook, intended mainly for undergraduates who are fluent in English. H&P outline eight reasons (pp. vii–viii) why “every educated person in the English–speaking world should know something about the details of English.” This is because such knowledge will help promote good writing; provide basic technical vocabulary; improve computer programming skills; express one’s thoughts more clearly; lead to better understanding of related fields; assist in various areas of research; and help anyone learning additional languages.
H&P begin with a discussion of “standard English” that includes dialects, pronunciation, style (formal and informal), with special notes on standard and non–standard. For example “I did it myself” is standard English, but “I done it myself” is non–standard. In this first chapter they also note discrepancies in usual definitions, such as for the past tense, which does not always locate the action as starting in past time.
Each chapter concludes with a set of exercise that enables the reader to think through and illustrate the key concepts that were introduced. For example, at the conclusion of chapter one, an exercise is “Expalin briefly… the difference between a descriptive grammar book and a prescriptive one…”
Chapter two is a rapid overview, discussing two kinds of sentence, clause, word, phrase, subject and predicate, parts of speech, the structure of phrases, canonical and non–canonical clauses, word structure and two theoretical distinctions (functions and categories and words and lexemes).
Chapter three deals with verbs, tense, aspect, and mood. Included are discussions on verb inflection, finite and non–finite clauses, auxiliary verbs, primary tense (those that have inflection), the perfect, progressive aspect and mood. An important division within the category of verbs is a dozen or so auxiliary verbs that are modal (like can, may must) and those that are non–modal (be, have do). Aiuxiliary verbs contrast with lexical verbs, such as allow, bring , come, invite…
Chapter four treats clause structure, complements, and adjuncts. Predicate complements contrast with objects in sentences like “Stacy was a good speaker” vs. Stacy found a good speaker”. Adjunct is a function that can be filled by a range of different categories, such as adverb (phrase) Prepositional phrase, NP, and finite or non–finite clauses.
Chapter five examines noun and noun phrase structures by illustrating number and countability, determiners and determinatives (definite and indefinite articles), complements, internal and external modifiers, fused–head constructions (three types–simple, partitive, and special), pronouns and the genitive case.
The concern of Chapter six is adjectives and adverbs. The distinctive properties of adjectives are prototypically objects, persons, places, age, size, weight, merit or quality, and so on.
Chapter seven outlines the use of prepositions and prepositional phrases. The former take NPs as complements, have no inflection, show relations in space and time, and function for a wide range of dependents. H&P extend the class to show how prepositions can also have some optional NP complements and that their inflection is related to gradability.
Chapter eight analyzes negation and related phenomena on the basis of negative and positive clauses, subclausal negation, clausal negation and negation scope. Negation often has an effect on the total clause, hence the examination by H&P of negative scope.
Chapter nine is entitled “Clause type: asking, exclaiming and directing”. H&P describe clause types and speech acts, that is things that can be done with sentences, like making statements, asking questions, issuing commands or uttering exclamations.
Chapter ten is on subordination and “content clauses”, which H&P define as the “default kind of finite subordinate clause” (p.174). The major feature that distinguishes decalarative content clause from other clauses is the subordinator that.
Relative clauses follow in Chapter eleven and are a special kind of subordinate clause that function as modifier to a noun or nominal. The relative clauses that do not have an overt link like who or which are called wh relatives. They may relativize subjects, objects, complements of the preposition, and adjuncts of time, place, or reason.
H&P examine grade and comparison in Chapter 12. The discussion includes the comparative and superlative grade, more and most, less and least, equality, non scalar comparison and comparative clauses.
Non–finite and clauses without verbs are treated in Chapter thirteen. There are four kinds of non–finite clauses described: to–infinitives (Liz wants to write a novel), bare infinitives (Liz might write a novel), gerund–participials (Liz dreams of writing a novel), and past–participials (Liz has written a novel).
Chapter fourteen is on coordination and “more”, treating non–headed constructions, distinctive properties of coordination, order, marking, layering, main and lower–level coordination, joint vs. distributive coordination and non–basic coordination.
Chapter fifteen summarizes information packaging in the clause, treating passive clauses, extraposition, existential clauses, the it–cleft construction (It was Sue who introduced Jim to Pat), pseudo–clefts (What I object to is that he lied), dislocation, preposing, postposing and reduction.
The final chapter (sixteen) deals with morphology, examining inflection, lexical morphology, some general spelling rules, noun and verb inflection, grade, and lexical morphology. The basic concepts of inflection morphology include a lexical base, certain morphological operations, shape sharing, alternation, letters and symbols, and regular and irregular forms. Spelling rules refer to consonant doubling, final e deletion, final y replacement, and the alternation between –s and –es.
H&P conclude with suggestions for further reading, a glossary, and a very full and helpful index. Scattered throughout the book are also a number of “prescriptive” grammatical notes.
My conclusion is that H&P have done a masterful job of introducing and illustrating the basic concepts of English grammar. It should be helpful to students who are beginning their study of linguistics or to teachers who want to familiarize themselves and their students with the basic terminology used in descriptive linguistics.
Karl Franklin, PhD, GIAL and SIL International