Grammatical doorstop

Since I first read about the new Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, I’ve wanted a copy. The authors are Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum (with some chapters written by others), and it’s an 1,800-page doorstop of a book. Just lately, having had some small discussion with my proofreader about a hyphen he wanted to put in a place where I thought no hyphen ought to be, I decided this was the time, and was fortunate enough to find a used (barely opened, I think) copy for under $100 — list price is $205.

So it now resides on the little table by my reading & laptop chair, and I am slogging through it. When I finish with the chapter on verbs (only about 40 pages to go), nouns are next, at about 200 pages.

If that sounds like more than you really want to know about English grammar, you can read a summary chapter online. Pullum wrote on the linguistics blog Language Log, “The chapter we chose for making searchable online is a particularly useful one, in that it is largely free-standing: it is chapter 2, called “Syntactic overview”, in which Rodney Huddleston surveys the structure and terminology of the entire book, giving a capsule version of the analysis that is elaborated in the following chapters.”

If you’re still in thrall to your eighth-grade English teacher and her pet peeves, or you’re hanging on to the tattered copy of Strunk and White you had to buy for freshman comp, have a look, to see what linguists have been up to the last half-century or so. And if you are much troubled with peevologists, you can always use the book to swat them.

About linsee

Linda Seebach retired in 2007 from the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where she was an editorial writer and columnist.
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