A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk

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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk

Post by tony h » Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:39 pm

Now I really need to give the credit here to Phil. I had decided to try and improve my technical knowledge of English by acquiring a good grammar.

Searching the internet I came across this excellent review http://www.wordwizard.com/wizardry/news ... nt_id=3699 and decided to purchase one. After looking at the price my wife was just getting ready to spend the life insurance when the ticker started ticking again. A legal copy from India was much more manageable.

It has arrived and I have started to enjoy it. The introduction the place of English in the World is rather dated, it having been written in the early 1980s, but gives me an opportunity to smile at the working of the crystal balls of that time and where predictions have been right or wrong.

I must admit to overlaying Randolph Quirk with the Quirk, as depicted in that wonderful comedy Love on a Branch Line, working at Arcady Hall on this grammar.

Thanks Phil.

I couldn't find an ebook version which might be a useful addition to the paper version.
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Re: A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk

Post by Phil White » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:14 pm

I wrote that review before I had read the "Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" (generally referred to as "Huddleston and Pullum"). The more I read H&P, the more I found myself shouting "no, no, no" at it. It is based on generative principles, and all my thinking over the past fifteen years or so has led me to reject the generative school.

In my opinion, you have made a wise choice!

There is no e-book available, unfortunately, neither is it available in any other format than a printed book, which means that, with my failing sight, I have given my copy away, along with several other hefty tomes. I miss them all!
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Re: A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk

Post by tony h » Tue Apr 25, 2017 12:28 pm

I had to look up "generative principles" and found the reference to Noam Chomsky. I remember my father coming back from a lunch with Chomsky with a few signed copies of his books, one of the things that comes with being a Sales Director at a publishers, my Dad was quite dismissive of Chomsky's thinking on language: "A very euro-centric approach". My father collected languages like Mrs Marcos collected shoes. In his collection were most European (ancient and modern), Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, Hindi, Swahili, Sanskrit,Tagalog, Swahili and numerous others at a conversational level so I guessed my dad knew what he was talking about. Never rated Chomsky after that.
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Re: A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk

Post by Phil White » Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:52 pm

Chomsky's very earliest work was interesting. As he developed his theories (they have been through many radical reworkings), they became mainstream in around the 70s, and although not unchallenged, have dominated linguistic thought for almost 50 years now.

The two primary streams of thought that oppose generative approaches are "dependency" approaches and "construction grammars", both of which come in several different flavours.

My own thinking has, over the past twenty years or so, tended to favour dependency approaches, which (in a vast over-simplification) tend to place the verb at the centre of all structure and which give far greater latitude for the semantics of "words" or meaningful units to drive the structure of an utterance, rather than attempting to slot meaning units into a rule-driven structure.

My thinking nowadays is even more radical, as it largely dispenses with the notion of "parts of speech", at least at a more abstract, conceptual level. Even the distinction between nouns and verbs is largely spurious, and this brings me closer to the work of construction grammarians. But that's for another post or ten.
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Re: A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Quirk

Post by tony h » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:02 pm

I look forward to your further posts on this subject.

Personally I have always thought that syntax was imposed on language.

I had a good mentor as a child, an ex-colonial administrator. Amongst many of his hand-written notebooks (goodness knows what happened to them) were many volumes where he was trying to document indigenous languages. They progressed from mere lists of words, to usage and sometimes on to language rules and a grammar. In some cases his written version of the language, I understand, was adopted more widely as they had no existing written forms.

In this words were simply grouped by type, much like shapes are grouped into 2D or 3D (or 4D, 5D, nD these days) and 2-pointed, 3-pointed, straight edged, curved edged. Intellect and analysis determines parts of speech and how to construct them.

We do this all the time with the analysis of natural systems. Apart from Esperanto, and computer languages, surely every language had grammar tagged on as an afterthought? And with regard to your point on verbs, there are many communications in work that do not have a verb. You could say the verb is implied but the fact is that it isn't there.
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End of topic.
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