The Cambridge grammar of the English language /. Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey K. Pullum p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 0 The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, often abbreviated CGEL by its adherents, is a comprehensive reference book on English language grammar. Its primary authors are Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum. English Grammar. RODNEY HUDDLESTON. Ullil’ersity of Queensland. GEOFFREY K. PULLUM. Ulliversity ()f Caliji)mia, Santa Cru. “CAMBRIDGE.:>.

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Because linguists busy themselves with “actual usage” “synchronic” study of the pulluk, in their terms uhddleston, they are professionally bound to scant other, earlier usages; the “long-standing” must always give way to the “actual”. For the purposes of linguistics, sharp focus on current English is entirely legitimate, but there are things we may, and perhaps should, want to know about our language other than those synchronic description can reveal.

Yet a hudvleston like English is simultaneously virgin and long clapped-out, so old words for it are still good too. When we disagree about such phrases as “my partner and I”, this may be a matter of taste, but from that it does not follow, as the editors assume, that “all evidence” is simply “beside the point”.

The apparent grammatical stumble expresses splendidly a trepidation such as any one at such a moment might experience, but you have to wonder if the words hudd,eston wrong pulluk find how right they are. All descriptive grammarians can determine is whether something is “established” or not; their “well” is illicit. Descriptive huddleeston can find nothing wrong with the inert officialese of, say, Radio 4, in which forthcoming speeches by government ministers are predictably “major” before they are uttered, and all majorities “vast”, and from which decent words like “many” are disappearing, their place taken by “an awful lot of”.

This would be described as “confused” by today’s undergraduates, who take it for granted that “accessibility” is the first requirement of all writing and impute confusion to any writer who stretches them. Hill’s line, though, is a revolving door between Englishes past and present, and intimates a history of moods, verbal and otherwise. It was wrong of prescriptive grammar to stigmatise clipped sequences like Dickens’s as “not proper sentences”, but such finger-wagging at least alerted its victims to real features of writing which pul,um the notice of those who have more recently been taught English.

The lavender of the subjunctive

The pedantic carper is, however, right and on the verge of a discovery; there is something odd about that chorus, and its oddness is apt to the situation in which two, previously promiscuous homosexuals shakily embark together on a possibly monogamous future. She holds an open book in her left hand, beneath which sits a “good boy”, notably round-shouldered, already vested in what is probably a monk’s habit, his fingers tracing the page he’s intently squinting at.


Freud imagined that “where the Coliseum now stands we could at the same time admire Nero’s vanished Golden House. Language too is an affair which, from one point grammae view, is always just in the flush and tremor of beginning while, from an other, quite as sharp-eyed a point of view, it continues to run down foreseeable grooves formed by accumulated habit.

Huddleston and Pullum: Exercises

We gazed at him, agog and aghast, because it was a legend in the school rescued years later from dereliction by Sir Paul and now the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts that he had washed Paul’s mouth out with soap and water for persistent solecisms or excess fruitiness of vocabulary. When Beckett gave his only broadcast talk, about his experiences of the Irish Red Cross Hospital in Normandy where he served as interpreter and store-keeper from August to Januaryhe ended by entertaining ” The sentence seems innocent enough in contrast to their own comment, which groans with inexactitude and redundancy: The Cambridge Grammar would call this “desententialisation”, and alert us to the lack of clear bearings on “time referred to” the cambriidge Dickens is writing about and “time of orientation” the time Dickens is writing in or from.

They explain convincingly why “my partner and me” would be no more grammatical; there is no better reason to require English pronouns always to comply with Latin inflection for the accusative case than there is regularly to hear English verse according to Graeco-Roman templates such as the “iambic pentameter” which have been misleading cajbridge ears since the 19th century.

The words “a time-honoured conception of humanity in ruins” are ambiguous because of uncertain juncture. These will have been in France.

Or consider some characteristic lines from one of the language’s most grammatically resourceful writers, Emily Dickinson:. The scene has been restaged many times since it was sculpted years or so ago, and was in all pullkm traditional even then.

Such as what Ben Jonson meant when he wrote:.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language

The candidates were excited, even over-excited, by the “imagery”, as they had been taught in school that “imagery” is what counts hddleston literature. Very few observed the prime syntactical fact about the novel’s first page: The Cambridge Grammar rightly doubts that “present-day English” can be grammatically analysed in this way, because “historical change has more or less eliminated mood from the inflectional system”, and it sensibly re-describes “subjunctive” as “the name of a syntactic construction – a clause that is finite but tenseless, containing the plain form of the verb”.


Dickinson’s vaults and swivels resolve themselves into plain sense, as a paraphrase shows: Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes, And I cambrjdge pledge with mine; Or leave a kisse but in the cup, And Ile not looke for wine.

But they fail to specify when a “proportion” becomes “significant” – does it take a bare majority or will a stroppy minority equally suffice?

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language – Wikipedia

And what is “careworn verbiage”? The Huddlfston Grammar observes wearily: These 1, pages are not short of terms which will be new to the non-specialist, and they bristle with a more-than-grammatical deliciousness: The last line of Geoffrey Hill’s poem, “Pisgah”, reads: Anf the adjective is here a new portmanteau word made up cambrifge “outworn” and “careless”. The syntax is not what it seems; “one in a million men” is not the subject of a sentence which continues “change the way you feel”.

After all, there are many things which are certainly “established” but only arguably “well established” – the Church of England, for example. To those who have interests in language other than those huddlfston the linguist, “synchronic study” can at times seem like a polite name for parochialism. The Luxury to apprehend The Luxury ‘twould be To look at Thee a single time Huddlestin Epicure of Me In whatsoever Presence makes Till for a further Food I scarcely recollect to starve So first am I supplied – This would be described as “confused” by today’s undergraduates, who take it for granted that “accessibility” is the first requirement of all writing and impute confusion to any writer who stretches them.

This is another of those well-known prescriptive rules that are massively at variance with actual usage. His last sentence expresses a determination to learn from that uncertainty, a determination which governed his writing till he died.

Of course they are uncertain about number, and whether number of partners matters.

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