- The frameworks of English: Introducing language structures by Kim Ballard
This is yet another introductory textbook for English grammar and/or linguistics in an apparently insatiable market. My university titles the basic course in this subject (as do many others) ‘The structure of modern English’. I presently teach it using Laurel J. Brinton, The structure of modern English (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2000), which I reviewed for Language 78.603–4 (2002). Ballard’s organizational strategy is different from that of much of the competition in that she chooses to begin with morphology and end with phonology, including an entire chapter on suprasegmentals (236–52). Much of the subject matter in this final chapter would have to be watered down in the class I teach since it is much too advanced for the clientele (e.g. intonation and tone groups). Sandwiched in between are three chapters on syntax and one on discourse analysis, including register (181–83), yet there is no mention, for example, of the notion of diglossia (see Alan S. Kaye, ‘Is English diglossic?’, English Today 7.4.8–14, 1991).
The introduction (3–10) instantly captures the student’s interest in the field by mentioning the 1967 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage (3). That film demonstrated the workings of the human body much as this volume is intended to facilitate the exploration of the workings of English. To a large extent, the author succeeds, yet I must note that it is written with a British audience in mind.
Let me take up a few matters in the three chapters on morphology (13–84). The author states that a basic difference between common and proper nouns is that the definite article does not ‘really work on’ (23) the latter; yet there are contexts in which ‘the Jane’ or ‘the London’ occur. She further considers exceptions such as ‘The Thames’ or ‘The Hague’ (23). There is even a good example of a proper name which is now in the process of losing its article, viz. ‘The Sudan’, cited as such in Webster’s new world dictionary of the American language (Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1960, p. 1456), but cited without ‘the’ in The American heritage college dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1993, p. 1356).
In a discussion of word-formation strategies, B states that a blend such as smog is sometimes termed a portmanteau word (61). Although the American heritage college dictionary agrees (1993:1066), most linguists use the aforementioned term to cover examples such as French au ‘to the’ for *à le. Turning to [End Page 214] loanwords, feng-shui is said to come from Japanese (62); rather, it comes from Chinese (‘wind’ + ‘water’). Taking up the interesting notions of hypernyms and hyponyms, there is a chart dividing up the notion of ‘alcohol’, in which ‘wine’, ‘sherry’, and ‘port’ are allegedly derivatives thereof (66). ‘Wine’, in turn, has the following hyponyms: ‘chardonnay’, ‘pinot noir’, etc. In my usage, ‘sherry’ and ‘port’ are types of wine (so, too, The American heritage college dictionary 1993:1065, 1256). Finally, *rancid wine is said not to collocate, like rancid butter (67), whereas both of these seem perfectly acceptable to me.
The syntax chapters (85–169) use a simplified version of classical transformational grammar, as best represented in Noam Chomsky’s Aspects of the theory of syntax (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965). In this regard it coincidentally follows the pedagogical style of Brinton 2000, although it is much less technical than that work (e.g. ‘active and passive clauses’, 120–21, in which there is mention of a transformation but without any tree diagrams). For purposes of teaching today’s undergraduate, this decision is not altogether unreasonable.
Ch. 9, ‘Phonetics and phonemes’ (187–213), and Ch. 10, ‘Segmental phonology’ (214–35), offer traditional presentations of the expected topics of allophones (190), consonants (193–200), and vowels (200–12), featuring received pronunciation (RP), which she says early on is spoken by approximately 10% of the British population (9).
Although it is traditional to conclude tomes such as this with a glossary (256–91...