Oxford Reference Grammar

up-to-date guide to modern English grammar

This Oxford Reference Grammar guide is based on the most important chapters in Stanley Greenbaum’s authoritative work, The Oxford English Grammar. It is arranged thematically, starting from a description of the history of English language and grammar, then taking the major topics in turn – from words, phrases, and syntax, up to the point at which grammarians customarily stop – the sentence.

The explanations topics are broken up into small, easy-to-follow sections, and there is a full complement of bibliography, glossary, and comprehensive index. There is also a fussily detailed but ultimately useful numerical reference system. These are described as ‘links’ – a clear indication the influence hypertext and its language. It provides guidance on all word classes and word structures, including phrases, clauses, and sentences.

In line with contemporary attitudes to language studies, it takes a descriptive rather than a prescriptive attitude to grammar. That is, it describes how language is being used, rather than how somebody thinks it ought to be used. Each point is illustrated by quotations drawn from authentic spoken and written data. So a typical entry reads:

8.2.2 Adjectives that are predicative only

[17] Caroline is afraid Nellie’s attempts to get her to join in the nude dancing and runs off. [Jennifer Breen In Her Own Write]
[18] I was getting quite fond of him.
[19] Her office personality is a positive one; but she is not aware of this, any more than she is conscious of her breakfast-time vagueness. [W]

Many these predicative adjectives resemble verbs in their meanings: afraid ‘fear’, fond ‘like’, aware that ‘know that’.

It deals with all the standard difficulties in English, such as the issues who/whom, should/ought, that/which, and different from/to. Be warned however. Even though this is in handy paperback format, it’s not for beginners. You have to be prepared for sections labeled ‘Extraposition the postmodifier other than in the subject’, ‘Restrictive and non-restrictive modification’ and ‘Segregatory and combinatory coordination’.

It offers a compilation linguistic definitions and reference in a compact format which will be most useful for teachers language studies, students English language and linguistics, and lay readers who wish to understand some the niceties English grammar. It’s also worth saying that by covering the written and spoken language in both the UK and America, it is intended for English-speakers anywhere in the world.

© Roy Johnson 2000

The Oxford Reference Grammar, (ed Edmund Weiner), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp.410, ISBN: 0198600445

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