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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Carved on the west front of the cathedral at Chartres, Grammar, a stern dame, looms over two small pupils.
Huddleston and Pullum: Exercises
She holds an open book in her left hand, beneath which sits a “good boy”, notably round-shouldered, already vested in what is pulkum a monk’s habit, camhridge fingers tracing the page he’s intently squinting at.
In her right hand, she brandishes a bundle of twigs above the bare torso of a “bad boy”; he’s holding his book puullum its cover toward him, his eyes are turned up into her disapproving stare and, though he looks as if he’s about to get a hiding, he has a big grin on his face.
The scene has been restaged many times since it was sculpted years or so ago, and was in all likelihood traditional even then. Paul had just released “Yesterday” when Mr Smith began to teach my class clause-analysis and how to avoid dangling participles. 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 huddlewton.
Cissy has long gone to his reward, I struggle on with pullkm round shoulders and inculcated dislike of the “split infinitive”, and Gram,ar Paul still has the big grin. This massive work it weighs 2. Fretful sub-editors who want to know the better way with “which” and “that” must apply elsewhere. For descriptive grammarians, “grammaticality” is distinct from “correctness” because, from the standpoint of quasi-anthropological neutrality proper to their task, in language whatever is accepted is acceptable.
Advice about style amounts to no more than “aesthetic authoritarianism” or “taste tyranny”, “a universalizing of one person’s taste, a demand that everyone should agree with it and conform to it”. We hang on the words of style gurus about everything from trainers to varieties of garmmar oil, but on the subject of our language there is nothing to say, only market research to report.
So the Cambridge Grammar’s editors note that sentences like “They invited my partner and I to lunch” are “regularly used by a significant proportion of speakers of Standard English 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 our ears pulpum the 19th century.
But they ggrammar to specify when a “proportion” becomes “significant” – does it take a bare majority or will a stroppy minority equally suffice? Descriptive grammar can find nothing wrong pulluk 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”.
We should not expect too much from cambtidge they are witnesses not judges. Yet even the members of this excellent Cambridge team sometimes fail to confine themselves within the narrow bounds of testimony.
They rightly decline to prescribe usage, but they exceed their remit when they proscribe prescription, for it is a fact of language use that writers and speakers concern themselves with more than information throughput and grammaticality as strictly understood. 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”.
If that were so, then nobody could be “someone eminently worthy of being followed in matters of hjddleston and literary annd, as they say on the same page, nor would there be any reason for appealing, as they sometimes do, to “the writings of highly prestigious authors” or “the usage of the anc writers” they carefully refrain from naming puullum paragons.
They say of the sentence “In this day and age one must circle round and explore every avenue” that it “may be loaded with careworn verbiage, or it may even be arrant nonsense, but there is absolutely nothing grammatically wrong with it”. The sentence seems innocent enough in contrast to their own comment, which groans with inexactitude and redundancy: And what is “careworn verbiage”? Perhaps the adjective is here a new portmanteau word made up from “outworn” and “careless”.
Nor are they to be wholly trusted when they tell us “The most frequent use of media is in the phrase the media, applied to the means of mass communication, the press, radio, and television, where both singular agreement and plural agreement are well established” we indiscriminately say “the media is All descriptive grammarians can determine is aand something is “established” or not; their “well” is illicit.
After all, there are many things which are certainly “established” but only arguably “well established” – the Church of England, for example. Take the case of “only”. The Cambridge Grammar observes wearily: This is another of those well-known prescriptive rules that are massively at variance with actual usage. Because linguists busy themselves with “actual usage” “synchronic” study of the language, in their termsthey 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. Such as what Ben Jonson meant when he wrote:.
Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine; Or leave a kisse but in the cup, And Ile not looke for wine. He was not asking Celia to restrict her drinking of healths to his alone but either calling her his “onely” or, more likely, saying that her eyes were the one intoxicant he needed, just as “leave a kisse but in the cup” means that a blown kiss, the mere aftermath of her lips, is all he wants on his.
The traditional usage is actual in his lines every time somebody reads them with understanding; it was still going strong when Dick Powell, in a Busby Berkeley musical, sang the magnificent compliment “I only have eyes for you”. Put the “only” elsewhere and the schmooze evaporates: The usage of those who abide by exploded, traditional rules is usage still; maiden aunts who gramjar rather expose themselves at evensong than ask for “a large quantity of stamps” should be equal in the eyes of historical description with those who don’t even remember that “agenda” was once a plural and feel they pulum an s for the agendas they progress through.
Freud imagined that “where the Coliseum now stands we could at the same time admire Nero’s vanished Golden House. The last line of Geoffrey Hill’s poem, “Pisgah”, reads: Cissy Smith might have asked 2A whether “preserve” is an indicative or a subjunctive. That is, does the poet report that formalities have this effect or does he wish for them to do so compare “Saints preserve us! 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”.
Hill’s line, though, is a revolving door between Englishes past and present, and intimates a history of moods, verbal and otherwise. The faint but persistent lavender of the subjunctive about his “preserve” gives him reason for a moment to regard himself as superseded or at least on his way into the shade, as if, talking to an elderly relative, he began to feel his own self aged too.
Similarly with gerunds, those elusive beasts from earlier grammars so magnificently drawn by Ronald Searle in his cartoons of “The Private Life of the Gerund” in How to Be Topp. A gerund is sometimes hard to distinguish from a present participle, but in “he’s smoking behind the bike-sheds”, “smoking” is a participle, whereas in “smoking diminishes your chances of getting Alzheimer’s”, “smoking” is a gerund.
The descriptive grammarian in quest of systematic clarity will correctly observe that “historically the gerund and present participle of traditional grammar have different sources, but in Modern English the forms are identical.
As a punishment for my sins in a previous life, I recently had to mark 64 examination scripts in which third-year undergraduates reading English at Cambridge offered their comments on the opening of Dickens’s Bleak House:. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one cambridte imagine, for the death of the sun.
The candidates were excited, even over-excited, by the “imagery”, as they had been taught in school that “imagery” is what counts in literature. Very few observed the prime syntactical fact about the novel’s first page: You can see the ambiguity from the possibility of rewriting with either “is” or “was” between “Michaelmas Term” and “lately”, and hudleston between “Lord Chancellor” and “sitting”, and so on.
The Cambridge Grammar would call this “desententialisation”, and alert us to the lack of clear bearings on “time referred to” the time Dickens is writing about and “time of orientation” the time Dickens is writing in or from. Bleak House havers creatively over the boundaries between huddlestn and present in order to ask whether the story it’s telling is about the bad old days or the way we live now, to question confidence about history’s direction, to gauge the gap, if gap there be, between the primordial “mud” and the “Mlud” with which the Abd Chancellor is eventually addressed on the novel’s third page.
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 escape the notice of those who have more recently been taught English.
Or consider some characteristic lines puloum one of the language’s most grammatically resourceful writers, Emily Dickinson:. 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.
It is not confused, it is superbly elliptical, even aeronautic. Dickinson’s vaults and swivels resolve themselves into plain sense, as a paraphrase shows: Readers need respect for, a capacity to delight in, usages other than their own; such respect and delight are not encouraged hddleston the tendency of grammarians to treat “usage” as if it were ggrammar noun which occurred only in the singular, nor by their habit of dismissing how the language used to be with their equivalent of the characters’ constant refrain in EastEnders: To those who have interests in language other huddoeston those of the linguist, “synchronic study” can at times seem like a polite name for parochialism.
It can be a sign of respect to raise an objection rather than roll over permissively while re-describing usual practice in such a way as to make a new locution fine by readjusted norms.
One of the Pet Shop Boys’ perkier songs has a chorus which goes:. One in a million men change the way you feel one in a million men baby, it’s up to me. At first adn, a traditionalist might want to change cambrdige to “changes” – “one in a million men changes the way you feel” – though even Neil Tennant might have difficulty getting his mouth round that extra syllable while following the broad, expansive lines of the tune.
The Cambridge Grammar spends 20 extremely well-observed pages on “number and countability” in current English, and would dismiss the claim that “one” should take a verb in the singular; “one” with a plural verb is not looseness but “usage”.
The pedantic carper is, however, right and on the verge of a discovery; there is huddlrston 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. Of course they are uncertain about number, and whether number of partners matters.
The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language – Wikipedia
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”. 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 aren’t wrong to find how right they are.
Language too is an affair which, from one point of 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. To delineate the experience of living with and through a language a task beneath or beyond the ambitions of systematic grammarwe need fresh-minted terms and brilliant redescriptions such as the Cambridge Grammar supplies in its strong arguments for the claim that “English has no future tense”, soon to be reported in the Daily Mail, no doubt, as “dons say english has no future”.
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: Yet a language like English is simultaneously virgin and long clapped-out, so old words for it are still good too. 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.
These will have been in France. The words “a time-honoured conception of humanity in ruins” are ambiguous because of uncertain juncture. He might have meant that the time-honoured conception of “humanity” was in ruins, or that there remained an abiding conception of “humanity in ruins”, kindness amid dereliction, or even that his experiences in France refreshed for him the old notion of “the Fall of Man”, a long-standing ruinousness of the human.
The lavender of the subjunctive
The grammatical uncertainty of juncture was apt to his forlornness and to his hopes as he wondered what would come next, how the future might or might not camnridge joined to the past. His last sentence expresses a determination to learn from hjddleston uncertainty, a determination which governed his writing till he died.
The tense of that writing, like the tense of that last sentence “will have been”is best described with an old term: Such as what Ben Jonson meant when he wrote: As a punishment for my sins in a previous life, I recently had to mark 64 examination scripts in which third-year undergraduates reading English at Cambridge offered their comments on the opening of Dickens’s Bleak House: Or consider some characteristic lines from one of the language’s most grammatically resourceful writers, Emily Dickinson: The Luxury to apprehend The Luxury ‘twould be To look at Thee a single time An 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.
One of the Pet Shop Boys’ perkier songs has a chorus which goes: One in a million men change the way you feel one in a million men baby, it’s up to me Huddleaton first hearing, a traditionalist might want to change “change” to “changes” – “one in a million men changes the way you feel” – though even Neil Tennant might have difficulty getting his mouth round that extra syllable while following the broad, expansive lines of the tune.
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 ” Topics Reference and languages books.
Higher education English and creative writing Ben Jonson reviews.