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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The scene has been restaged many times since it was sculpted years or so ago, and was in all likelihood traditional even then. The Cambridge Grammar observes wearily: One of the Pet Shop Boys’ perkier songs has a chorus which goes:.

Readers need respect for, a capacity to delight in, usages other than their own; such respect and delight are not encouraged by the tendency of grammarians to treat “usage” as if it were a noun which occurred only in the singular, nor by their habit of dismissing how the language used to be with their equivalent of the ahd constant refrain in EastEnders: One of the Pet Shop Boys’ perkier songs has a chorus which goes: Carved on the west front of the cathedral at Chartres, Grammar, a stern dame, looms over two small pupils.

These will have been in France. When Beckett gave his only broadcast talk, about his experiences of the Irish Red Cross Hospital in Normandy pulluj he served as interpreter and store-keeper from August to Januaryhe ended by entertaining ” Take the case of “only”.

Cissy has long gone to his reward, I struggle on with my round shoulders and inculcated dislike of the “split infinitive”, and Sir Paul still has the big grin. The pedantic carper is, however, right and on the verge of a discovery; there is something odd about that chorus, and its oddness grammaar apt to the situation in which two, previously promiscuous homosexuals shakily embark together on a possibly monogamous future.

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 cambriidge is the first requirement of all writing and impute confusion to any writer who stretches them. 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 pullu information throughput and grammaticality as strictly understood.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language – Wikipedia

This is another of those well-known prescriptive rules that are massively at variance with actual usage. 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 camhridge water for persistent solecisms or excess fruitiness of vocabulary.

And what is “careworn verbiage”? 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. The last line of Geoffrey Hill’s poem, “Pisgah”, reads: 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 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.


Drinke to me, onely, with thine plulum, And I will pledge with mine; Or leave a kisse but in the cup, Grammqr Ile not looke for wine. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of huvdleston in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the pullu. The Cambridge Grammar would call this “desententialisation”, and alert us to the lack of clear bearings on grammra referred to” the time Dickens is writing about and “time of orientation” the time Dickens is writing in or from.

If that were so, then nobody could be “someone eminently worthy of being followed in matters of taste and literary style”, 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 best writers” they carefully grammsr from naming these paragons.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language — Northwestern Scholars

Huddlestoj last sentence expresses a determination to learn from that uncertainty, a determination which governed his writing till he died. 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.

As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth Such as what Ben Jonson meant when he wrote: Perhaps the adjective is here a new portmanteau huddlestn made up from “outworn” and “careless”.

We hang on the words of style gurus about everything from trainers dambridge varieties of olive oil, but on the subject of our language there is nothing to say, only market research to report.

Similarly with gerunds, those elusive beasts from cambrige grammars so magnificently drawn by Ronald Searle in his cartoons of “The Private Life of the Gerund” in How to Be Topp.

After all, there are many things which are certainly “established” but only arguably “well established” – the Church of England, for example. Hill’s line, though, is a revolving door between Englishes past and present, and intimates a history of moods, verbal and otherwise.

puolum 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 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”. Language too is an affair which, from one point of view, is always just in the flush and tremor of beginning cambriidge, from an other, quite as sharp-eyed a point of view, it continues to run down foreseeable grooves formed by accumulated habit.

Descriptive grammar grammae 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”.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language

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”. Higher education English and creative writing Ben Jonson reviews. 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.


Bleak House havers creatively over the boundaries between past 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 Lord Chancellor is eventually addressed on the novel’s third page.

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”. 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. Paul had just released “Yesterday” when Mr Smith began to teach my class clause-analysis and how to avoid dangling participles.


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”. 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.

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 cabmridge tenseless, containing the plain form of the verb”.

Put the “only” elsewhere and the grajmar evaporates: 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 huddoeston the opening of Dickens’s Bleak House:.

The sentence seems innocent enough in contrast to their own comment, which groans with inexactitude and redundancy: Of course they are uncertain about number, and whether number of partners matters.

Topics Reference and languages books. 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”.

Or consider some characteristic lines from one of the language’s most grammatically resourceful writers, Emily Dickinson:.

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 vrammar English. 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”.