In higher education many students are expected to have an acquaintance with the basic concepts that are required for the higher study of the English language, but nowadays such students have often not been taught these concepts. There has been a scarcity of books to which these students could be referred for preliminary reading, since most of the elementary books go well beyond the basic concepts and, in dealing with areas of grammar that are more complex and advanced, become committed to points of view and methods of inquiry that are at least to some extent controversial.
This book is an attempt to satisfy the needs of such readers, by presenting the groundwork of English grammar without going too far in either the subject-matter covered or the development of a theoretical apparatus for the description of languages. I am aware, however, that the ideal cut-off point is hard to find—in fact it seems fairly certain that it is in a different place for different readers. I hope I have arrived at a satisfactory compromise. If the reader finds that I all too often decline to take some matter further, saying that it would be beyond the scope of the present work, I hope he will remember that the work is partly intended to stimulate interests that can only be satisfied by more advanced studies.
A further shortcoming of many elementary works is that they do not contain any discussion of the spirit in which the study of grammar should be undertaken. Popular fallacies about correctness tend to be fostered either explicitly or, more often, by default, so that a student who comes to higher studies often has to unlearn prescriptivist attitudes at the same time as coping with difficult theory. This book begins with a discussion of the reasons for undertaking language study in a spirit of scientific detachment.
There are exercises provided at the end of the chapters, and a key to the exercises is given at the end of the book. At appropriate points in the text the reader is directed to relevant exercises, though many readers may find it preferable to postpone looking at them until the end of the chapter. There is also a glossary to which the reader may find it useful to turn for further help in interpreting technical terms.
There are few notational conventions that need explanation. An asterisk * is placed before an expression that is alleged to be in some way ill-formed or non-existent. I have not included any discussion of phonetics or phonetic transcription, but I have found it necessary in a very few places to provide a representation of the way a word sounds, as opposed to the way it is written. For this purpose I use, for example, /z/ to represent the sound that occurs at the end of the word his, and // to represent the vowel in the same word. The diphthong in boy is //. Technical terms are printed in bold type when first introduced or when their technical nature has to be highlighted for some other reason.