A New Approach to English Grammar, on Semantic Principles

By R. M. W. Dixon | Go to book overview

Orientation

This book provides a fresh look at parts of the grammar of English. It pays particular attention to meaning, considering the different sorts of meanings words have, and showing how the varying grammatical behaviours of words are a consequence of their meaning differences.

My 'meaning orientation' stance is a little novel. In addition, some of the topics discussed here (especially in Chapters 10 and 11) are scarcely mentioned in regular grammars of English. It could be said that the present book takes off from the point where most other grammars end.

The reader will not find here any detailed discussion of the irregular inflections of verbs or plural forms of nouns, topics which are covered in standard grammars. A basic knowledge of certain aspects of English grammar is needed for understanding the later part of the book, and these are presented in Chapter 2 (which does include some original analysis).

I work in terms of the broad theoretical apparatus of linguistics that has been built up over the past two thousand years (word classes, main and subordinate clauses, underlying and derived forms, structures and systems, etc.), utilising the insights of Dionysius Thrax, Edward Sapir, Leonard Bloomfield, Kenneth Pike, Michael Halliday, Noam Chomsky and Bernard Comrie, among others. Theoretical ideas are brought in as they assist the central task, of describing the syntactic and semantic organisation of English. I have not chosen to restrict myself by casting the description in terms of any of the systems of nomenclature that are currently referred to as 'linguistic theories' and which have, in the past few decades, grown, flourished and perished with such rapidity.

The use of jargon and symbolisation has been kept to a minimum on the principle that, in a subject such as linguistics, if

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