Mysteries of English Grammar : A Guide to Complexities of the English Language book cover
1st Edition

Mysteries of English Grammar
A Guide to Complexities of the English Language

ISBN 9781003148999
Published September 30, 2021 by Routledge
186 Pages

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Book Description

Despite a history of hundreds of years of research analysing aspects of English grammar, there are still open problems which continue to baffle language researchers today. Such ‘grammar mysteries’ arise for a number of reasons: because the language is changing; because different speakers of the language adhere to distinct norms and thus introduce and maintain variation in the system; because there are differences between the grammar of spoken and written English. This book illuminates some of the complexities of the subject, the areas where new discoveries await and why it matters.

Through a series of accessible and engaging case studies on various aspects of grammar, from multiple negation to possession, the authors present grammar as an intellectual challenge. This book brings out into the open questions about language usage to which we still do not have good answers in a bid to make variation overt and to revel in the mystery of the English language.

Both aimed at the interested general reader and the beginning student of English language and linguistics, this is a fresh take on grammar.

Table of Contents

List of Tables


1 Introduction

2. What you must say, what you can say and what you do not say: Grammar and norm

3. Over and out: Prepositions

4. You’ll never get nowhere: Double negatives

5. All the way from the Ukraine: The definite article

6. A large amount of exceptions: Countability

7. The author has finished this chapter last year: The present perfect

8. An even more interestinger topic: Comparatives and superlatives

9. I’m lovin’ it: The progressive

10. The good, the bad and the ugly: Adjectives

11. What it is is a nonstandard feature: Double be construction

12. Human dogs and inhuman people: Gender and related matters

13. The chapter that I put too many pronouns in it: Shadow pronouns

14. There’s heaps of money to be won: Number agreement

15. Because I’m worth it: Insubordinate clauses

16. They are cleverer than she and I: Pronominal case

17. Is that your wife again?: Possession

18. Conclusion

Glossary: Language for language


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Andreea S. Calude is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. She has a background in mathematics and linguistics and researches (spoken) grammar, language evolution, loanwords and just about any quantitative language-related question she can get data on. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Te Reo – the Journal of the Linguistic Society of New Zealand and the co-editor of Questions About Language, with Laurie Bauer (2020).

Laurie Bauer FRSNZ is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of over twenty books including The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology (2013), which won the LSA’s Leonard Bloomfield Prize. In 2017 he was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Humanities Medal.


'In this exciting and innovative book Calude and Bauer demystify English grammar by cracking some of its hard nuts. Warmly recommended to anyone who is interested in the study of English syntax.'

Bas Aarts, UCL, UK

'This unconventional treatment of a wide selection of topics in English grammar calls many previous explanations into question. In citing factors which influence speakers' choices it goes beyond the narrow confines of traditional grammars to include overarching factors like on-going change, spoken-written differences, and the language variety of the speaker-user.'

Stephan Gramley, Bielefeld University, Germany