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Author Topic: Calling all grammar geeks!  (Read 65559 times)
gaeta
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« on: March 12, 2008, 4:00:36 PM »

My question is somewhat inspired by this thread:

http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,47770.15.html

I work in the humanities and am quite familiar with many grammar guides/reference books in the Romance languages but am not as familiar with similar books about English.

Although I somewhat know The Little, Brown Handbook, I would love to have some other suggestions for English grammar guides. I should say that I will not be using such a book in a class but rather as a reference work to have on hand in my own personal library. I don't need exercises or advice about how to write a research paper (things that appear in Little, Brown) but would like all kinds of nitty gritty grammar details.

Thanks for your help!

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ursula
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2008, 4:43:21 PM »

I thought this was going to be a thread with lots of fun questions about subjunctives and prepositions, so we could show off our grammar geekiness!

pout.
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gaeta
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2008, 4:46:32 PM »

I thought this was going to be a thread with lots of fun questions about subjunctives and prepositions, so we could show off our grammar geekiness!

pout.


I would have no problem if you were to take it in that direction as well. The subjunctive makes me happy.
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t_folk
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2008, 5:56:15 PM »

Strunk and White is my Bible.
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phdbliss
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2008, 6:42:05 PM »

Pleonastic nouns anyone? Telicity? Modality? Aktionsarten? Come on! 

I'm with Ursula - this should be a geeky thread.
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magistra
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discolor unde auri per ramos aura refulsit.


« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2008, 7:51:57 PM »

Well, come on then!  Sigh.  It's sad how excited I was to see the subject line...

As to your question, I find that modern grammars suck.  Absolutely suck.  They're usually descriptive and user-friendly, meaning they're written for high school students and don't bother with niceties like "whom" anymore, because who says that?  But if you want to know what's correct, what was common usage until a few years ago, what's standard so you can compare it to other languages, etc., an older grammar is the way to go.  Pretty much anything written at least 40 years ago will work -- student editions from the time they took this stuff seriously in school are great.  I've got a couple I picked up dirt cheap.

I like this one, as it was originally written for advanced students, so it's still fairly user-friendly, and should be available in some edition.
House, H. C. & S. E. Harman. 1931. Descriptive English Grammar, New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

A nice big old expensive one I like is Samuel Ramsey's 1892 The English Language and English Grammar.  It set me straight on some of the more obscure points of the subjunctive, but which had legitimately come up in my Latin class.  You're lucky if you find the subjunctive in a modern grammar.

Go to your school's library and browse -- it's the best way to see a range of grammars.  Some are much too much, but some are much too flimsy.
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Grammar is the chocolate in the buttery croissant of life.  -- Yellowtractor

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erictho
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2008, 7:58:03 PM »

My Grammar Geek hubby says these two are his favourites:

Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Huddlestone and Pullum

Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language  Kuirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik



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jonesey
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2008, 8:03:10 PM »

Strunk and White is my Bible.

x2.

<Geek Alert!>

I met my wife at a writing conference where the Illustrated Strunk and White was being discussed. 
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magistra
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discolor unde auri per ramos aura refulsit.


« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2008, 9:39:47 PM »

Jonesey -- You're not a true grammar geek until you've met at the Strunk & White opera.  Though it's a good effort -- you're geeky by normal standards, just not ours.  We have very high standards indeed when it comes to Grammar Geekdom!

Erichtho -- I'll have to check those out.  I always say, one can never have too many grammars...
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First it was Wolfram and Hart, now it's Blackboard.  There's not much moral difference, if you ask me. -- Malcha

Grammar is the chocolate in the buttery croissant of life.  -- Yellowtractor

Okay, so that was petty.  Today, I feel like embracing pettiness.  -- Mended Drum
comp_queen
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The Young Fogey Boring Suburban Forumite


« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2008, 10:32:15 PM »

Talking of geekiness and handbooks (this will out me if a certain few people are reading, but I doubt it):

I own editions 4 through 6 of the MLA handbook--4 I bought in high school, 5 in college, and 6 a couple years ago when stuff I'd done so often I'd memorized was in conflict with the new information in the MLA section of my students' handbooks.

I strongly desire to get editions 1-3 (normal paperback, not the dopey-looking spiral bound ones if they did them then) so I can have a complete set.
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gaeta
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2008, 11:23:32 PM »

There are some great suggestions here!

I have a copy of Strunk and White by my side at all times but was looking for some hardcore and even arcane suggestions such as those offered by grammarians such as Erictho['s hubby] and Magistra. I don't know if I should be thanking you or cursing you for recommending some very expensive books that I now feel must have a place on my shelves. I will definitely be taking a trip to my library's reference room to investigate further.
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jonesey
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2008, 8:11:48 AM »

I'm surprised nobody suggested Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
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bibliothecula
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2008, 9:35:37 AM »

I'm surprised nobody suggested Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

That's because it is filled with typos and outright errors.
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jonesey
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2008, 11:19:04 AM »

I'm surprised nobody suggested Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

That's because it is filled with typos and outright errors.

Really?  To be honest, I've never read it, but once people find out what I do for a living it's one of the first books they suggest.  Is it really that bad?
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scarletbegonia
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2008, 11:46:34 AM »

How about Barbara Wallraff's books? Anyone read any of those?

I haven't read her books, but her column is one of my favorites to read each week. I think of her as the Miss Manners of Grammar.
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