The Graduate School
G-1 Communications Building
Seattle, Washington 98195-3770
The Jessie and John Danz Fund
Professor of General Linguistics, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, and Gerard Visiting Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Brown University
February 12, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.
Kane Hall, Room 130 (Please note: This room has been changed from Kane 120)
You do not need to be an alum of the University of Washington to attend or register.
Powered in partnership with the UW Alumni Association
The scandal of English grammar teaching: Ignorance of grammar, damage to writing skills, and what we can do about it
The grammar instruction that survives in modern America amounts to little more than uncritical repetition of 200-year-old classifications that make little sense, plus a few lists of unexplained prohibitions: Don't do that, this is an error, beware of the passive. Worse, those who purport to know English grammar use it primarily to nitpick: The surprising and engrossing business of exploring sentence structure is perverted into a source of cheap points in a game of Gotcha. The victims of this grammar bullying end up in a sorry state: insecure about their linguistic abilities yet clueless about what to do. Writing abilities suffer rather than being enhanced. This lecture surveys the situation, and offers not only some warnings but also some remedies.
About Geoffrey Pullum
Geoffrey K. Pullum is a linguist with broad scholarly interests in language, a prominent one being the grammar of Standard English.
Born in Scotland, he worked in Europe and the UK as a rock musician for some years after leaving school in the 1960s. He then earned a B.A. in Language with First Class Honours at the University of York, spent a year doing research at King's College Cambridge, and received the Ph.D. in General Linguistics from the University of London.
HHe has taught at University College London; at Stanford University; at the University of California, Santa Cruz; at the University of Edinburgh; and at Brown University. He was also College Visiting Professor at the University of Washington in 1980–81. He has been a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America, and the British Academy.
He has published about 250 articles and books, ranging from technical syntactic theory to a handbook on phonetic transcription and a collection of satirical essays about the study of language called The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax.
Perhaps his most important work is The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (by Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, Cambridge University Press), an 1860-page detailed description of the linguistic structure of international standard English. It appeared in 2002 and was awarded the the Linguistic Society of America's Leonard Bloomfield Book Award in 2004. Since then two other books have appeared: A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (a textbook jointly authored with Rodney Huddleston in 2005) and Far From the Madding Gerund (a collection of posts from the popular Language Log site, jointly authored with Mark Liberman).
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