LING 406 - Modern English Grammar
Section: 001
Term: WN 2008
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Goals and Topics: This course is not a general review of English grammar. This course is not designed to teach stylistics or to improve one's writing competence. Finally, this is not a course in generative syntax, as applied to English. This course is, on the other hand, an exploration of what the "grammar" of English might be, from the point of view of what people actually say and write, and also from a social and institutional perspective. We will consider "traditional" structural grammar, especially as it may be tested against the facts of language in use as collected in computerized corpora. We will also consider an influential British approach to grammar, functional grammar, that emphasizes meaning over structure. Along the way, students will acquire a repertoire of terms and concepts with which to describe English grammar.

Course Conduct: Lecture/discussion format. Two short papers (c. 5 pages, double-spaced), midterm exam, term paper (c. 10 pages, double-spaced, counts double), plus final exam (counts double), for a total of seven unit grades (700 pts). Attendance is required: more than 2 unexcused absences will result in a lower grade. Bonus pts. may be awarded for outstanding participation in lecture/discussion. One of the short papers will be an assessment of arguments by the Milroys in the context of the findings in Biber et al., i.e., on the relationship of language ideologies to the facts of what people say and write. The other short paper will compare/contrast the approach of Halliday and Matthiessen to a "traditional" grammar of the student's choice. The term paper will be an application of the material of the course to a topic of interest selected by each student. Papers will require appropriate use of research resources. Plagiarism — the act of presenting someone else's work as your own, or use of the work of others without appropriate documentation — will not be tolerated; policies and penalties for plagiarism are treated on the English Dept. Web site.

Schedule: A detailed schedule for readings, papers, and exams will be posted at the beginning of the term. Students will be expected to complete reading assignments before class discussion. Lectures and discussions usually provide additional information and perspective, not just a rehash of readings, and students will be responsible for the content of the readings even if we do not explicitly cover that content in class.


  • D. Biber, S. Conrad, and G. Leech, Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Pearson/Longman, 2002. 0582237262 ($30).
  • M.A.K. Halliday and C.M.I.M. Mattiessen, An Introduction to Functional Grammar, 3rd ed. London: Arnold, 2004. 0340761679 ($45).
  • J. Milroy and L. Milroy, Authority in Language: Investigating Standard English. 3rd ed. London: Routledge, 1998. 0415174139 ($45).

LING 406 - Modern English Grammar
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MW 8:30AM - 10:00AM
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