Thursday, September 21, 2006

Top 10 books on the English language

David Crystal is one the world's foremost linguistic experts. His latest book, The Fight for English assesses the debate over rights and wrongs in English usage, with examples from early modern English by way of Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson to modern developments such as email and texting.

Unhappy with the "zero tolerance" approach to punctuation offered by Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, David Crystal offers a view of the subject that is much more balanced. The book explains why he believes that when it comes to spelling and grammar, we should say no to zero tolerance.

Crystal chose his favorite books on the English language for the Guardian. Demonstrating he's not fickle, the top 5 are the same he named back in June.
Here are a couple of titles from the rest of the list:

A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartvik

This was the grammar I had been waiting for since the 1960s - the first real "reference grammar" of modern times. If you think of a dictionary as a reference lexicon - a book in which you can look up any word you want and find out all about it - then this book did the same for grammar - or, at least, it moved closer to that goal than any previous work had done. The Quirk Grammar, as it is often called, is still the book to which I most often refer when exploring a point of English grammatical usage.

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage by Pam Peters

If you find it helpful to go to Fowler, Gowers, Partridge, or any of the other famous pundits of the past for advice about English usage, then you will value this book. It is the first usage guide to benefit from the computer age. It is solidly based on a corpus of real data, and it is the first book to be truly international, providing information about differences between British, American, Australian, and other regional variants of English. It points the way forward towards the new, internet-fuelled genre of usage guides that will surely emerge in the present century.

Click here to read about all 10 titles.

--Marshal Zeringue