Introduction to live grammar: A grammar of English centered on the verb

Introduction to live grammar: A grammar of English centered on the verb. By Norma Corrales-Martin. Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2012. Pp. 70. ISBN 9783862883493. $59.
Reviewed by John Ryan, University of Northern Colorado

This short book is the author’s initial attempts to apply to English the principles of her previously released Gramática viva (2000) (translated as Live grammar) of Spanish, which has its basis on the verb. Following the pattern of her original book which used the corpus containing a combined total of 500 songs and sayings from Spain and Latin America, this book draws on twenty-five songs from The Beatles lyrics (1992) to demonstrate the applicability of this grammar’s approach to English. In explaining her shift in focus from the traditional view of the subject as the primary constituent of the sentence to now that of the verb, the author uses the metaphor of the center of the universe, which up until Galileo’s discovery was thought to be the Earth and not the sun.

The book consists of six chapters, the first of which is a brief introduction to the author’s purpose and rationale. Ch. 2 begins with a history of the literature on grammars that focus on the verb, and ends with an overview of what is different about a ‘live’ grammar. Chs. 3 and 4, each less than a page long, deal with a brief rationale for use of the corpus as well as methodological considerations and nomenclature used throughout the book. Ch. 5, the most extensive chapter, begins with working definitions utilized by the author throughout the book. Main topics include the concepts of sentence and grammatical categories, as well as the different relationships established between grammatical categories of the sentence, including morphosyntactic, morphological, and semantic. This last area is supported by seventeen pages of tables with comprehensive supporting information. Ch. 7 is the final chapter of the book and serves as the conclusion, suggesting why live grammar is a revolutionary approach. It also makes recommendations for use of the book as a teaching tool for both second and native language learners of English. Numbered chapters are followed by four appendices with additional tables and the sample analysis of four Beatles’ songs.

The book is an innovative approach to the explanation of grammatical concepts that starts with the verb as a focal point. It is a first step in demonstrating the crosslinguistic applicability of this method, using English as a point of reference. Now that live grammar has been demonstrated as a viable option for both English and Spanish, what would make the enterprise even more powerful is to expand the analysis and show how it works for other languages both within and outside the Indo-European family. This would extend the usefulness of the approach beyond learners of English or Spanish to linguists who are interested in language more generally.