Structural-functional studies in English grammar

Structural-functional studies in English grammar: In honour of Lachlan Mackenzie. Ed. by Mike Hannay and Gerard J. Steen. (Studies in language companion series 83.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007. Pp. vi, 393. ISBN 9789027230935. $188 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ahmad M. Saidat, Al-Hussein Bin Talal University, Jordan

Mike Hannay and Gerard J. Steen present this collection of studies on the lexico-grammar of English. The contributors, who focus on current functional-theoretical concerns, put forward functional, functional discourse, systemic functional, role and reference, cognitive, and construction models of grammar.

Part 1 focuses on ‘Corpus-based studies’. Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen’s ‘No doubt and related expressions: A functional account’ concludes that the relationship between the meaning and the pragmatic use of such expressions should be rhetorically exploited. In ‘On certainly and zeker’, Pieter Byloo, Richard Kastein, and Jan Nuyts explain the flexible use of British certainly and Dutch zeker using data from the well-known Harry Potter books (New York: Arthur A. Levine). Evelien Keizer, ‘Prenominal possessives in English: Function and use’, investigates the circumstances that favor the use of pronominal possessives over postnominal possessives in English. She proposes a cognitive-pragmatic principle to account for their distribution. Anna Siewierska and Willem Hollmann analyze ‘Ditransitive clauses in English with special reference to Lancashire dialect’. They show that the order of the theme and the recipient can be pragmatically determined.

In ‘“It was you that told me that, wasn’t it?” It-clefts revisited in discourse’, María de los Ángeles Gómez-González discusses the use of it-clefts. Dik Bakker and Anna Siewierska, ‘Another take on the notion subject’, explain that the choice of the subject is pragmatically and semantically determined. They claim that the subject is never a free choice of the speaker. In ‘The modal auxiliaries of English, π-operators in functional grammar and “grounding”’, Louis Goossens argues that there are compelling motivations to semantically discriminate between modal auxiliaries with respect to grammaticalization. Casper de Groot’s ‘The king is on huntunge: On the relation between progressive and absentive in Old and Early Modern English’ shows that the transition from Old English to Middle English was marked by a construction that had the properties of the absentive.

Part 2, ‘The architecture of functional models’, begins with John H. Connolly’s ‘Mental context and the expression of terms within the English clause: An approach based on functional discourse grammar’, which argues that including a contextual level within the functional discourse grammar (FDG) framework should resolve some problems of linguistic description. In ‘Adverbial conjunctions in functional discourse grammar’, Kees Hengeveld and Gerry Wanders explore adverbial conjunctions in FDG, focusing on the units joined in the underlying structure. Matthew Anstey, ‘Tree tigers and tree elephants: A constructional account of English nominal compounds’, discusses English nominal compounds from the reader and the listener’s perspectives. He concludes that the use of an extended construction grammar approach is necessary. In ‘English constructions from a Dutch perspective: Where are the differences?’, Arie Verhagen shows that languages involve lower and higher levels of generality. Christopher S. Butler’s ‘Notes towards an incremental implementation of the role and reference grammar semantics-to-syntax linking algorithm for English’ paves the way for further research in the field. In ‘Grammar, flow and procedural knowledge: Structure and function at the interface between grammar and discourse’, Peter Harder argues for distinguishing between the cognitive representation of grammar and discourse. Michael Fortescue, ‘The non-linearity of speech production’, proposes that most speech processing must be nonlinear. Finally, in ‘A speaker/hearer-based grammar: The case of possessives and compounds’, Theo Janssen argues for a set of procedures and elements that clarify how interlocutors communicate.

The editors have collected an informative set of papers that enrich the field of functional grammar. This volume will be an invaluable resource for students interested in the field.