The Reading Matrix
Vol. 3, No.1, April 2003

English Grammar
LeTourneau, M. S. (2001)
NY: Harcourt
Pp. xxi + 581
ISBN: 0-15-507825-9
Reviewed by Carmen-Pilar Serrano-Boyer
Torreón del Alcázar Secondary School, Spain

English Grammar, by Mark S. LeTourneau, is a commendable book aimed at an ample audience: university students, school language teachers, ESL students and so forth. Its design is very didactic and learner-centred; a noticeable merit of this book is that it includes summaries after every section (sometimes even subsection) and at the end of every individual chapter. A wide variety of exercises is also offered for the reader to synthesize what the author has expounded in every chapter; sometimes LeTourneau uses homophones or ambiguous structures to make funny sentences and, consequently, more enjoyable exercises. In addition to providing section and chapter summaries, there is an alphabetically ordered list of key terms per chapter, every boldfaced term is defined in a very useful glossary at the end of the book.

English Grammar contains fourteen chapters, organized in four parts. The different parts are the following:

Part 1 includes an easy-to-understand introduction to grammar which explains the different methods that grammarians use to study grammar, why it should be studied, etc. This part is the shortest in the book, just one chapter; however, after reading it, you may have already decided to use LeTourneau's book for studying, reviewing or teaching grammar, bearing in mind that Standard American English is the dialect studied in the following chapters.

The second part, entitled "Core Concepts", focuses on the study of simple structures and comprises chapters 2-5. Chapter 2 introduces the four form classes (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) and Chapter 3 the four structure classes (prepositions, pronouns, determiners and conjunctions). Both chapters provide clarifying examples and well-designed exercises. Chapter 4 deals with constituency. In this chapter the author analyzes sentences into smaller syntactic units and starts using tree diagrams to identify the different constituents. Chapter 5 makes clear what a simple sentence is and the constituents into which it can be divided. As an EFL teacher, I found the section on object complements and the passive interesting because it shows some differences between American English and British English.

"Extending the Core Concepts" is the third part, which includes chapters 6-10 and amplifies the grammatical concepts explained in the second part. These chapters analyze more complex sentences than those in the previous part. Chapter 6 proves that the same strategies can be used to analyze the different phrase types because they all have a head and can have modifiers, adverbial phrases are the only ones that cannot take complements. Chapters 7-10 concentrate on multiclausal sentences and help the reader to distinguish the different types of coordinate and subordinate clauses. Diagramming these types of clauses can be an arduous task to some students, but LeTourneau provides plenty of examples and exercises to encourage them to break this barrier. I especially liked Chapter 9, "Relative Clauses", since the author starts by explaining briefly and clearly what an adjective or relative clause is and then gradually takes the reader through both restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. The exercises in this chapter are very well devised and the reader has to classify, punctuate, analyze and use tree diagrams to demonstrate relative clauses.

Part 4, "Applications", contains Chapters 11-14. In the last part LeTourneau justifies the study of grammar as a separate subject and states that a good grammatical knowledge is essential to error analysis, cohesion, punctuation and also the study of literature. Chapter 11 is directed at helping teachers to choose the strategies that are supposed to be the best for teaching grammar. In this chapter the author makes clear his preference for tree diagrams instead of Reed-Kellogg diagrams, highlighting the advantages tree diagrams have. Chapter 12 centres on style. LeTourneau proves that different grammatical options can be used to obtain the most suitable sentence for the rhetorical situation. Stylistic analysis and revision are two of the strategies suggested by the author of English Grammar to determine the level of formality of a text and, why not, to rectify one's own stylistic faults. Chapter 13 deals with cohesion, punctuation and errors. Particularly interesting is the section on errors, which starts by explaining the difference between 'error', systematic deviation, and 'mistake', accidental deviation. LeTourneau marks three sources of errors: dialect interference, overgeneralization and, finally, the act of writing itself. He suggests that teachers should first analyze the source of students' errors and then decide which method is the most appropriate for them to correct their students in a pedagogically effective and efficient way. Chapter 14, the last one, is devoted to the connection between grammar and literature; fiction, poetry and drama can also be analyzed grammatically to understand and value the style of a writer, a period and so forth.

I am absolutely sure that LeTourneau has made every effort to make this book understandable, enlightening and engaging. The result is a clearly presented book with plenty of exercises, a wide range of examples and a very useful cross-referenced glossary. English Grammar also includes an extensive index, really effective to find the names or concepts referred to in the different chapters, and an interesting bibliography that provides further sources for the readers who wish to continue improving their knowledge of grammar.

Unfortunately, this book does not include answers to exercises, which would have been a helpful user-friendly addition because it could have enabled students to utilize the book in class as well as to study by themselves, and in this way, become aware of their own learning process. The level of the exercises does justice to the contents of the book.

A minor critique is that since the glossary includes very easy concepts for university students ('singular', 'plural', 'masculine', 'feminine', 'third person', etc), it should also have included some more difficult concepts that students will have to look up somewhere else, for example 'taxonomy', 'writer's grammar', 'homonymous' and so forth. Apart from this, I have nothing but praise for Mark S. LeTourneau's English Grammar.

To sum up, I found the book definitely valuable for both university students and secondary-school language teachers. I would highly recommend this elaborate book to anyone who is interested in the main features of the English grammar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Carmen-Pilar Serrano-Boyer is an EFL teacher at IES Torreón del Alcázar, a state secondary school in Ciudad Real, Spain. She has been teaching English for twelve years. She is the Head of the English Department.