The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar
Central adjectives are said to meet four requirements:
- They can be used attributively in a noun phrase.
- They can follow copular verbs.
- They can be modified by intensifying words.
- They have comparative and superlative forms.
That’s according to the second edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, just published by Oxford University Press.
If you’re not sure what’s meant by attributively, copular, intensifying, comparative, or superlative, you can check out their definitions elsewhere in the book. Or you could read all the adjective-related entries, including adjectival, adjective clause, and adjective order, and learn more about how adjectives work.
Copyeditors aren’t called on to recite grammar terms to do their jobs. However, we can more successfully unknot problematic writing to everyone’s satisfaction if we can discover what’s really going on in a sentence. What’s the grammar behind the words?
For a book of specialized terms, Dictionary of English Grammar is easy to read, making it accessible to nonspecialists, such as copyeditors and language lovers. For example, genitive is defined as:
the case inflection typically carried by nouns (noun phrases), including pronouns, when they express possession, close association, or a range of other meanings.
The entry goes on to discuss how the genitive is marked and what the current thought is about it. It also includes examples. Many entries have not only example sentences but also quotations from linguistic scholarship to help deepen understanding. Readers will find plenty of cross-references to broaden understanding.
The obvious downfall of the book, for copyeditors at least, is that the book is in dictionary format. If you don’t already know a term, you may not be able to answer a question without some searching first. How do you know what you don’t know? However, it’s much more readable than a professional grammar book, such as The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Plus it’s more affordable.
While not a necessity for copyeditors, Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar is a nice-to-have, especially for those interested in learning more about how grammar works.
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