In this essay I intend to investigate how differently one of the closed word classes, determiners, are approached in a series of pre and post corpus-based English grammar reference books, course books and practice books. And the theme of my investigation is how corpus affects the development of English teaching materials. The grammar reference books I intend to analyze and compare are “A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language” (ACGEL) and “Cambridge Grammar of English” (CGE). The former is an indispensable grammar reference book first published in 1985, which has been widely consulted in researches in relation to English linguistic studies, while the later offers clear explanations of both spoken and written English grammar based on authentic everyday usage.
What are determiners?
Cambridge Grammar of English offers the definition of determiners:
“Determiners indicate the type of reference made by the noun phrase (e.g. definite, indefinite, possessive); they also indicate number or quantity (e.g. six, much, some). Determiners come in front position in noun phrases, before adjectives and noun modifiers.” (CGE p. 353)
“Determiners are the words which are most frequently used in English language.”From the definition provided by CGE, we could conclude that determiners consist of words like articles, quantifiers, numerals, etc. Many of them could also function as pronoun, which usually confuse the learners.
What are the influences of corpus on grammar reference books?
1. Presenting sequences
Both of the reference books explain the determiners carefully and provide the learners with a comprehensive knowledge in relation to the determiners. In terms of the presentation sequences, ACGEL adopts the traditional step-by-step way to present various usages of determiners. It first distinguishes determiners into three categories:Ⅰ.predeterminers, Ⅱ.centraldeterminers and Ⅲ.postdeterminers; this categorization is based on their position in the noun phrase in relation to each other (ACGEL. p. ). And then ACGEL defines a fixed word order of these three categories in noun phrases as Ⅰ+Ⅱ+Ⅲ. In each category of the determiners, ACGEL afterwards carefully classifies their subclasses.
With regard to the categories of determiners, CGE does not offer a standard categorization, but provides the readers with a word list which contains all the determiners, and as to those words which have more than one grammatical function are explained with numerous examples later. According to my own experience, from second language learners’ perspective, a specific word list of an entire word class could dramatically help L2 learners to build their knowledge of certain syntactic phenomenon in relation to the meaning, distribution and function.
While ACGEL follows the traditional presentation sequences, CGE emphasizes the specific usages of determiners; “it starts presenting with four principle ways in which determiners occur in noun phrases; these rules almost cover all...