Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This book provides a general introduction to morphology (the structure of words) and syntax (the structure of phrases and sentences). By “general” I mean that it is not specifically a book about the grammar of English, or of any other particular language. Rather, it provides a foundation for analyzing and describing the grammatical structure of any human language. Of course, because the book is written in English it uses English examples to illustrate a number of points, especially in the area of syntax; but examples from many other languages are discussed as well.
The book is written for beginners, assuming only some prior knowledge of the most basic vocabulary for talking about language. It is intended to be usable as a first step in preparing students to carry out fieldwork on under-described languages. For this reason some topics are included which are not normally addressed in an introductory course, including the typology of case and agreement systems, gender systems, pronoun systems, and a brief introduction to the semantics of tense, aspect, and modality. This is not a book about linguistic field methods, but issues of methodology are addressed in various places. The overall goal is to help students write good descriptive grammars. Some basic formal notations are introduced, but equal emphasis is given to prose description of linguistic structures.