The Reading List: Grammar

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The Independent Culture


'Eats, Shoots & Leaves' by Lynne Truss, Profile Books, £9.99

Truss's light-hearted and accessible read became an international best-seller when it was published in 2003. Prompted by her anger at the missing apostrophe in the 2002 Hugh Grant rom-com Two Weeks Notice, the former host of Radio 4's Cutting a Dash bemoans the state of the English language, examining the modern use (or misuse) of commas, apostrophes, semicolons and exclamation marks. She looks at the history of punctuation and the damaging effect of email and the internet on modern prose. It has become a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in linguistics.


'A History of the English Language' by Albert C Baugh & Thomas Cable, Routledge, £24.99

The definitive work in its field, Baugh's comprehensive and detailed analysis was first published in 1951 and has continued to be updated and reissued ever since. Beginning with a look at the Middle Ages, Baugh traces the evolution of modern grammar and language with aplomb.


'The Mother Tongue' by Bill Bryson, Penguin, £9.99

In his characteristic wry style, Bryson, best known for his tongue-in-cheek travel memoirs, takes a rollicking look at the origins and evolution of the English language. How did it become so internationally dominant? How did today's version emerge? Where do dialects come from? Packed with anecdotes, nuggets of wisdom and hilarious instances of grammar gone wrong, The Mother Tongue offers an accessible, refreshing survey of the linguistic landscape.


'The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language' by David Crystal, Cambridge University Press, £28.99

One of the world's foremost linguistic experts, Crystal has authored numerous tomes on the history and study of the English language, though this, with its full-colour illustrations and exhaustive index, is arguably the most comprehensive. A useful guide for anyone – from the interested layperson to the most widely read of academics.


'Ulysses' by James Joyce, Penguin Modern Classics, £9.99

Playing with the boundaries of what is grammatically correct, Joyce departs from normal convention to experiment with stream of consciousness, vocabulary, and creative punctuation.