Books: Grammar and the shark's fin

THE SYMBOLIC SPECIES: The Co-evolution of Language and the Human Brain by Terrence Deacon, Allen Lane pounds 20

Books: Word imperfect

Language is Power by John Honey Faber & Faber, pounds 8.99; Colin MacCabe attacks the sloppy Sixties liberalism that deprived the poorest children of a command of standard English, and calls for a modern way to teach grammar in our schools

Review: Aiming high, but falling short

THEATRE

Letter: Language is beyond grammar

Sir: Peter Brodie (Letters, 28 August) mentions "tarring and feathering is too good for him" as an example where we use a singular verb because "tarring and feathering" is seen as a singular subject. But what about this: "More than one person is present"? Here we have a subject that is explicitly plural, with a singular verb.

Letter: What teachers do

Sir: Mrs A Fuller (letter, 14 August) asks how it is possible to qualify as an English teacher without understanding English grammar. I share her dismay. I found English grammar an arduous ordeal until I was taught Latin. Maybe some knowledge of Latin should be a prerequisite for English teachers.

Letter: Young masters

Sir: The current phenomenon of youthful political leadership might more accurately be labelled "neontocracy" rather than engineer a dubious linguistic hybrid "juventocracy" (Letters, 21 June). Or better still, in deference to William Pitt jnr and other youthful precursors, "neo-neontocracy".

Awful charms of an imaginary Bedlam

The Dumb House by John Burnside, Cape, pounds 8.99; Roz Kaveney interprets a terrifying fable of western reason run amok

Foreign language a strong currency

The other day a newly qualified accountant found himself a new job on a salary of pounds 43,000 - even in these booming times for finance professionals a cut or two above the average. The reason? He is fluent in a foreign language.

Teachers to boycott grammar tests

English teachers have agreed to support a boycott of new, formal grammar tests for 14-year-old pupils. Members of the National Association for the Teaching of English have backed a boycott if the tests, to be piloted next month, become compulsory next year. They say that the new tests are not the best way to improve pupils' grammar.

Linguistics

Theories about the early formation of the rules of English grammar have been thrown into confusion by the discovery in an attic in Soho of an old manuscript bearing what are believed to be primitive song lyrics. The manuscript, which is thought to date from the early middle or late beginning of the 20th century, includes verb formations that have mystified grammarians.

Books: A couple of words about a life sentence

MONOGAMY by Adam Phillips, Faber pounds 8.99

Books: Paradise rediscovered

Peter Ackroyd's fictional account of Milton's flight to the New World crackles with wit. By Lucy Hughes-Hallett; Milton in America by Peter Ackroyd Sinclair-Stevenson, pounds 15.99

Letter: Translators in the courts

Sir: Your article of 8 May, "Lost in translation", rightly highlights the problems of communication across language and culture which may deny non-English speakers equal access to justice and social services. However, since the creation of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters in 1994, users and providers of public services are able to locate qualified and experienced interpreters who are specialised in local government, health care or police and court interpreting. Also, since 1994, colleges throughout the UK provide courses leading to the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting, which the Institute of Linguists awards.

Usage and abusage : RADIO

LORD REITH can stop turning in his grave, smooth down his legendary dinner-jacket and rest in peace for another year. The Reith Lectures (R4) are over and they weren't so bad after all. Fears that the Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language would storm the mighty citadel of proper English dissolved into nothing, empty and unfounded.
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