A Philosopher-Grammarian Gets Something Right

Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept 07, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Michael Dummett wrote some of the most dense prose I ever had the displeasure of reading, so it's hard to imagine enjoying his book on grammar. But as Geoffrey Pullum writes, although Dummett's book contains a fair degree of crank, it also offers some surprisingly lucid advice on defining parts of speech. Verbs are not 'doing' words, they're words that can vary in tense. Subjects are not 'things', they are words that play a specific role in a sentence. "Being a subject is not an enduring trait of any word, like being an adverb; it is a role played within a sentence by a word or phrase, which may play a different role in other sentences." Good stuff. Image: Columbia.

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