Grammar! For many of us, the word triggers memories of finger-wagging schoolteachers, and of wrestling with the ambiguous and complicated rules of using formal language. But what is grammar? In fact, it's the integral basis of how we speak and write.
As such, a refined awareness of grammar opens a world of possibilities for both your pleasure in the English language and your skill in using it, in both speech and the written word. As a foundation for writing, a detailed grounding in grammar and usage will hugely expand your resources for meaningful verbal expression, for navigating the subtleties of the language, and for achieving clarity of communication and stylistic power.
In English Grammar Boot Camp, linguist and popular Great Courses instructor Professor Curzan takes you on an enjoyable exploration of the essential aspects of English grammar. These 24 spirited and accessible lectures offer you a comprehensive core training - a linguistic "boot camp," by which we mean a thorough immersion in all of the key elements of English grammar and usage, in their most immediate, practical application.
Here you get a breadth of perspective and context you won't find elsewhere, leaving you with a more choices and rich verbal resources for your own use of the language. In discussing the different parts of speech, Professor Curzan directs your attention to how the element at hand evolved. Highlighting reflections from 18th- and 19th-century usage guides as well as from multiple modern commentators, she guides you in examining real-world language use in a variety of contexts, helping you develop a sophisticated frame of reference and a deep awareness of the idiosyncrasies of English.
This delightful and superbly insightful course offers you a unique opportunity to explore the linguistic riches of the English language, and to significantly deepen your mastery of grammar, usage, and style.
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Among The Great Courses series on language, which are all excellent, I rate this one in the middle of the pack. It depends on what type of learning you want.
Anne Curzan's first audio series "The Secret Life of Words" is one of my favorites titles on Audible, so I was both excited to listen this new course, and curious: How would this descriptivist linguist, who's quick to point out that English has many grammars, teach a English Grammar Boot Camp?
I am pleased to report that Professor Curzan navigates the territory with great ease. Yes, she reminds us, the English language is not static. No, there is not one authoritative grammar. But there is a concept of "standard English," and while much of that has changed over time and debate persists over certain rules, you're listening to this series because you want to understand those rules and potential pitfalls, and Curzan brilliantly covers it all with humor, humility, and insight.
You will learn the rules of usage, and you will also learn the origins of those rules, the logic behind them (if there is any), and how the rules of what's considered proper may be changing over time.
It should also surprise no one familiar with Curzan's other courses that you will learn the differences between spoken English and written English, and how what's considered proper in one form may be unacceptable in the other.
I love Curzan's descriptions of the things she learns from her students. She describes how she frequently calls on them, as young users of the language, to help her document changes in usage as those changes enter the mainstream.
She describes, among other things, how texting has its own grammar and punctuation, and makes the point that while some of us might view this as simply "bad english," there are in fact meaningful rules that are unique to the medium.
Absolutely not. It's quite long, and dense with information. I typically listened to two chapters a day.
For those who are prescriptivists looking to hone your sense of "proper" usage, you will no doubt find everything you're looking for, but prepare to also be humbled. It is inevitable that some rule you were taught in school and remembered all these years will be questioned.
This very review, up through the previous sentence, is filled with grammar and punctuation that defies some conventional rules, yet falls into the category of modern acceptable usage. Curzan explains those distinctions, with particular focus on those words and rules that tend to trip us up the most, such as:
That rule about never ending a sentence with a proposition
Apostrophes, dashes, semicolons, and the oxford comma
Who, whom, pronoun agreement, and all the other prounoun issues that trip us up
Which vs. that, and relative pronouns
Octopuses or octopi, and all the ways plurals trip us up
Lie vs. lay, past tense vs. past participle
Helping verbs, shall, can, may etc.
She will often stop short of declaring that a common usage is correct or incorrect, but will point out that if you make certain choices -- particularly in writing -- prepare to be judged.
It's a unique, refreshing, and entertaining approach to grammar study. Highly recommended for the usage nerd in us all.
I learned so much! Great job Anne!
- Mervin Brown