English Grammar Revealed

What the English Grammars have been Missing

About the work of Prof.Em. C.-J. N. Bailey

In the essays below on this website, I have been trying to say something pertinent about the problem of learning to read and write English intelligently, and I have laid out a few basic thoughts on English Grammar as a practical introduction to this thorny subject.

On the one hand I have on my desk a foot high pile of some of the current English Grammars which students in school or college are using. Having perused them with some care, I can only say that most obscure rather than elucidate the situation, following as they do the old notions of Latin derived grammatical thinking. English is a very different language from Latin, it is radically different as it has evolved over the last thousand years. Historically English has been heavily influenced by French since the Norman Period in many structural functions, it has inherited some vocabulary from an ancient Germanic source tracing back to Indo-European, but it has on its own invention turned into an almost completely un-inflected language, with a grammatical simplicity approaching that of Chinese.

On the other hand, simplifying grammar invites myriad specialized functions to make up the other things a language must have, and English has evolved (and is still evolving) idiosyncratic ways of expressing all sorts of specialized notions. These must be examined separately and individually as they stand, and the only way to get at this tangled linguistic undergrowth is to go back from the books to the living language and see how people say the things they want to communicate.

At this point I want to introduce to you the work of Charles-James Bailey, whose new English Grammar is now online and a startling break with the standard approaches. Bailey has vast experience with English, having studied English for decades in a wide swath of studies, basing his analyses on what English speakers are actually accustomed to say, rather than what the English language theorists think they should be saying.

I advise anyone who is serious about English to read deeply into Bailey's' analysis. He does not write for easy access, he has no interest in dumbing-down his research to become accessible to casual reader, and reading his stuff is clearly hard work. But the rewards are clear. After reading his pages you will have a different idea of what English is about, and you will not be able to go back to a traditional English Grammar. Bailey has done the research, which he has put together with a clear conceptualizing mind, and the only remarkable thing about his work is that nobody else seems to have thought of these things before. Bailey makes sense!

Here are the connections you need to access this material, which is available from his formal website as well.:

The Grammar begins with Part A

Links at the end of A connect to L83B and links at the end of L83B connect to the (interesting !?!) Appendixes on L83C.

Each part of the Website has a Table of Contents page and so with next TOC

For further study of his work go to Bailey's full website

Link to Bailey's Website

At this point I realize there is nothing more for me to say. My essays on English below may provide some idea of the problems which beset our school students, but they merely scratch the surface, the tundra of which Bailey has ventured to traverse. If you find his text hard, do not despair because the reward is there at the end, in terms of understanding more about the language which we have been using all along.

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College