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Book review
Handbook of Spoken Grammar review

A Handbook of
Spoken Grammar

Paterson, Caygill
& Sewell

(Delta Publishing)

Review written by Alistair Dickinson

A very useful addition to speaking skills development arrived on my desk today. A Handbook of Spoken Grammar by Paterson, Caygill & Sewell (Delta publishing) is a self-study book for intermediate upwards. They explain 'spoken grammar' as 'elements of natural conversation that have always existed, but have often been excluded from the traditional grammar syllabus. Recent research has begun to identify and describe this language.'

So where are they getting their data on spoken English from? On the Delta website they comment: 'The corpora that had the greatest influence on the book were the Longman Spoken and Written English Corpus, and the Cambridge International Corpus (particularly the CANCODE element), but the primary research with these corpora was done by the authors of the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English and the Cambridge Grammar of English!'

Each of the twenty units takes up four pages, the first two explaining & raising awareness & the latter two provide practice tasks. The cd is used in both parts & there is a key at the back of the book.

The book begins with ellipsis in questions - 'More cake?', 'What's on?', coming up later on in the 'Say Less' unit that involves other aspects. Discrete areas examined include know & think, actually, really, I mean, you see, sort of, kind of, had better, have got to. The unit on interjections looks at uses of Oh, ow, wow ouch, oops, yuck. - utterances that students wonder about but don't tend to investigate. Other areas include vague language, described as 'a more relaxed way of speaking to people', &, at last(!), more natural ways of expressing reported speech. Statements said as questions are given useful space - I sometimes have difficulty deciding if I'm being asked a question or not, so students are likely to misread.

The awareness pages present the features through written explanations & contextualise with short dialogues to read & listen to. Among the practice tasks are rewriting, dialogue completion, matching, error identification & feature identification. There are also usually one or two Extension tasks at the end of each unit. All suited to self-study.

Although mainly promoted as a self-study book the authors do suggest using the material in class. It could all easily be integrated into the speaking syllabus of most courses.

In summary, a very useful addition to our bookshelves, another step towards helping our students develop natural English. Recommend it to them.

Handbook of Spoken Grammar review
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