Margaret M. Bryant's Work in Linguistics

Allen Walker Read
1974 Names  
WHEN ONE CONSIDERSthe full range of Miss Bryant's activities -her administrative work, her committee work, her arranging of programs, her world-wide travels with lectures on the way, her sponsoring of innumerable projects and causes -it seems incredible that she should also have had time to be a scholar. And yet in the long run she will no doubt be known for her scholarship. Time and again her early work has been brought back into print. This is true of her earliest book, English in the Law
more » ... ts, first published in 1930, and then reprinted in 1962, in response to continued demand both from the legal profession and from linguists. The particular amalgam that has characterized Miss Bryant's work can be seen in this first volume. This "amalgam" consists, in my opinion, of her mixture of the concrete and the abstract: she has the superlative skill of taking a great mass of concrete detail, organizing it into a reasonable pattern, and drawing generalizations from it. In this first book her concrete details were taken from judicial decisions on word use, and yet the result was the delineation of the principal "form-words" of English. "Form-words" had not received much attention up to that time, and yet later they were shown to be central to the system of Charles C. Fries and other structuralists. Few scholars have had such good fortune in studying an area so central to their interests in their doctoral dissertations. This set the groundwork, so that she went forward to produce her Functional English Grammar 15 years later. Though the winds of grammatical doctrine have been blowing hither and yon for the past three decades, this work of Miss Bryant's has maintained a solid position. It is difficult to supersede a work that records the facts of structural relationships in an orderly way. In the Preface to her Grammar she noted one of the difficulties that she had while writing it. As she said, "While attempting to present the grammar of Modern English against its historical background, which is the only method leading to adequate comprehension, I have attempted to exclude instruction properly belonging to a textbook on the history of the English language." She filled out this second area three years later when she published her Modern English and Its Heritage, which went into its second edition 14 years later, in 1962. This established her reputation not only in grammar and usage, but also in the external * Remarks given at the luncheon in honor of Margaret M. Bryant,
doi:10.1179/nam.1974.22.3.82 fatcat:ckk27txfhzevnhx6zv7vjvayvi