30 Jan 2010

Academics to crack 'vague' English language rules

7:19 am on 30 January 2010

A Victoria University professor is to be paid more than $600,000 to find out how the English language works.

Three leading international linguists are to apply their combined knowledge of word formations, in an attempt to understand why and when certain words are used.

One of the team, Professor Lauri Bauer of Victoria University, says while some languages are well understood, the rules for English remain vague.

"It's a gap in the literature ... which given that English is probably the best described language in the world is rather surprising," he says.

"There are books available on the morphology of Arabic or the morphology of Dutch, but there is no single book that just deals with the morphology of English."

He says the research should take three years and will culminate in a book.