Rodney Desmond Huddleston
Born (1937-04-04) 4 April 1937 (age 87)
  • British
  • Australian
Alma mater
Known for
  • Joan Mulholland (1965–78)
  • Cheryll Jacklin (1978-1985)
  • Vivienne Pool (1988–)
  • Leonard Bloomfield Book Award (2004; shared with Geoff Pullum)
  • Fellow, Australian Academy of the Humanities, awarded a Personal Chair
  • 'Excellence in Teaching' award
  • Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and the humanities in the study of linguistics
Scientific career
ThesisDescriptive and comparative analysis of text in French and English (1963)
Doctoral advisorMichael Halliday
Doctoral studentsFrancis Bond

Rodney D. Huddleston (born 4 April 1937) is a British linguist and grammarian specializing in the study and description of English.

Huddleston is the primary author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (ISBN 0-521-43146-8), which presents a comprehensive descriptive grammar of English.

Early life and education

Huddleston was born in Cheshire, England and attended Manchester Grammar School. Upon graduation, he spent two years in the military before enrolling at Cambridge with a scholarship.[1]

After graduating from Cambridge University in 1960 with a First Class Honors degree in Modern and Medieval Languages, Huddleston earned his PhD in Applied Linguistics[2] from the University of Edinburgh in 1963 under the supervision of Michael Halliday.[1]

Academic career

Huddleston held lectureships at the University of Edinburgh, University College London, and the University of Reading. He moved to The University of Queensland in 1969, where he remained for the rest of his career. He was the recipient of the first round of 'Excellence in Teaching' awards at the University of Queensland in 1988. In 1990 he was awarded a Personal Chair.[3] He is currently an emeritus professor at the University of Queensland, where he taught until 1997.

Under Halliday

For some time, Huddleston ran a project under Halliday in the Communications Research Centre at The University of London called the “OSTI Programme in the Linguistic Properties of Scientific English.”[4] (OSTI was the UK government's Office for Scientific and Technical Information.)[5] As a student of Halliday's, Huddleston was a proponent of Systemic Functional Grammar,[4] but as his thinking developed, he came to reject it.[6]

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language


In 1988, Huddleston published a very critical review of the 1985 book A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language.[7] He wrote:

[T]here are some respects in which it is seriously flawed and disappointing. A number of quite basic categories and concepts do not seem to have been thought through with sufficient care; this results in a remarkable amount of unclarity and inconsistency in the analysis, and in the organization of the grammar.[7]

A year later, he decided that he would have to produce a grammar that did a better job. He was awarded a special projects grant by The University of Queensland to the project and began work on what was provisionally titled The Cambridge Grammar of English.[n 1] From 1989 to 1995, workshops were held two or three times a year in Brisbane and Sydney to develop ideas for the framework and content.[8]

Intellectually, these were intense and exhausting sessions but they were associated with extremely enjoyable social gatherings. In some ways it is the social side of these events that lingers in the memory long after the details of linguistic discussion are forgotten. We remember particularly dawn jogs to Alexandra Beach from Rodney’s house at Sunshine Beach, pool volleyball and table tennis games fought with great ferocity, and walks through Noosa National Park with spectacular sunsets over Noosa Bay.[1]: xi 

Geoff Pullum joined the project in 1995,[9] after Huddleston "bemoaned the problems he was having in maintaining the momentum of this huge project, at that time already five years underway".[10]

Publication and reception

The book was published in 2002. In 2004, Peter Culicover wrote:

The Cambridge grammar of the English language (CGEL) is a monumentally impressive piece of work. Already published reviews of this work do not overstate its virtues: 'a notable achievement'; 'authoritative, interesting, reasonably priced (for a book of this size), beautifully designed, well proofread, and enjoyable to handle'; 'superbly produced and designed'; 'one of the most superb works of academic scholarship ever to appear on the English linguistics scene ... a monumental work that offers easily the most comprehensive and thought-provoking treatment of English grammar to date. Nothing rivals this work, with respect to breadth, depth and consistency of coverage'. I fully agree with these sentiments. Huddleston, Pullum, and collaborators definitely deserve a prize for this achievement.[11]: 127 

That same year, the book won the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award of the Linguistic Society of America.[12]


Huddleston's grammatical frameworks, such as that in the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, have been monotonic phrase-structure grammars, similar to X-bar theory but with explicit notation for syntactic functions such as subject, modifier, and complement.[13] Monotonic phrase-structure grammars are based on the idea that the structure of sentences can be represented as a hierarchy of constituents, with each level of the hierarchy corresponding to a different level of grammatical organization. X-bar theory is a specific type of phrase-structure grammar that posits a uniform structure for all phrasal categories, with each phrase containing a "head" and optional specifier and/or complement.

The key difference between monotonic phrase-structure grammars and generative grammars like transformational-generative grammar (TGG) is the absence of transformations or movement operations in the former. Monotonic grammars maintain that the structure of a sentence remains fixed from its initial formation, whereas generative grammars propose that sentences can undergo various transformations during the derivation process.

He believes that some kind of fusion of functions accounts for noun phrases that lack noun heads.[14]


In 1999, a festschrift volume was produced "by colleagues past and present, friends and admirers of Rodney Huddleston, in order to honour his consistently outstanding contribution to grammatical theory and description": The Clause in English: In Honour of Rodney Huddleston.[15]

Huddleston and his wife Vivienne now reside on Sunshine Coast, near Noosa Heads in Queensland, Australia.[16][17]


  1. ^ The eventual title – whose obvious abbreviation CGEL was already in wide use for A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language – was imposed by the publisher. Pullum, Geoffrey K. (29 July 2002). "Some points of agreement about the Cambridge Grammar". Linguist List. Archived from the original on 8 March 2023. Retrieved 8 March 2023.


  1. ^ a b c Collins, Peter; Lee, David, eds. (1999). "Curriculum Vitae of Rodney Desmond Huddleston". The Clause in English: In Honour of Rodney Huddleston. Studies in Language Companion Series. Vol. 45. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing. p. xvii. ISBN 978-90-272-3048-5. ISSN 0165-7763. LCCN 98-39788. OCLC 39695769.
  2. ^ R. D., Huddleston (1963). "Descriptive and comparative analysis of text in French and English". hdl:1842/17537.
  3. ^ Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (25 April 2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language: About the Author. ISBN 9780521527613. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b O'Donnell, Mick. Life of Michael Alexander Kirkwook Halliday: A Personal Biography (PDF).
  5. ^ Sinclair, John; Jones, Susan; Daley, Robert (22 September 2004). English Collocation Studies: The OSTI Report. A&C Black. ISBN 978-0-8264-7489-6.
  6. ^ Huddleston, Rodney (1988). "Constituency, multi-functionality and grammaticalization in Halliday's Functional Grammar". Journal of Linguistics. 24 (1): 137–174. doi:10.1017/S0022226700011592. ISSN 0022-2267. S2CID 145197674.
  7. ^ a b Huddleston, Rodney (1988). "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, Jan Svartvik". Language. 64: 345–354. doi:10.2307/415437. JSTOR 415437.
  8. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey K.; Huddleston, Rodney. "Preface". In Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (eds.). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. xv–xvii. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.
  9. ^ Culicover, Peter W. (2004). Review of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Language. 80 (1): 127–141. doi:10.1353/lan.2004.0018. ISSN 1535-0665. S2CID 140478848.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link) Also a preprint (with different pagination).
  10. ^ Crystal, David (2002). "Indexing aids" (PDF). Review of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. The Indexer. 23: 108–109.
  11. ^ Culicover, Peter W. (2004). Review of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Language. 80 (1): 127–141. doi:10.1353/lan.2004.0018. ISSN 1535-0665. S2CID 140478848.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link) Also a preprint (with different pagination).
  12. ^ "Leonard Bloomfield Book Award Previous Holders". Linguistic Society of America. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  13. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey K.; Rogers, James (2009). "Expressive power of the syntactic theory implicit in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language". Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (PDF). pp. 1–16.
  14. ^ Payne, John; Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2007). "Fusion of functions: The syntax of once, twice and thrice". Journal of Linguistics. 43 (3): 565–603. doi:10.1017/s002222670700477x. ISSN 0022-2267. S2CID 145799573.
  15. ^ Collins, Peter and David A. Lee (1999). The Clause in English: In Honour of Rodney Huddleston. John Benjamins Publishing.
  16. ^ "A Student's Introduction to English Grammar". Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  17. ^ Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series v. 141. 2006. pp. 219–221. Archived from the original on 24 February 2016.

Partial bibliography