What are the contemporary schools of linguistics?

Which of them are more influential and which are more promising?

Which schools do the following books on English grammars belong to:

  • Huddleston & Pullum (2002), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language

  • McCawley (2nd ed., 1998), The Syntactic Phenomena of English

  • Quirk et al. (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language


  • 1
    What do you mean by "schools" here? Even within a particular subfield, it's not nearly as simple as "everyone is either a generativist or a structuralist".
    – Draconis
    Jul 31, 2023 at 22:20
  • 2
    McCawley refused to give a name to his theory, but it's essentially a modern updated version of generative semantics (not a Chomskyan generative theory)
    – jlawler
    Jul 31, 2023 at 23:31
  • 1
    @Draconis Isn't structuralism outdated or has been replaced? Are the current major linguistic schools generative, transformational generative, and functional ones?
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2023 at 3:25
  • 1
    Thanks. What differences are between McCawleyan, Chomskyan, and the current most popular/promising version of generative theory (if not one of the two)? @jlawler
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2023 at 3:32
  • @Tim Linguistic theories never get outdated. There are still people calling themselves grammarians talking about English having 6 tenses, just like Latin. And none of them work, anyway; they're theories about grammar, and all grammars leak, as Sapir put it.
    – jlawler
    Aug 1, 2023 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis is an excellent book for getting an overview of many distinct paradigms in modern linguistics. Indeed, the introduction says that that is its aim.

It includes chapters on a variety of modern approaches to linguistics, including:

  • cognitive grammar
  • categorial grammar
  • cartographic syntax
  • embodied construction grammar (ECG)
  • dependency grammar
  • minimalism
  • the natural semantic metalanguage
  • lexical functional grammar
  • functional discourse grammar
  • neurolinguistics
  • and much more

I can try to update this answer with a summary of each approach.

To quote the introduction:

The main objective of this handbook is to have current influential approaches to linguistic analysis represented and to provide the reader with a convenient means of comparing and evaluating the various approaches.

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  • 1
    Very good coverage of Western linguistics.
    – jlawler
    Aug 1, 2023 at 16:49

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