London: Shakespeare's mastery of English is more evident in his grammar than in his words, which ensured his pre-eminence and set him apart from others, says a study.

Jonathan Hope, who teaches English at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, UK, said: "Although Shakespeare has had an enormous influence on literature, it's difficult to think of anyone else who has ever written like him."

Originality in language was not necessarily seen as a good thing in Shakespeare's time and he did not always use elaborate words with Latin roots - when he did, he often tended to follow them with an explanation in more straightforward English.

However, the 16th century playwright's grammatical skill shows even more dexterity with language. He wrote during a transitional period for English grammar when there was a range of grammatical options open to writer, said a university statement.

"Much of the grammar he chose now seems old-fashioned but it lends poetry to commonplace words and, significantly, while his spelling is often updated, his grammar is not," added Hope.

Hope compares Shakespeare's rate of word use in relation to plays written with the goalscoring rate of three Newcastle United FC strikers- Malcolm Macdonald, Jackie Milburn and Alan Shearer.

He shows that, while Macdonald played significantly fewer games and scored fewer goals (121 in 228 games) than either Milburn (200 goals in 397 games) or Shearer (206 goals in 395 games), the scoring rates of the three players- 0.531, 0.504 and 0.522 goals per game respectively- are broadly the same.

Similarly, Shakespeare used more words than his contemporaries but wrote more plays, leading to a word rate close to theirs.

Hope's article, "Shakespeare and the English Language", appears in an Open University collection, "English in the World: History, Diversity, Change".

(Agencies)