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Preview — How Language Works by David Crystal
How Language Works
In the author's own words, "How Language Works is not about music, cookery, or sex. But it is about how we talk about music, cookery, and sex-or, indeed, anything at all." Language is so fundamental to everyday life that we take it for granted. But as David Crystal makes clear in this work of unprec...more
This book ...more
Towards the end of the book (unless you randomly start there, of course), Crystal shows his great desire in writing: to encourage more interest in and con ...more
In 73 chapters it covers introducing language, spoken language, written language, sign language, language structure, discourse, dialects, languages, multilingualism, and looking after language.
Despite its length, the book is a fast read and unexpectedly enjoyable. Think of it as a introduction to language as a whole, as it doesn't go into grea ...more
I had hardly started the book, when it started me on an observational quest for an "Eyebrow Flash". I got one that same night from the ticket seller when I went to see a movie. Here is what the book says on page 7:
"Some visual effects are widely used in the cultures of the world. An example is the EYEBROW FLASH, used unconsciously when people ...more
While the author is British, the emphasis is universal. The British influence shows the most in the discussion of dialects.
The articles vary from being anecdotal to factually meaty. The chapters on vocabulary show how vocabulary is learned with great anecdotes and factual backup. Like Crystal, I think that thi ...more
I would say though that you do need quite a strong base of knowledge to understand it fully as it does get quite complex and the book is quite dense and tough going. But that said, it's very informative and covers nearly every base you can think of. Stick with it until the ...more
There's a first time for everything.
This book is a very shallow survey of so many aspects of language that is repeatedly degenerates into an exercise in listing disciplines.
Eventually I simply couldn't continue to read an endless, unmemorable survey of the field of linguistics.
I also really enjoyed that he explained fully the stance of the modern linguist towards language change and variation, and prescriptive grammar.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in learning about linguistics/language.
He tries to raise people's awareness of the eminent extinction of some languages and suggests that we take care of them BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. Not sure if I agree. Languages are constantly changing, splitting, and disappearing. The death of a language is not tragic. It's natural.
Anyways, this is a good book for the linguistically curious and uninformed.
It missed out on 5 stars because I felt it was a bit of a mixture: too long to be a layman's book, too superficial to be a first year university textbook.