Lena's Reviews > Limits of Language: Almost Everything You Didn't Know You Didn't Know about Language and Languages

Limits of Language by Mikael Parkvall
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May 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction

Mikael Parkvall is a linguist who is fascinated by language. If you're not equally fascinated, it's probably because you simply don't know enough about it. In LoL, Parkvall does his best to rectify that by pulling together every unusual, quirky, unexpected and sometimes downright hilarious fact about language you can possibly imagine, along with quite a few you can't.

This book does not have a narrative structure. Rather, it picks a topic - say, "How Many Words Are There?" or "Language Myths," and then presents a series of short essays on the subject. While I was disappointed to learn that Coca Cola doesn't really mean "Bite the Wax Tadpole" when transliterated into Chinese, discovering that some versions mean "to allow the mouth to be able to rejoice" was an acceptable consolation.

I found the sections of this book which tend to address language as it relates to broader life to be the most interesting. Learning about things like the legal implications of languages in certain countries and how linguistics can be used in forensics was fascinating. Other sections, in which he addresses the more technical aspects of parts of speech, were less compelling to me, which may be why it took me over a year to finish this book.

Ultimately, I found myself skimming some of those sections in favor of the more intriguing and delightful parts, such as "The Ten Silliest Names of Molecules" (Moronic Acid, anyone?). While this book may be a little more detailed in some parts than I personally need, there is more than enough of interest overall to make it worth seeking out.
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message 1: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan I've been very interested in this book. Great review of it, Lena.


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