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Language Myths

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  925 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
The media are ruining English"; "Some languages are harder than others"; "Children can't speak or write properly anymore." Such pieces of "cultural wisdom" are often expressed in newspapers and on radio and television. Rarely is there a response from experts in the fields of language and language development. In this book Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill have invited ninete ...more
Paperback, 189 pages
Published September 7th 1999 by Penguin Books (first published November 26th 1998)
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Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting and fun if you want to dig deeper into how language and our perception of it changes over time (and space).

I borrowed this book from a colleague and read it with great pleasure, as I find language myths very exciting. I particularly enjoyed the essay "Women talk too much", and was quick to tell my colleague afterwards, when returning the book, that there is convincing evidence that it is a real myth! Men tend to have more air time and talk more in public and at meetings.

My colleague
Jul 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
I found this book to be a great disappointment. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing I find healthier than a little myth-debunking. So I was predisposed to like this collection of 21 essays, edited by Bauer and Trudgill.

Each chapter takes a particular 'language myth' and then argues against the validity of the myth, some more convincingly than others. (Having tried to learn both Russian and Spanish as foreign languages, I think it's fair to say that the statement "Some languages are harder than
Nov 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: prescriptivists, people with an interest in socio-linguistics or linguistic oppression
A lot of the reviews here are coming from people with linguistics backgrounds, and that is not who this book is aimed at. I read this book extra-curricularly (from film school, long ago) and I thought it was pretty informative. if you don't think that people genuinely believe that meanings of words and 'grammar rules' are set in stone and clearly good or bad, right or wrong, i think you must not spend much time with non-linguists. just bobbing around the internet, there are examples of ill-place ...more
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory-language
Provides a great perspective on language and American society's perception of it. Each essay is equally intriguing and revealing. I loved the essay about Southern and New York accents, given the fact I'm Southern.

Also, I do not understand the low ratings this book has. Langauge Myths DOES deconstruct what we assume about language. And, yes, they are right when they claim the idea that some langauges are harder to learn than others is bogus. I learned both French and Russian and did not ever thi
Aug 21, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2007
An easy and ultimately disappointing read. I fully support all of David's arguments against this (about the "myths" being straw men and being questionable as myths or anything worth discussing with any amount of seriousness in the first place). To the book's credit, though, I don't think it is meant to be particularly profound, enlightening, or remotely academic, so no alarms, no surprises.
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Inherent Value Hypothesis. WIred to us which language is more "attractive."
Perceived pleasantness ~ Intelligibility
It has a social currency(consequence). Purely social process of selecting "standard" language.(Linguistic security)
NYC and South ~ Less perceived as pleasant
Mideast(ohio,MI,..) ~ "No accent"
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
gelesen im zuge der vorlesung "english linguistics"; einfach geschrieben (auch auf englisch) und verständlich erklärt, vor allem für nicht-linguisten
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I got my degree in Linguistics and this was one of the books for my classes. For some particular reason I kept it and decided to read it again today. Everyone loves a good myth, and just as much people generally enjoy debunking a myth as well. That is what this book sets out to do for language. It is comprised of several chapters, each having their title state what it is that will be discussed and written by several different authors.

The Meaning of Words Should Not Be Allowed to Vary or Change b
Small confession: I did not read the entire book. This was assigned for my Language and Culture class, but we each had a chapter we were responsible for. Mine was Myth #6, Women Talk Too Much. I have read select chapters here and there, and I do think this is an excellent read for anyone interested in linguistics. It is a little dry, however, and I honestly want to move onto something more fun.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting and, sometimes, entertaining.
I struggled a bit more with it than anticipated; my brain just isn't the same as it was back in college. Linguistics is so much easier to understand when you're IN it.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Some of the essays are richly compelling. A few are less so. If you like to think about language, this will give you neat little pellets to introduce you to common misconceptions about language (and, therefore, about people).
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the way language works.
Griffin Fickes
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating exploration of the nature of language.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
I have always been fascinated by language, although I wouldn’t go as far as thinking I’m a linguist (albeit maybe an amateur one) or anything. To be perfectly honest, I was immediately disappointed by the time I reached the second out of the twenty one myths in the book. I guess that’s what happens when you read compilation of essays, some would have an interesting way of writing and some just don’t.

That aside, there were multiple moments where I felt tricked by these so-called ‘myths‘, because
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Поначалу хотела перечислить мифы и их разоблачение, но это не делает много смысла, многие мифы об одном и том же, так что я лучше своими словами.
Особенно интересно было читать эту книгу с позиции русского человека. Несколько лет назад я читала русские книги по занимательной лингвистике, то есть такого же плана для широкого круга читателей. Было интересно сравнить, что волнует умы специалистов в разных странах. Если, к примеру, учёные-математики или учёные-физики из всех стран занимаются примерно
Feb 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
This is a collection of short articles by linguists debunking language myths. In the introduction, the author comments that much of popular language-related literature has been written by non-linguists - like cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, or journalist Bill Bryson. Linguists only talk to other linguists. Most of the myths were already familiar to me as such, and nearly all of them have to do with change and variety in language - like, do speakers of certain dialects really speak "bad Englis ...more
Apr 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
A decent read for those who haven't studied much linguistics, but a little dry for those who have, i think, and fairly clunky overall in myth-busting structure. I agree with the review that complains each of these myths is pretty much a straw man. Some of the myths -- "Women Talk Too Much," for example -- i would call worthless, the conclusion of the chapter basically being "it's more complicated than that." Duh.

A few interesting myths are included that i'd never heard about: "French is a Logica
Feb 13, 2009 rated it liked it
What, no refutation of the eskimo snow words myth?

The myths debunked in this collection of short essays cluster into three rough groups:

1. X is destroying English
2. Language X is more F than language Y
3. Linguistic phenomenon X (possibly based on some weird prescriptive rule inherited from Latin) is appalling and must be stopped

So, for example, versions of myth #1:

The Media are ruining English (ch 3)
America is ruining English (ch 21)

Versions of myth #2:

Some languages are just not good enough [f
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I do agree with the many reviewers who note the "straw man" element of these essays-- attacking opinions that are so exaggerated, no one really believes them anyway. But that doesn't negate the value of what's here. It's a pretty basic into to linguistics text, and the essays encourage the reader to look at cultural elements to our judgments, rather than attributing differences to something inherent in the language. Overall a worthwhile, if not groundbreaking or lifechanging read.

I think the pro
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
Still reading it. It's not something I would recommend to read to a linguist, maybe for those who are interested in linguistics or just started studying it.
I'm a linguist myself and maybe that's the reason why it is so boring for me, I'm dragging myself through it.
Coming across with the 5th chapter, that is on the English spelling, I realised that I had to write about it! It seems like the professor, who wrote the part about vowels and consonants, just wants you to never ever understand why spe
Timo Carlier
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Though a little dated (90s), I really enjoyed every chapter (written by different authors) in this book. The book has a clear central message: all language change is natural, and some of the chapters explain in clear language why we hang on to the idea of prescriptive grammar and where that came from. Though there are other 'popular science' books that explain what linguists do and think today, this book is different because it illustrates their work through specific case studies. I recommend th ...more
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: linguistics
I'd call this book a must-read for anyone interested in language. The 21 essays it contains are clever, well-written, and concise enough to each be read in a single thought-provoking sitting. I found several of them quite challenging to some of my personal beliefs and assumptions about languages, while others provided me with helpful explanations regarding why some of the things I believe to be right or wrong about modern English usage habits are indeed right or wrong. In all, a pleasantly educa ...more
Sep 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: wannabe linguistics geeks
We all have some "common sense" thoughts about language, such as believing that some languages are harder than others, or that it's best for society if we keep people from "speaking incorrectly." Language Myths examines these erroneous assumptions in a series of articles revolving around one myth.

This book is a great introduction to linguistics, and may well lead readers to explore interesting concepts in more depth. Because I come from a cognitive background, I enjoyed the points of view offere
Richard Martin
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Apparently, Dr. Schwab was aware of something I wasn't. I had a hidden interest in and affinity for language and linguistics. This is now evident by the number of books I have read related to this subject...primarily etymologically. Most have been general in nature. "Language Myths" is the first to be more "scholarly." In twenty-one essays, linguists deal with many misconceptions about language and its dynamics such as spelling, grammar, speech, accents, et. al. Most are quite readable... a few ...more
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-school
I don't really understand why this book is called Language Myths. I've never even heard of most of them ("Some Languages are Just Not Good Enough") and a few of them ("in the Appalachians they Speak Like Shakespeare", "They speak really bad English down south and in NYC") are just completely ridiculous. I feel like the authors just wanted an outlet for their own obscure essays about linguistics that probably wouldn't get read otherwise. It's also surprisingly and unnecessarily dry.
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
A good idea, I guess, to debunk language myths from an academic perspective, but it comes off as dry an scattered. Each chapter is by a different stuffed shirt, so it's kind of inconsistent in content. It's best just to read the chapter titles and know these are myths, but there's no need to read the chapters themselves, since the argumentation is usually lost in all the technicalities employed by these furiously signifying monkeys.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it liked it
The format and topic of this anthology are good - built around popular myths regarding language, with arguments for and against - but the stilted academic writing style really diminishes enjoyment of the book. I liked especially the chapters on myths regarding "some languages are harder than others," "in the Appalachians they speak like Shakespeare," "black children are verbally deprived," and "some languages are spoken more quickly than others.
Talbot Hook
Oct 17, 2015 rated it liked it
On the whole, I think this is a good collection of internally-coherent essays that combines to form a nice, lawful picture of linguistics. The layman can learn quite a bit, and even those who study linguistics may find some nice information (such as the number of Aboriginal languages or some etymological tidbits) to store in their mental schemata. Some essays were overly-technical, however, and some were purely dull. Yet, quite good on the whole, and worth a read.
Jun 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
My TESOL instructor lent me this book. It is a collection of essays from academic linguists that tackle popular myths about language--such as, do they really speak like Shakespeare in Appalachia? Do women talk more than men? Are some languages spoken more quickly than others? Does TV really make people sound the same?

Not as entertaining as, say, Bryson's The Mother Tongue, but probably much more accurate, this book is full of fascinating tidbits for every linguistic dork.
Jun 07, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Anne
I don't really remember much about this one because a) I read it for a class, b) I developed a fiery, vengeful hatred of that class, c) I read it very quickly, d) I read it in conjuction with about 47,812 other random linguistics articles and d) I only read about 2/3 of it.

But it's interesting and worth a look. Especially if you're interested in the nature, politics and sociology of human language.
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Qegs language 201...: Women talk too much 13 9 Jan 10, 2018 12:54PM  
Qegs language 201...: Accents 2 8 Jan 08, 2018 10:52AM  
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