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A Little Book of Language by David Crystal
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A Little Book of Language (2010)

by David Crystal

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2931038,321 (3.59)15
  1. 00
    On the Map: why the World Looks the Way it Does by Simon Garfield (elenchus)
    elenchus: Garfield's On the Map and Crystal's A Little Book of Language share a similar approach to different subjects: each provides many short chapters on separate individual topics as means of surveying their field, history of cartography in the case of Garfield and the broad field of linguistics for Crystal. Each chapter is 4-5 pages, accompanied or separated by sidebars on related questions or facts. I enjoyed them both as galleries providing an overview and appetizer for further reading.… (more)
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Apparently this is aimed at young people, as there are all sorts of references to 'you, the next generation' and 'you, who grew up online.' ?ŠBut if it weren't for those allusions, I'd say it's just a bit too simple for a reader who has been playing with and studying words all her life. ?√ɬ°So, yes, some of this was old hat to me. ?√ɬ°Otoh, there are a lot of bookdarts, a lot of things I found noteworthy. ?√ɬ°So, overall, I do highly recommend this.

Several of my favorite bits are about comparing bits of different languages. ?áFor example, we in English use the 'at sign' in email addresses, but in Poland it's a 'malpa' for 'monkey.' ?áEtc.?á
Also texting abbreviations vary in different languages - I bet you can figure out what 'salu2' means in Spanish? ?áThere's also a bit about how Political Correctness is expressed in a few other languages.

I also enjoyed the chapter on place names. ?áEnding in 'by' means it was originally a Viking?áfarmstead or?ávillage; ending in 'caster' or 'chester' means Roman fort or town.

Language at play yields me a few more mind games I can play while having trouble falling asleep (I need something a bit more complex than counting sheep ;).
Tell a story leaving out one key letter, such as 'e' or 't' - (lipogram)
Create sentences in which the vowel is the same in each word: Cool schoolboys do not do sports on top of London shopfronts." ?á(univocalic)
Use the alphabet to create a 26 word long sentence or paragraph: "A big cowboy, dancing elegantly for grand hotels in..."

My only caveats are: 1. no bibliography or notes 2. focus is on British English, history, culture, and geography, with token admissions to American." ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Turns out this was written for young people, but I can't figure out just what age range he wrote it for. It is 260 pages long, and contains some pretty complex ideas, but the syntax is very simplistic, as though written for preteens. I think it is meant for teenagers, but they might find the tone rather condescending. I was already familiar with most of the information in the book, but found the chapters on language use in the electronic age very interesting. ( )
  SylviaC | Sep 2, 2013 |
I love all things about language, and really enjoyed this book as a quick overview on the subject. ( )
  ScarletBea | Apr 4, 2013 |
There was interesting and good information in this book. If I'd never read anything else about linguistics and/or language, it probably would have been really good. However, the writing style made me feel like I was being talked down to, and I would have really preferred a deeper look at a lot of the ideas presented. ( )
  CassieLM | Apr 2, 2013 |
This is a fine introductory book on language and linguistics for high school students, or perhaps middle school students. But I ended up buying and reading it myself because it was written by David Crystal, whose other works I've enjoyed, and nothing about this book's cover suggested that it was for a younger audience (it's published in the U.S. by Yale University Press‚ÄĒnot a major children's book publisher!). If you know anything about linguistics already, it's likely to bore you. For that matter, even if this is a completely new subject to you, I'd suggest finding one of Crystal's other books or another introduction to linguistics intended for adults. The book itself isn't badly written or inaccurate, it's just not suitable for many adult readers. ( )
  Silvernfire | Feb 5, 2012 |
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We sometimes do some silly things with language. One of the silliest happens when we find ourselves in front of a new baby. What do we do?

We talk to it.
Quotations
In England, that neutral accent is called Received Pronunciation - or RP for short. It's an accent that developed at the end of the eighteenth century among upper-class people. [74]
At first it was used by the people in powerful positions in society, such as the royal family, bishops, professors, doctors, and judges. Then teachers began to use it in the big public schools (such as Eton, Harrow, and Winchester) and taught it to the children. [...] It was never spoken by huge numbers - at most, by about five percent of the population - but it was the accent that people associated with someone who was from the higher social classes or had received the best education. That's why it was called 'received' pronunciation. It was seen as a sort of inheritance from your ancestors. [75]
It's normal for people to be bilingual, as we saw when we talked about how babies easily learn languages. About three-quarters of the human race grows up speaking two or more languages. [79]
Welsh, Gaelic, Breton, and a few other languages form a Celtic family of languages. Russian, Polish, Czech, and several others form a Slavic family. And there are several languages which, as it were, never had children. Greek stands all alone, as do the languages of Armenia and Albania. [88-89]
With a language like Latin, we know 'who's doing what' by paying attention to those word endings. The order of words in the sentence isn't important. That makes Latin a very different kind of language from English, where the order of words is crucial. [121]
In English, if I say a word such as 'mother' high up in my voice or low down in my voice, it makes no difference to the meaning of the word. But in Chinese - and also in many other languages spoken in the Far East - that difference in pitch height can change the meaning of the word completely. [...] Those differences in melody are called 'tones'. Chinese, we say, is a 'tone language'. [118-119]
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Book description
Contents: Baby-talk -- From cries to words -- Learning how to understand -- Making vibrations -- Pronouncing sounds -- Discovering grammar -- Having a conversation -- Learning to read and write -- Getting to grips with spelling -- Spelling rules and variations -- Grammar rules and variations -- Accents and dialects -- Being bilingual -- The languages of the world -- The origins of speech -- The origins of writing -- Modern writing -- Sign language -- Comparing languages -- Dying languages -- Language change -- Language variation -- Language at work -- Slang -- Dictionaries -- Etymology -- Place names -- Personal names -- The electronic revolution -- Texting -- Language at play -- Why use language/ -- Language for feelings -- Political correctness -- Language in literature -- Developing a style -- The complexity of language -- Linguistics -- Applied linguistics -- Your language world.
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With a language disappearing every two weeks and neologisms springing up almost daily, understanding the origins and currency of language has never seemed more relevant.

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300155336, 0300170823

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