With a language disappearing every two weeks and neologisms springing up almost daily, an understanding of the origins and currency of language has never seemed more relevant. In this charming volume, a narrative history written explicitly for a young audience, expert linguist David Crystal proves why the story of language deserves retelling.
From the first words of an infant to the peculiar modern dialect of text messaging, A Little Book of Language ranges widely, revealing language's myriad intricacies and quirks. In animated fashion, Crystal sheds light on the development of unique linguistic styles, the origins of obscure accents, and the search for the first written word. He discusses the plight of endangered languages, as well as successful cases of linguistic revitalization. Much more than a history, Crystal's work looks forward to the future of language, exploring the effect of technology on our day-to-day reading, writing, and speech. Through enlightening tables, diagrams, and quizzes, as well as Crystal's avuncular and entertaining style, A Little Book of Language will reveal the story of language to be a captivating tale for all ages.
"Demotic, lively, rigorous but unabashedly unpedantic, David Crystal reminds us that living languages know no boundaries, that they adapt themselves joyously to new conditions. Here he indulges himself with great good humour in his little book of love for the pleasures of language and words worldwide." (Iain Finlayson, The Times)
"[An] exhilarating romp through the mysteries and vagaries of language.... This is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the subject." (Publishers Weekly)
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Basic but interesting, better in print form
This is a more basic book than I expected, with the writer explaining very simple terms from linguistics, but if that's what you want then it's fine. It's comprehensive and includes anecdotes that make the theory come alive.The problems are mainly due to the subject matter; the reader often has to spell out things that you would be able to see much less awkwardly in print. In some chapters this happens at least once every few minutes.
Yes, assuming the strange dialect choices were not his own.
The narrator, who has a British RP accent, for some reason uses Americanisms like "zee" instead of "zed," missing the "and" that British speakers use when saying long numbers (one hundred and one, not one hundred one), and pronouncing the occasional word in an American way for no obvious reason. He also says dates as 21 June, not 21st (of) June, which I've never heard said in real life - even if it's written as 21 June you make it into an ordinal when you say the date. It's jarring. If they wanted to use those variants then they should have used an American narrator.