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A Little Book of Language

A Little Book of Language [Kindle Edition]

David Crystal
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"'David Crystal is not just a great linguist, but a true champion and lover of language.' (Benjamin Zephaniah) 'Crystal-clear, witty and informative, a book to bring out the linguist in us all.' (Roger McGough) '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 (London)) 'A Little Book of Language is a simple history of all language, taking in phonetics, development, social uses, the internet, endangered languages and a touch of literature.' (Joy Lo Dico, The Independent On Sunday) 'A Little Book of Language may be for children (of all ages, as the saying goes), yet it's by no means childish or juvenile. In other words, buy it for your son or daughter, but read it yourself.' (Michael Dirda, Washington Post)"


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.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1701 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 272 Seiten
  • Verlag: Yale University Press (1. Juni 2010)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B0038LB4G2
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #275.446 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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4.0 von 5 Sternen gut fuer Anfaneger 13. September 2010
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Interesting book if a little to simple. To say it differently: it is good for starters but a little to simple if you know something about the matter. Still did not regret buying it - entertaining lecture.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Rated G for High Language Content, All Ages Admitted 20. Mai 2010
Von takingadayoff - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Is it possible that there are multiple David Crystals? It seems unlikely that just one person can write as many books, give as many interviews, and complete as many projects as he does.

A longtime fan of Crystal, I have to admit I was a little perplexed by A Little Book of Language at first. The subject matter was interesting, as usual, but the style was different. He seemed chattier, and there were so many exclamation points! What was going on?

Since I'd started reading the book immediately upon receiving it, without looking at the descriptions or blurbs, I didn't realize it is aimed at younger readers. Once that little mystery was solved, I settled back in, and found that aside from what this adult perceives as a slightly patronizing tone (but may seem quite innocuous to the age group it is aimed at), the book is quite a good introduction to many language-related topics.

While A Little Book of Language is simple, it is by no means simple-minded. Reading past the occasional clanger ("Not everyone in [Australia] speaks like [Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee]. Many Aussies have educated accents too."), I found that there was plenty for older readers to learn as well. For instance, sign languages have "accents" and someone whose native language is American Sign Language might have a distinctive accent when speaking British Sign Language, by holding the thumb straight out rather than close to the forefinger in certain words, for example.

When I was a youngster I read books by Mario Pei, who wrote about language and linguistics for the general reader. I loved his books about word origins and language quirks. Of course, his books, written in the 1960s and 70s, would be seriously out of date now. The studies of language have come a long way in the past few decades. Come to think of it, I can't think of any books that might serve as a general all-purpose introduction to general readers of all ages in the same way that Mario Pei's did, until now. There are plenty of ranting polemics by grammar police. Or if you want more specialized and scholarly writing, there are excellent works by popular linguists such as Seth Lerer, Derek Bickerton, and Steven Pinker. However, for non-academic and generally accessible works on the way language works, you can't beat David Crystal.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Delightful! This should be on every student's "must read" list 27. August 2010
Von Gregory J. Casteel - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I absolutely loved this book, and read it over the course of just two evenings. I wasn't planning on doing that -- my original plan was to read the book over the course of a week or two -- but, once I started reading it, I simply couldn't put it down. I dropped everything else I was planning to do, and devoured this wonderful little book as quickly as I could. It really was that good. Clear; concise; easy to read; engaging; educational; fun -- it's everything you could ask for in a book. Written for young readers, but suitable for readers of just about any age and educational level, this introduction to language and linguistics is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn the basics of how humans communicate through speech, writing, and signing.

We all grow up speaking our native language (or signing it, in the case of deaf children); and most of us learn to read and write as schoolchildren. We also learn the rules of grammar in school. And some of us even go on to study the basics of one or more foreign languages. But learning a language is not the same thing as learning ABOUT language. Few of us ever really learn about language itself: what language is; how it works; why we have language at all; how children learn to use language; why there are so many different languages in the world; how many languages there are; how they are distributed; how they are related to each other; how languages change over time; why it can be so difficult to translate something from one language into another; why different speakers of the same language don't all sound exactly alike; why people are often judged by the way they speak; what dialects are; how languages and dialects serve to give people a sense of group identity; the politics of language; how language affects culture; why people speak with different accents; how the sounds of spoken language are made; what grammar is; what function it plays in language; why different styles of language are used in different situations; why the style of written language is different from the style of spoken language; why we have written language; how different languages are written; why many words aren't spelled the way they sound; why some people never learn to read and write; etc. These fascinating topics, among many others, are the focus of the field of "linguistics" -- the study of language. Even though just about everyone learns the mechanics of how to use their own language, and many learn the mechanics of how to use one or more foreign languages, few people ever bother to learn about the nature of language itself: In other words, few people ever study linguistics. That's a shame; because language affects everything we do. In fact, some might even argue that our use of language is the main thing that separates humans from all other animals. The more we know about language, the more we know about the world we live in and about what it means to be human. Everyone needs to know certain basic things about language; and every student needs to study at least the rudiments of linguistics. The earlier they begin their study of language, the better: high school is better than college, and middle school is better than high school.

This is one of the few books on language that I've come across that is suitable for readers of just about any age. It's clear enough to be understood by middle schoolers, and yet informative enough to be useful to college graduates. Even I learned a few new things from reading this book; and I've actually taken linguistics courses and read lots of books on the subject. The author, David Crystal, is a noted linguist who has written several excellent books on language -- including some very useful reference books that I'm really glad I have in my home library. In this book, Crystal manages to present the essentials of linguistics in a clear, concise, easy-to-read manner, suitable for young readers, without in any way "dumbing down" the material. No, this is not an in-depth text aimed at linguistics graduate students. (If you're looking for that, look elsewhere.) But it is an excellent introduction to linguistics for beginners, suitable for adult readers as well as children. In fact, if I had to recommend just one book to introduce the basics of language to people who have never studied linguistics, this would be that book.

One of the reasons I like this book so much is that it fits in very well with my own philosophy of teaching: Always start by providing students with a basic, simplified overview of the fundamentals of the subject, trying your best not to get bogged down in unnecessary details, but covering everything that a non-specialist might realistically need to know about the subject, while laying a solid foundation that the students can build upon if they wish to learn more. This book does that; and it does it brilliantly. Perhaps even more importantly, I'm convinced that any student who reads this book will feel motivated to try to learn even more about language and linguistics. If you want to inspire students to learn, this is the sort of book that can do it. It would make a wonderful gift to a young reader, or to a high school graduate about to go off to college. Or, just do what I did and get a copy for yourself, and enjoy it for its clarity, simplicity, and beauty of style. If you don't know much about language, this is the perfect place to start your education. But, even if you have studied linguistics, you'll probably find some new insights here, just as I did. (Besides, even an expert in a given subject can often benefit by a refresher in the fundamentals of that subject every now and then.) I really can't recommend this book highly enough: It is wonderful. I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Please Read Further! 16. Juni 2010
Von L. Potts - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is addressed to the previous reviewer, who doesn't (or maybe didn't, by now) realize that A Little Book of Language was written for young teens. Read a bit further in the blurbs and cover notes; the information is there. As a children's librarian, I'd like to add that children's literature is probably the most difficult kind to write, without slipping into the patronizing or the precious tone of voice. It's hardly fair to expect a book written for young people to read like a book written for adults, however. Not because adult fiction/non-fiction is somehow superior to juvenile fiction/non-fiction. It isn't. Many highly-literate adults love children's literature--which encompasses a great deal more than Mother Goose and fairy tales, by the way--as writing of great immediacy, power, and feeling. Mr. Crystal did an outstanding job of addressing today's young teen audience, a difficult task, especially when we consider the written word must now compete with technology for the attention of young people. I can testify that it is, at times, an uphill struggle for teens accustomed to the truncated minimalist "English" of text messaging to relate to language at its richest and best. It was high time for A Little Book of Language to appear. I applaud Mr. Crystal for bringing it about.

L. S. Potts
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Not little really, but very big book on Language! 10. August 2010
Von Roman Weissmann - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I'm an economist but use to read books from other sciences so when I found this Litte Book of Language, I knew that it was going to fit my needs. I'm a generalist so didn't want to read a high profile book on Semantics. Crystal does it very good, even if your mother tongue is Spanish, like in my case!!

Crystal provides you with a broad range of concepts re.Language, with examples coming from French, Spanish, etc.

He goes back to the history of the language but also explains recent developments with it, like [...] (the web page which makes a cloud of words with any text you submit).

The way he writes is very simple (at a times I felt I was an elementary school boy) but, again, being English not my mother tongue, it wasn't a handicap.

If you know nothing about Language and want to have a complete and sound overview, this is definitely your book.
4.0 von 5 Sternen Something to whet your linguistic appetite 24. Februar 2014
Von doodledo - Veröffentlicht auf
This book is intended for younger readers, but it would also be enjoyable for those with a general interest in language (linguistic graduates excluded, for whom it will obviously be way too basic!). There are 40 chapters in total, each of which is about 3-5 pages long and each of which deals with a different topic (e.g. dialects, sign language, dying languages, etc). Beautiful illustrations and a concluding case-study box accompany each chapter.
The benefit of the chapters being so short is that the pace of the book remains fast. It is also filled with interesting facts and anecdotes, even if detailed source info is not normally given and you also sometimes find yourself wanting more. However, the book certainly makes you think about many things, ranging from the linguistic development of babies to the origins of speech. I found the chapters on etymology and place names particularly interesting and I'll definitely be investigating these areas further!
The informal, conversational writing makes this book very accessible - perfect for bedtime reading.
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Which bits of their mother tongue do babies learn first? Answer: the rhythm and the intonation. &quote;
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Three-quarters of the babies in the world learn more than one language. &quote;
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When people actively use words themselves we say they have an active vocabulary. When they understand words but dont actually use them, we say they have a passive vocabulary. &quote;
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