Prime How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live or DieAuthor David Crystal –

In This Fascinating Survey Of Everything From How Sounds Become Speech To How Names Work, David Crystal Answers Every Question You Might Ever Have Had About The Nuts And Bolts Of Language In His Usual Highly Illuminating Way Along The Way, We Find Out About Eyebrow Flashes, Whistling Languages, How Parents Teach Their Children To Speak, How Politeness Travels Across Languages And How The Way We Talk Show Not Just How Old We Are But Where We Re From And Even Who We Want To BeWhether Looking At The Whistle Languages Of The Canary Islands Or Describing The Layout Of The Human Throat, This Landmark Book Will Enrich The Lives Of Everyone Who Reads It

10 thoughts on “How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live or Die

  1. says:

    Subtitle How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live or Die It took me a bit to figure out what about this book on linguistics seemed odd to me there s no Big Idea Which is kind of cool, really.By Big Idea , I mean the grand overarching theory that the author is in the throes of Like Noam Chomsky s Universal Grammar, or Stephen Pinker s rejection of the Blank Slate It doesn t mean Crystal has nothing to say However, what you will not find here is a Grand Thesis, which ties it all together He s a guy who s thought about language a lot, apparently most of his adult life he was born in 1941 , and this is a book where he pretty much summarizes what he knows about it.There s chapters on how our mouth parts work to produce speech, how children learn to speak, how we write and how we used to write in the past , sign language, how we learn grammar and how it differs between language types, how dialects form, coexist, and sometimes die, how languages are related, what parts of the brain interpret language and what happens when we lose them, and how electronic media change how we use language.Every one of these is a meaty enough topic for an entire, or several books of its own In some sense, it s ludicrous to give each one of them a few dozen pages But, on the other hand, that s somewhat like saying it s ludicrous to have a globe, when the level of detail for each nation is too little to guide you anywhere Perhaps it s true, but it can be useful to have a mental map of the big picture.Maybe I should say, the Big Picture Perhaps Crystal has no Big Idea, because instead he s giving us the Big Picture This, is the breadth and diversity of the topic of Language s The list of figures illustrates how broad that is 1 General arrangement of the vocal organs3 Movement of a single air particle10 Egyptian hieroglyphs over time14 Two handed and one handed finger spelling18 Some words for father in Indo EuropeanYou get the idea This is a bit like browsing the encyclopedia, back when there were encyclopedias to browse through It stimulates the brain, it keeps moving, and it gives you an idea of what things you might want to go back to look at in detail in some other book, perhaps with a Big Idea Bully for David Crystal Thumbs up

  2. says:

    An enjoyable overview of linguistics Crystal s 73 chapters can be read consecutively, or he claims dipped into at random Each chapter is a short introduction to one topic For example, How vocabulary grows or How to study dialects Since each is only five pages or so, you know not to expect too much it s an orientation to the topic.Towards the end of the book unless you randomly start there, of course , Crystal shows his great desire in writing to encourage interest in and concern for language That s definitely language as a whole, rather than languages individually For him, language and all aspects of its study are eminent in grasping human culture s richness I think he s right to be such a proponenet of linguistic study, of respect for language.

  3. says:

    While this book isn t specifically geared toward helping writers become better, it s a comprehensive look at how language develops and is learned and used.In 73 chapters it covers introducing language, spoken language, written language, sign language, language structure, discourse, dialects, languages, multilingualism, and looking after language.Despite its length, the book is a fast read and unexpectedly enjoyable Think of it as a introduction to language as a whole, as it doesn t go into great detail about any of the components All its chapters are short.It s a great read and highly recommended.

  4. says:

    There s so much information in this book that it s difficult to absorb it all, let alone recall it a few days after the fact To a language enthusiast like me, it was fascinating I could see how many or perhaps most readers might get bored Some chapters are much interesting than others I m not that jazzed about the explanation of how we physically produce a uvular fricative, but I love the discussions of how humans learn language and about common features that all languages share Crystal really does write it as though it were a how to manual, but I don t think it s less valuable in that respect than it is as a sheer comprehensive discussion of many aspects of linguistics.

  5. says:

    Personally I found this book frustrating It covers too much material in too few pages and my edition is almost 500 pages of very small print The coverage of each topic was too superficial to be engrossing I already knew a lot of the material and was disappointed not to learn He would mention something that would pique my interest, but then move right on to something else For the material I didn t already know, the discussion was too cursory to really stick no examples, analysis, or anecdotes I don t feel like I know any than I did before I read the book Also I don t think he had room for his writing style to really shine the way it does in some of his books.That said, this is David Crystal, so of course the writing is very clear and pithy And I did enjoy the section on conversations if he has written a whole book on this topic I would like to read it and perhaps suggest it to a couple friends , and I especially enjoyed his attack on the Lynne Trusses of the world even, oddly, than his whole book on the topic, The Fight for English.

  6. says:

    A clear and concise listing of all the issues that are related to language, from the physiological how we produce sounds, how we hear sounds to how we use language The latter is, of course, a large subject, including such items as how babies learn language from their parents, how we mean something different than what we actually say It s cold in here can be interpreted as Close the window, please , and my favorite subject, the status of dialects and how its in constant influx.This book is out there to entice you to get interested in linguistics it even says so at the end , and it s not an in depth look at all the issues it mentions The book does its job of including so many different aspects of language together in one spot well.More here in my blog.

  7. says:

    This meaty book took me a couple of months to read, but it is a fantastic introduction into the world of linguistics It provides a brief overview of all the possible avenues of study that a linguist can pursue, from the hard science side the physics, neuroscience, and anatomy of how we actually generate sounds words thoughts etc to the arts side the human impact of different levels of formality, tones of voice in speech and writing, etc In about 70 chapters, David Crystal introduces subject after subject pertaining to linguistics, reinforcing the central theme of his concluding chapter Without language, we would have no other knowledge Language underpins all other forms of academic and cultural pursuit.As an English major who has spent years arguing usually good naturedly with my engineering physics majoring relatives about the validity of my course of study, I found this book deeply gratifying and validating I always was of a linguist than a literature student at heart anyway From a content and structure perspective, this book is almost a tease Crystal tackles the nigh impossible task of giving an overview of language and linguistics as a whole without making the book 3,000 pages long which, frankly, is probably a vast underestimate He essentially dabbles in subjects that can and have had entire books written about them, from the structure of the ear and the miracle of sound waves to the language development process of babies to the anthropological evidence of language families to the wide range of uses of language in a variety of social contexts Given the constraints of writing a broad spectrum overview, he skims the surface of each topic, providing only cursory examples and illustrations As an introduction, it s excellent, but it is by no means comprehensive, and it invites further study by piquing a budding linguist s interest in a variety of topics I m glad I restarted my linguistic study with this one Now on to the pile of other linguistic books sitting on my to read list.

  8. says:

    This is an interesting and easy to read book The chapters do not need to be read consecutively, each is a self contained essay on some aspect of language.I had hardly started the book, when it started me on an observational quest for an Eyebrow Flash I got one that same night from the ticket seller when I went to see a movie Here is what the book says on page 7 Some visual effects are widely used in the cultures of the world An example is the EYEBROW FLASH, used unconsciously when people approach each other and wish to show that they are ready to make social contact Each person performs a single upward movement of the eyebrows, keeping them raised for about a sixth of a second The effect is so automatic that we are hardly ever conscious of it But we become uneasy if we do not receive an eyebrow flash when we expect one from someone we know and to receive an eyebrow flash from someone we do not know can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or even threatening.

  9. says:

    I would almost think about rating this book 4 stars and then buying a copy , but there were several chapters that were extra informative the type that makes me sleepy and slightly fluffy However, I very much enjoyed what I did learn regarding basic linguistic concepts, the many facets of cultural communication, what we know about how the brain works in constructing language flow verbal, written, physical, etc and the plethora of other connect the dots type of information 73 chapters worth I m just getting into learning about linguistics and this was my first book Overall, even though I whimsically grabbed it from off the shelf at the library, I feel that my time was well spent while reading it.

  10. says:

    This book is arranged in chapters that can stand alone or be read as a volume Chapters are divided into sub chapters which similarly stand alone or can be read as a cohesive work of prose.While the author is British, the emphasis is universal The British influence shows the most in the discussion of dialects.The articles vary from being anecdotal to factually meaty The chapters on vocabulary show how vocabulary is learned with great anecdotes and factual backup Like Crystal, I think that this is a very much neglected area of language learning.I like that he uses interesting sentences and words for examples Too often books on linguistics provide dull stilted examples.