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An Introduction to Historical Linguistics, 4th Edition [Paperback]

Terry Crowley , Claire Bowern
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2010
All languages change, just as other aspects of human society are constantly changing. This book is an introduction to the concepts and techniques of diachronic linguistics, the study of language change over time. It covers all themajor areas of historical linguistics, presenting concepts in a clear and concise way. Examples are given from a wide range of languages, with special emphasis on the languages of Australia and the Pacific. While the needs of undergraduate students of linguistics have been kept firmly in mind, the book will also be of interest to the general reader seeking to understand langauge and language change.

For this fourth edition, a number of new sections have been written, including many new problems and several datasets. Existing materials have been supplemented with new sections on grammaticalization, tonogenesis, morphological change, and using statistical methods in language classification.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 4 edition (1 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195365542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195365542
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 15.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 584,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

was Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, well-organised coverage of the basics 4 April 2001
By A Customer
Most striking is the emphasis on Australian and Pacific languages and pidgins, which provides a refreshing change to the usual Indo-European examples. In this respect Crowley complements other introductory books such as "Historical Linguistics" by R. L. Trask. His is a basic book, however, and includes relatively little detailed discussion of major figures and theories in the field. Exercises are included at the end of each chapter for classroom or individual use.
Crowley's prose is clear and makes a jargon-ridden subject accessible for undergraduate beginners. Topics are divided and subdivided well, so that new terms and ideas are introduced step-by-step. The chapter on types of sound change is particularly good.
Crowley has been my bible on throughout my own undergraduate course on historical linguistics, thanks to his clear explanations of basic concepts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great starting point 3 Mar 2011
I bought this book to develop my knowledge of historical linguistics. I had come to a dead end with what I could do online and in basic linguistics books. This book is the perfect next step. It taught me a lot about the subject and now I have a course to follow forward. I had a lot of moments where I thought "ah so that's how they work that out!".

It focuses a lot on Oceanic languages which can be a bit alienating if you, like me, are more interested in European languages (and ancient ones). There isn't very much on historical languages (Greek, Latin, proto-Romance, ancient Egyptian and other bronze age languages for example) or how to deal with them. It focuses more on "what do I do when I find a modern language and want to work out its history" rather than "how do I study an ancient language". But that's not a criticism: just something to be aware of, since the skills this book teaches are necessary regardless.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars as a textbook 2 April 2003
By Leung Wai Wan - Published on Amazon.com
This is a textbook used for my introductory comparative and historical linguistics course. It is a good choice because it is easy to read and to understand. It provides foundation knowledge on languages formation then begins to discuss different topics covered in the comparative and historical linguistics. It gives plenty of exercises for practice and discussion. (unfortunately there is no solution provided) Some of them are pretty challenging and need some thoughts to solve them. I highly recommend this book you all of you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another amazing book by Terry Crowley 7 Feb 2012
By Chris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of the best things about Terry Crowley is that his books are easy to understand and amazingly interesting. It is so unfortunate that he passed away so early in life. This book was in the process of being written and was polished off after his death by Claire Bowern, who is another leading person in the field of language documentation and fieldwork.

I am using this book for a graduate level class in Linguistics right now. And I have to say that I have read three chapters ahead from the required course speed, precisely because the details are just right and they never draw things out too long or introduce things too early. Furthermore, you can feel the excitement and wonder of the authors while reading through this book (which I do not feel in most textbooks). And it really makes you more and more excited to learn about the origins and evolutions of languages and the changes that they all undergo. Lastly, they take the scientific process of analyzing and dissecting patterns and behaviors and somehow add color and life to something that you might otherwise expect to be bland and boring.

If you are at all interested in either Linguistics or the dynamic "life" of languages (both historically and also looking into the future), I would highly recommend this book!
6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There are better textbooks... 3 Nov 2011
By B I - Published on Amazon.com
I have found myself wanting to throw this book out my window on several occasions because the examples are so inaccessible for most of the book, and the chapter on observing language change is laughable, at best. If you're taking a Historical Linguistics class, pray your instructor is using a different book, or do yourself a favor and buy Lyle Campbell's book as a supplement; it's much more clear, and the examples are not derived from a bunch of Polynesian languages. It helps if you have some familiarity with the languages used to illustrate the change or theory at hand, and this text falls very much short of that, which seems like a pedagogical misstep.
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