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Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method (Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics) Paperback – 1 Mar 1995

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Fox's survey is judicious and very well-informed ... Fox's book would be hard to beat ... produced as impeccably as one expects from Oxford University Press. (Times Higher Education Supplement)

the author offers an extensive bibliography; his main purpose is to offer students a clear survey of the approaches of various scholars ... an excellent, informative introduction to the topic which will render great service to students (Journal of Indo-European Studies, Volume 24, Number 3 and 4, Fall/Winter 1996)

the book does a good job of drawing together and providing a fairly consistent presentation of a variety of historical views ... Besides breadth of scope, the text provides an excellent bibliography ... The author's aim is to provide the student with a sense not only of techniques but of the discipline itself. He provides a very competent and sensitive account of the rival approaches in historical studies and provides also a sense of the consequent tentative character even of fundamental matters. (James Hearne, Western Washington University, Linguistics 33)

a great deal to recommend it, particularly the description of the contrast of the CM and IR. (Diachronica)

One does not need to know about historical linguistics to understand this book. Fox assumes his reader is acquainted with the basics of linguistics, but even a novice in historical linguistics can plunge into this book. (Notes on Linguistics 78)

About the Author

Anthony Fox is at University of Leeds.

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First Sentence
Languages are not static, but are constantly changing: the latest slang comes and goes, our own language is subtly, but noticeably, different from that of our grandparents, and the further back we go in time the more remote and incomprehensible the language seems to be. Read the first page
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Challenging, but it will make you a better historical linguist 15 Oct. 2007
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As a graduate student of historical linguistics, I thought I had encountered every textbook and handbook of the subject around. I was surprised, however, to find this one. Anthony Fox's LINGUISTIC RECONSTRUCTION, published in 1996 in the series Oxford Textbooks in Linguistics, hasn't gained the popularity of other introductions like Lehmann's or Hock's, but that is a real shame as it is perhaps the most rigorous of them all.

Fox's textbook covers the usual ground of historical linguistics textbooks: the comparative method, internal reconstruction, language contacts, typology, and reconstruction of culture and society from lexicon. Examples are mainly drawn from the comparative study of the Indo-European languages, though Bantu and Austronesian material is also widely used. Like Lehmann in his Theoretical Bases of Indo-European Linguistics, Fox seems to believe that knowing the history of the field and its eminent personalities is just as important as knowing current vogues.

However, Fox's book is special because of the author's honesty about the limitations of each of the various methods of linguistic reconstruction. For example, he explains that the view of the proto-language reconstruction by the comparative method differs from that by internal reconstruction, the first producing large phoneme inventories and the second a simpler inventory. A reasonable reconstruction can only be achieved by a combination of methods. Furthermore, out of all the textbooks for historical linguistics that I know, Fox is the only one that strongly warns the student to ensure that his arguments are not circular. The criticism of glottochronology here is also considerably more devastating than elsewhere.

I would not, however, recommend the book for the complete newbie, as Fox's writing is extremely challenging. Better to enter the field with Campbell's excellent Historical Linguistics, 2nd Edition: An Introduction. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend this book to all who want to refine their skills. I certainly feel that I am a better student after reading Fox's LINGUISTIC RECONSTRUCTION.
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