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A Little Book of Language (Little Histories) Hardcover – 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st. edition edition (2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300155336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300155334
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 15.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Crystal works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. He published the first of his 100 or so books in 1964, and became known chiefly for his research work in English language studies. He held a chair at the University of Reading for 10 years, and is now Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor.

Product Description

Edition Yale University Press, First Impression, 2010 (10987654321). The new and unread book remains intact. Immaculate throughout. Prompt dispatch from UK.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By I. Holder on 14 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Aimed at teenagers, given I am sure David Crystal could make a phonebook seem riveting I still had to buy and add this book to my 'David Crystal' collection: and it does not disappoint.

Looking at a great number of topics in a very chatty and easy-to-read style, David Crystal covers every conceivable topic from baby talk, to how babies learn to talk, to conversation, writing, spelling, grammar, bilingualism, language change, and the changes due to the Internet and electronic communication; and plenty more topics I was surprised and delighted to see such as sign language, playing games with language, dictionaries, etymology, political correctness and language style, and much more. And all with the clarity and sensibility he always brings to language discussion [none of the "the language is inevitably going to the dogs" so favoured by some for him:], this book informs as well as entertains.

While focused on English, other languages get a look in and it was fascinating to learn of some of their rules and they way they use language.

I eagerly await his next book, as well as continuing my way through others he has written previously.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P.M.R. James on 9 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
If you have young children, or are about to become a parent, this book will start you off thinking how most of us learn to speak by copying and making sense of sounds, and perhaps a lot earlier than we realise. Acquiring language civilizes, socializes, and "forms a part of everything you do" (the author). Having language and knowing how to use it is empowering.

We may all think we know about "language" because we listen to, speak, read and write it according to our individual circumstances and motivation. Most of us don't really know all that much about language unless we set about giving it some thought. David Crystal helps us to do exactly that. He guides the reader through many interesting aspects of language - facts, facets, ideas, theories and applications - in simple written language.

This is not a textbook but rather a very well-informed series of language "stories" with useful diagrams, insets and charts written with humour, personal insights and interests which the reader is invited to share. He gets reader attention by using a near story-telling style with "I", "you" and "we" as though we are listening to him as he asks and answers questions and then brings in further related points of interest. It is as if he, the speaker and writer, is having a dialogue with you, the listener and reader.

An interesting, entertaining and thought provoking read - and not too long!
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Format: Paperback
Aimed squarely at pre-teen readers, much-respected linguist David Crystal takes us on a breezy overview of language. He follows an ambitious path, starting with baby talk and progressing through phonetics, grammar, written language, conversation, bilingualism, language change, computer-related language and on, and on to linguistics itself.

The broad scope is not without problems though, with 40 short chapters and 250 pages, the book is not exactly 'little' and it would take a dedicated and smart kid to complete it. Said smart kid might therefore become quickly irritated by the 'avuncular' (i.e. vaguely patronising) style in which no prior understanding - at all - is assumed. Terms line 'jargon', 'jam', 'first name' etc are explained in painstaking detail. The result is it is all a bit superficial and often simplistic. As an example, isn't it misleading, to say the least, to suggest linguists distinguish dialect from language by a hackneyed "when people speak different languages they don't understand each other" (p85). Even my own 10-year-old, who speaks the mostly mutually-intelligible languages Catalan, Spanish and Mallorquin would challange that. The underlying 'politics' of language/dialect definilition is actually much more interesting than this sort of determinism, and easily understandable even by pre-teens.

There is no excuse either for the annoying sloppiness that occasionally creeps in; the Celtic language of Scotland, for example, is not 'Gallic' (p126) and there is no such person nowadays as 'the Queen of England' (p132). Did the great David Crystal really make such schoolboy mistakes?
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