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Studies in Words [Hardcover]

C. S. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 1967 0521055474 978-0521055475 2
Language - in its communicative and playful functions, its literary formations and its shifting meanings - is a perennially fascinating topic. C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words explores this fascination by taking a series of words and teasing out their connotations using examples from a vast range of English literature, recovering lost meanings and analysing their functions. It doubles as an absorbing and entertaining study of verbal communication, its pleasures and problems. The issues revealed are essential to all who read and communicate thoughtfully, and are handled here by a masterful exponent and analyst of the English language.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (1 July 1967)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521055474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521055475
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 11.9 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,142,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a fellow and tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954 when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics, the Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.


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Review

'Rarely is so much learning displayed with so much grace and charm. My only regret is that the book was not twice as long.' New York Times Book Review

'… a brilliant book addressed to students and to lay people alike and timelessly persuasive.' Robert Burchfield --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Language - in its communicative and playful functions, its literary formations and its shifting meanings - is a perennially fascinating topic. C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words explores this fascination by taking a series of words and teasing out their connotations using examples from a vast range of English literature. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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IN this chapter we shall have to consider Greek phusis, Latin natura (with its derivatives), and English kind. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wit and Wisdom of C. S. Lewis 16 May 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Semantic change - etymology - philology - the history of words, or word-complexes, is often dealt with in a dictionary by an abbreviated form of 'it used to mean X, but now it means Y' explanation, and perhaps this is the most realistic way of handling the matter in a dictionary. Modern linguists have their own rigourous and abstract techniques. But in this intellectually demanding work C. S. Lewis, working at the height of his powers, takes the widest of perspectives, and retains depth of focus. He traces the changing meanings of several words, over the centuries and millennia, from their Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon roots to the modern day. The result is valuable exposition, with depth both in psychology and philosophy, and rich in literary source material. The words themselves are treated as living entities, evolving by expansion, contraction, and development of new forms. His chosen words are: 'nature', 'sad', 'wit', 'free', 'sense', 'simple', 'conscience and conscious', 'world', 'life', and 'I dare say'.
As Lewis says, 'The point of view is merely lexical and historical', and 'not an essay in higher linguistics', but this belies the many adventitious benefits that stem from his handling of the resources at his command. His purpose is to give us 'an aid to more accurate reading' and to throw light 'on ideas and sentiments'. I find that in so doing he imparts as much practical technique, knowledge, and enthusiasm for words as a whole year's worth of undergraduate linguistics. For instance, the subtlety of usage of a phrase like 'I dare say' and the potential for even complete reversal in meaning is illustrated through centuries of use from Malory, Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, E. Nesbit, Dorothy L. Sayers, debate in the House of Lords, John Bunyan, and Jane Austen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wit and Wisdom of C. S. Lewis 16 May 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Semantic change - etymology - philology - the history of words, or word-complexes, is often dealt with in a dictionary by an abbreviated form of 'it used to mean X, but now it means Y' explanation, and perhaps this is the most realistic way of handling the matter in a dictionary. Modern linguists have their own rigourous and abstract techniques. But in this intellectually demanding work C. S. Lewis, working at the height of his powers, takes the widest of perspectives, and retains depth of focus. He traces the changing meanings of several words, over the centuries and millennia, from their Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon roots to the modern day. The result is valuable exposition, with depth both in psychology and philosophy, and rich in literary source material. The words themselves are treated as living entities, evolving by expansion, contraction, and development of new forms. His chosen words are: 'nature', 'sad', 'wit', 'free', 'sense', 'simple', 'conscience and conscious', 'world', 'life', and 'I dare say'.
As Lewis says, 'The point of view is merely lexical and historical', and 'not an essay in higher linguistics', but this belies the many adventitious benefits that stem from his handling of the resources at his command. His purpose is to give us 'an aid to more accurate reading' and to throw light 'on ideas and sentiments'. I find that in so doing he imparts as much practical technique, knowledge, and enthusiasm for words as a whole year's worth of undergraduate linguistics. For instance, the subtlety of usage of a phrase like 'I dare say' and the potential for even complete reversal in meaning is illustrated through centuries of use from Malory, Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, E. Nesbit, Dorothy L. Sayers, debate in the House of Lords, John Bunyan, and Jane Austen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Etymology of 11 words/phrases 21 Mar 1998
By David Graham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book traces the changes to the meanings of eleven words over the centuries: nature, sense, sad, wit, free, simple, conscience and conscious, world, life, and 'I dare say'. This book may be a little too specialized for the general reader, but it is not so esoteric that it cannot be read with pleasure by anyone interested in word meanings. Even though I'm no student of English literature or etymology, I did enjoy reading this book.
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wit and Wisdom of C. S. Lewis 16 May 2001
By Michael JR Jose - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Semantic change - etymology - philology - the history of words, or word-complexes, is often dealt with in a dictionary by an abbreviated form of 'it used to mean X, but now it means Y' explanation, and perhaps this is the most realistic way of handling the matter in a dictionary. Modern linguists have their own rigourous and abstract techniques. But in this intellectually demanding work C. S. Lewis, working at the height of his powers, takes the widest of perspectives, and retains depth of focus. He traces the changing meanings of several words, over the centuries and millennia, from their Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon roots to the modern day. The result is valuable exposition, with depth both in psychology and philosophy, and rich in literary source material. The words themselves are treated as living entities, evolving by expansion, contraction, and development of new forms. His chosen words are: 'nature', 'sad', 'wit', 'free', 'sense', 'simple', 'conscience and conscious', 'world', 'life', and 'I dare say'.
As Lewis says, 'The point of view is merely lexical and historical', and 'not an essay in higher linguistics', but this belies the many adventitious benefits that stem from his handling of the resources at his command. His purpose is to give us 'an aid to more accurate reading' and to throw light 'on ideas and sentiments'. I find that in so doing he imparts as much practical technique, knowledge, and enthusiasm for words as a whole year's worth of undergraduate linguistics. For instance, the subtlety of usage of a phrase like 'I dare say' and the potential for even complete reversal in meaning is illustrated through centuries of use from Malory, Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, E. Nesbit, Dorothy L. Sayers, debate in the House of Lords, John Bunyan, and Jane Austen. The result is not a mere catalogue of shades of meaning, but an analysis and satisfying literary work in its own right - and that's just one chapter. The index alone references about two hundred authors from Aeschylus and Augustine to Xenophon and Yeats. The twenty-three page introduction and final chapter ('At the fringe of language') together form a valuable essay on the practical use of language, and I commend them to anyone interested in sharpening their use of the spoken or written word.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intimidating and dazzling bit of scholarship 20 Oct 2002
By Ken Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As in his other works on Medieval literature, Lewis here displays a breathtaking range of learning and scholarship. The endless hours which he must have spent hunched over his desk, his pipe in his mouth, poring over volumes of Latin and Anglo-Saxon poetry, are more clearly evident in a book like this than any biographer could make them. It's more than a little intimidating to realize just how much one hasn't read.
The strongest impression that this book has left on me is of how carefully and thoughtfully Lewis must have approached his reading. I suspect I am myself one of those who imposes the "dangerous sense" (i.e., the modern sense) onto a word when I encounter it in earlier literature, without recognizing that the meaning the author intended would have been subtly different. And it is precisely those times when the difference is most subtle that the difference is the most dangerous. I found myself somewhat exhausted by the immense range of literature from which Lewis drew his examples. Finding examples of "life" in the works of George Bernard Shaw or G. K. Chesterton probably wasn't difficult; but he quotes just as freely from Rider Haggard, Coleridge, Chaucer, Spenser, Hobbes, Ovid, Lucretius, Seneca, Plato and Aristotle -- as well as writers and works I'd never heard of before. What's most depressing is that I couldn't have pulled these sorts of examples even out of the writers that I have read. Oh well. We can't all be geniuses.
The book also challenged me to be more precise in my writing. Several times, as Lewis marched inexorably through the millennia, tracing a word from Homer to Chesterton, I was reminded of those occasions when Lewis describes "The Great Knock" (William Kirkpatrick), Lewis' early tutor, trapping a covey of female bridge players, "begging them to clarify their terms". Lewis' own writing was unusually strong and clear, even in passages markedly beref of stylistic adornments. I suspect that this was largely the result of his careful and precise use of words: never saying more or less than what he meant, never throwing in a word just for effect, and always clearly aware of the precise effect that his chosen words would have.
As is often the case, I enjoyed the opening and concluding essays the most. The chapter on "Life" was probably the most polemic -- but even there, only subtly so -- and probably for that reason the most interesting. The other essays, on "wit", "free", "nature", "simple", "sense" and "world", for instance, were interesting and informative, but not helpful in the sense that I'll likely find a use for their content. Again, it makes all the difference whether you're a medieval scholar or just a Lewis fan.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I understood about one-tenth of it, but.... 29 Jan 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
...the fault is mine, not Lewis's. I read this book in my quest to read everything Lewis wrote. While much of it was obscure, (in contrast to his religious writings,) there are still many ideas that a non-scholar can grasp. As noted in other reviews, the first and last chapters are the most down-to-earth. The chapters discussing each chosen word are laden with reference to writings by Dryden, Pope, Aristotle, and numerous others. Latin and Greek and other languages are quoted, and not always with a translation. In spite of my interest in semantics and language, most of the time I was in over my head. I'm glad I read it, but happy that I borrowed rather than bought it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Love for Words 5 July 2005
By Jacob Schriftman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Someone once said that good teachers do not only teach a subject but also impart a LOVE for the subject. This C.S. Lewis certainly did to me through his "Studies in Words." I read the book a while ago, and though I do not remember every detail, a deep love for words and language has been with me ever since.

Naturally the book offers more than mere love for linguistics: it is also a tool for truly appreciating and understanding older literature. By tracing a number of key words through the centuries, C.S. Lewis helps the reader to understand how concepts change and what effect that has on one's understanding of literature.

Lastly, for those who relish C.S. Lewis's other works, "Studies in Words" might prove a fascinating view of yet another facet of Lewis's wide-ranging writings. Full points!

- Jacob Schriftman, Author of The C. S. Lewis Book on the Bible: What the Greatest Christian Writer Thought About the Greatest Book
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