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4.2 out of 5 stars
Language Myths
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2000
Unfortunately, linguistic research is generally inaccessible to the non-linguist and so much that is written about human language for the masses is by non-specialists who take the opportunity to air their own prejudices. This book addresses many misconceptions about language, often supported by highly reputable authors who nevertheless can be shown to know nothing about the way language works. As editor Peter Trudgill says, if you want to know about physics, you ask a physicist; and if you want to know about language you ask a linguist and not just someone who has used it successfully in the past. The chapters are written by highly competent academics who are well-known in the linguistics community, and despite their being written for lay readers, there is much here that is also relevant for linguists and students of language. Read this book to find out how all languages are equally complex, why linguistic change is inevitable, and to laugh at the rubbish newspapers print.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2007
This is a really great book which aims to dispel commonly held beliefs about language. It's written in a simple, entertaining style that is easy to read, and the fact that it's made up of chapters written by different authors means that it's good to dip in and out of.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2011
This book is well and understandably written.
However, I'd be surprised if linguists would find this book interesting. I'm not one and find it trivial. Most of the "myths" are nothing but prejudices, often with a tinge of racism or nationalism, and not even that interesting to begin with. Anybody with a little bit of common-sense can dismantle these myths without the help of a linguist. The only thing this book adds to that are some references to scientific literature to back up the arguments for and mainly against these myths.

It's a good enough read but after all the 5-star reviews I expected more (content, information) from it.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2007
Readers interested in linguistics will learn that language change can't be prevented because it is a self-regulating system which takes care of itself. All languages are capable of vocabulary expansion to deal with new areas of life their speakers need to talk about. The media, often wrongly accused of ruining a language, are actually linguistic mirrors: they reflect current language usage and extend it. Languages cannot posses good or bad qualities because no language system can ever be shown to be clearer or more logical or more beautiful or ugly than any other language system.

What about the speakers of a language? Despite the widespread belief that women talk more than men, most of the available evidence suggests just the opposite. If you want to learn a foreign language, rest assured that there are no easy or difficult languages. In fact it is not even possible to perform overall measurements of the complexity of a language. Since all human languages allow the precise communication of complex messages they all require a grammatical system. Double negatives may sound appalling in English yet they exist in many other languages. It is therefore not appropriate to think in terms of logic when looking at language use.

An accent is like a map which listeners perceive through their ears and it gives them information about where a speaker was born, what age they are, what gender, what level of education they have, how much they might weigh and whether they feel well or ill at the moment of speaking. And finally readers may be surprised to learn that in many ways - mainly lexical - American English is more conservative than British English.
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on 1 February 2013
I have bought this book, because as a translator and interpreter I like very much to read new things and new teories about the l subject: language. The only problem with this book is that I find it very academical so I didn't fell very involved in the reading.
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on 17 December 2014
Dip-in dip-out chapters debunking various language myths. Interesting, tailored to beginners in language studies, the sort of book you might keep in your handbag for when you have a free moment.
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on 1 February 2014
An excellent debunking of mistakenly held folklingistic beliefs about language which is written in a clear and accessible style by all contributors.
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on 12 July 2014
A book anyone seeking to improve their linguistic awareness should read, will recommend widely to my friends in Croatia/ Serbia :)
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2005
As a linguist, people often ask you what you do, what it entails and sometimes a heated argument will arise with people saying how rubbish US English is and why German is an awful language.
This excellent little and affordable book deconstructs all those language myths we all have in our minds and helps linguistics becoming more accessible to laypeople. Pop-linguistics books à la Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue" are rare (perhaps a good thing) and this book, written by authorities in linguistics, will prove to be a good support for people who want to justify linguistics in their life or who wish to debunk which accent is the bestest in Britain... If you ever catch yourself quoting passages from that book to your mild-aged next-door neighbour: well done.
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Great book full of eye-openers. A bit heavy going at times - a book to dip into!
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