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on 25 October 2005
I am doing a linguistics course with the Open University at the moment and I bought this book to suppliment the course material.
What a revelation! This is an example of how text books should be written. The language is clear and easy to understand. Most of the text book writers I have encountered seem to enjoy in wrapping a mantle of wooly words around the subject of Linguistis, propagating the myth that this is a difficult subject. Macauly's approach is the exact opposite, with the exception of David Crystal's work, I have not found a better example of clear, witty and informative writing. I wish other academics would learn from him, I know I have.
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on 8 February 2012
This is a very interesting book that covers a wide range of areas relating to language. I'd compare it to Nikolas Coupland's Style: Language Variation and Identity (Key Topics in Sociolinguistics), as it offers a compelling account of theory, but always from a standpoint that is informed, critical and in line with current understandings in the field. There are some pearls of wisdom in here that are worth reading for students of linguistics, particularly those on English language related courses (MA/PhD applied linguistics, for example), as 'the nature of language' is covered from many angles in a way that can be missing from introductory texts in the area. I can't help but think that my understanding would have been improved by picking up this and Coupland's books when I began my studies on language (but research is a journey, as they say).

Overall, great for students of linguistics (socio, cognitive, applied...) because it offers a wide and current account of relevant areas that somebody working with language should be aware of, but it's also a good book for more seasoned linguists, as the range of topics covered and the presentation of them are thought-provoking and challenging.

As a footnote, I would disagree quite strongly with the 'breaking the myth that linguistics is hard' comment from the other 5 star reviewer. I don't think that's what Macaulay is trying to achieve at all. By offering a critical and highly accessible account, he is not trying to undermine the work of others in the field, and does not suggest that everything could be communicated in such a way or that what he presents is an end-point in itself. Linguistics covers what we do with language, where language comes from, what the nature of language is, how language is learnt, how language is manipulated, how language varies and changes, how best to teach language, which parts of the brain / neurological pathways enable and condition linguistic performance, how the previous point is achieved at different ages and with different conditions, how language relates to wider cultural and semiotic networks/systems etc. Macauley introduces ideas in a very accessible way and offers some great criticisms of discourses related to the study and nature of language, but this cannot be taken as his proposal of 'the one way forward' - he is making some great and very complicated work accessible (not easy), and he shows great respect for it and so should we when reading his work!
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on 12 September 2006
I found this book to be disappointing. The examples used are cliched, and there is little originality or insight to be found. I was not able to find much to help me in my preparation for my studies, and I feel that there are other, better works that would be more appropriate.
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on 13 November 2009
If you are interested in linguiistics it is very pleasant and you do not get lost in jargon.
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