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on 3 October 2017
Nice digestible chapters, insightful and interesting
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on 22 January 2016
Really interesting and entertaining book, aiming to expose and explode some of the myths in linguistics. A good stimulus and introduction to the subject.
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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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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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 June 2016
This is a collection of short essays debunking or amending commonly held beliefs (myths) about language. The essays are varied and accessible. Each reader will find some of the essays of more interest than others and this choice will vary between readers. The shortness of the essays and their variety allows a great flexibility – the reader can dip in and out of this book at will.

The editors are academic linguists. They asked other academic linguists to talk to the general public rather than amongst themselves. In this they have succeeded. The contributors are all, with one exception, from the anglophone world: UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The exception, from Sweden, discusses the myth “Some Languages are Harder than Others”. His conclusion is – perhaps. Most languages are equally difficult unless they are closely related to the student’s native language. A few languages are genuinely difficult, for example the Khoisan, or “click” languages of south-west Africa. Creole languages are often easier, but they are developing languages originating in pidgins designed to allow limited communication between several languages.

The Myths
(1) The Meanings of Words Should Not be Allowed to Vary or Change
(2) Some Languages are Just Not Good Enough
(3) The Media are Ruining English
(4) French is a Logical Language
(5) English Spelling is Kattastroffik
(6) Women Talk Too Much
(7) Some Languages are Harder than Others
(8) Children Can’t Speak or Write Properly Any More
(9) In the Appalachians They Speak like Shakespeare
(10) Some Languages Have No Grammar
(11) Italian is Beautiful, German is Ugly
(12) Bad Grammar is Slovenly
(13) Black Children are Verbally Deprived
(14) Double Negatives are Illogical
(15) TV Makes People Sound the Same
(16) You Shouldn’t Say ‘It is Me’ because ‘Me’ is Accusative
(17) They Speak Really Bad English Down South and in New York City
(18) Some Languages are Spoken More Quickly than Others
(19) Aborigines Speak a Primitive Language
(20) Everyone Has an Accent Except Me
(21) America is Ruining the English Language
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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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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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