A Little Book of Language

A Little Book of Language

David Crystal

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0300170823

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A Little Book of Language

David Crystal

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0300170823

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


With a language disappearing every two weeks and neologisms springing up almost daily, an understanding of the origins and currency of language has never seemed more relevant. In this charming volume, a narrative history written explicitly for a young audience, expert linguist David Crystal proves why the story of language deserves retelling.

From the first words of an infant to the peculiar modern dialect of text messaging, A Little Book of Language ranges widely, revealing language’s myriad intricacies and quirks. In animated fashion, Crystal sheds light on the development of unique linguistic styles, the origins of obscure accents, and the search for the first written word. He discusses the plight of endangered languages, as well as successful cases of linguistic revitalization. Much more than a history, Crystal’s work looks forward to the future of language, exploring the effect of technology on our day-to-day reading, writing, and speech. Through enlightening tables, diagrams, and quizzes, as well as Crystal’s avuncular and entertaining style, A Little Book of Language will reveal the story of language to be a captivating tale for all ages.

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using words like the following (of course, they won’t all be pronounced perfectly at this age): • words to talk about people, such as the members of their family as well as visitors – ‘dada’, ‘grandma’, ‘Tom’, and ‘milkman’. • words to talk about the events of the day, such as ‘hello’, ‘night-night’, ‘all gone’, and ‘fall down’. • words to talk about the actions that people do, such as ‘kiss’, ‘tickle’, and ‘go’ – and also the main words that stop actions happening: ‘no’ and ‘don’t’. • words

13/01/10 2:47 PM Georgia Arm. 9 t h e l a n g ua g e s o f t h e wo r l d 91 from a single source? Did all the languages of North America? There are 2,000 languages in Africa. They couldn’t possibly have all come from a single original language – or could they? These are fascinating questions. And of course they lead to the most fascinating question of all: could all languages have come from just one original language? 12 Lithuanian 13 Belarussian 14 Ukrainian 15 Moldovan 16 Romanian 17

utterances are very lengthy yet. These babies aren’t telling their mum ‘I think it’s time we went to town’ or reciting ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’. But they are trying out tiny utterances, such as ‘mama’ and ‘dada’, and these sound like real words. The utterances don’t have a clear meaning yet, but they are being pronounced more confidently and consistently. We get the feeling that real language is just around the corner. This feeling is reinforced by the other feature of language I Crystal

language again. It’s taught in schools now. One day, perhaps, some children will start learning it as their mother tongue. One of the jobs the linguist had to do was bring the vocabulary up to date. The old Kaurna language had no words for television or mobile phones! That’s the thing about a language: it never stands still. When we study language, one of the most important topics is to investigate the way languages change. Crystal Little Book.indd 129 13/01/10 2:47 PM 130 a l i t t l e b o

diagnosis, pulse, medication 5 amps, speakers, kit, deck, cans 6 salon, blow dry, shampoo, set, trim 7 offer, sale, detached, buyer, attractive A hairdresser B dentist C estate agent D weather-forecaster E travel agent F doctor G disc jockey There’s something interesting about one of the words in line 5 of Test 2. ‘Cans’. I could have used the word ‘headphones’ instead. But people who have jobs in broadcasting usually talk about ‘cans’ rather than ‘headphones’ when they’re

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