How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live Or Die

Front Cover
Steven Pinker meets Bill Bryson in this landmark exploration of language.

In the author's own words, "How Language Works is not about music, cookery, or sex. But it is about how we talk about music, cookery, and sex-or, indeed, anything at all." Language is so fundamental to everyday life that we take it for granted. But as David Crystal makes clear in this work of unprecedented scope, language is an extremely powerful tool that defines the human species.

Crystal offers general readers a personal tour of the intricate workings of language. He moves effortlessly from big subjects like the origins of languages, how children learn to speak, and how conversation works to subtle but revealing points such as how email differs from both speech and writing in important ways, how language reveals a person's social status, and how we decide whether a word is rude or polite.

Broad and deep, but with a light and witty touch, How Language Works is the ultimate layman's guide to how we communicate with one another.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - SashaM - LibraryThing

At times interesting and educational other times snore worthy. Was expecting it to be a bit more like the last book of David Crystal's that I read (Spell it out) which was much more layperson friendly ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - MarthaJeanne - LibraryThing

If you don't know much about linguistics, this is a good place to start. It could also be useful for learning about areas of linguistics you have never entered before. If you have already read a number of books about language/linguistics you will be bored. Read full review

Contents

Introducing language 1 How what works?
1
How to treat body language 5
4
How we use the edges of language 11
4
Spoken language
4
phase 1
18
phase 2
31
How we transmit sounds
32
How we hear speech sounds
39
How sentences work
247
How we learn grammar
254
How we discourse
260
How conversation works
267
How we choose what to say
275
How we cant choose what to say
282
Dialects
287
How we know where someone is from
289

How we perceive speech
44
How we describe speech sounds
51
How we describe consonants and vowels
58
How we organize the sounds of speech
66
How we use tone of voice
73
Discourse
77
the first year
79
later years
85
How speech can go wrong
90
How we write
97
early times
105
modern times
113
How we read
121
How we write and spell
127
How we learn to read and write
133
How reading and writing can go wrong
140
How writing and speech differ
147
How the electronic medium differs
153
Sign language 25 How sign language works
159
How sign languages vary
164
Language structure 27 How the brain handles language
171
How to investigate language structure
180
How we mean
186
How we analyse meaning
192
How we learn vocabulary
198
How children learn to mean
204
How dictionaries work
210
How names work
217
How vocabulary grows
224
How we study grammar
230
How words work
236
How we classify words
242
How to study dialects
295
the ethnic issue
302
the social issue
309
the stylistic issue
316
the contextual issue
322
How dialects differ from languages
329
How languages die
336
How languages are born
343
How language began
350
How language changes
357
How language families work
364
How the IndoEuropean family is organized
371
How other Eurasian families are organized part one
380
How other Eurasian families are organized part two
387
How the IndoPacific island families are organized
393
How African families are organized
397
How American families are organized
403
How multilingualism works
409
translate them
416
supplement them
423
learn them
430
teach them
437
plan them
444
How not to look after languages
451
recognizing principles
457
recognizing functions
462
recognizing varieties
469
Teaching people to look after languages
477
Further Reading
485
Index
487
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About the author (2007)

David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and the editor of The Penguin Encyclopedia.

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