Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How Language Works: how babies babble, words change meaning, and languages live or die

by David Crystal

This is what happens when one doesn't write one's reviews right away: of course I remember what the book is about, but my initial reaction is lost and I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts about it. So, this'll be kind of a short one.

I wound up having to skim parts of this book, especially at the end. I'm really interested in cognitive linguistics, neurophysiology, semiotics... so the creation of language, learning of language, the biology and psychology of language are all subjects I'm jazzed about. Heck, I already knew about Noam Chomsky's universal grammar theory. How Language Works covers a lot of ground, including some stuff I found rather boring, but the parts I liked were super.

It's hard to find nonfiction that strikes the right tone between professional/academic and popular/readable. This particular book was a tad to "approachable" for me, in part because I'm already acquainted with some of the material. Overall, I'd say this book is an OK introduction to a broad range of subjects loosely gathered under the banner of Linguistics, but it's too broad and loose to satisfy more than a passing fancy.

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