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Language Myths 0th Edition

38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140260236
ISBN-10: 0140260234
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Paperback, September 7, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Peter Trudgill and Laurie Bauer are both respected linguists. Trudgill has written many books for Penguin (including Sociolinguistics which has sold 130,000 copies since it was first published in 1974). Other contributors include Jean Aitchison (Professor of Language at Oxford), Lars Gunnar-Andersson (co-author of Bad Language with Trudgill) and Janet Holmes (Women, Men and Politeness, 1995, Longman). Peter Trudgill lives in Lausanne (and sometimes Norwich.) Laurie Bauer lives in New Zealand.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140260234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140260236
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By M. Karapcik on March 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, how much you like this book will depend on how much you know now. If you are a novice to linguistics or just curious, this book is excellent. It covers a broad range of subjects, avoids heavy use of technical jargon, and gives explanations that anyone can follow. The information is clear, well explained (not just "It's like this because it is because I said so."), and entertaining.
If you have already been doing some reading in linguistics, this book may be a bit simplistic. While I found parts interesting, much I already knew. In other cases, since similar arguments are in many works about linguistics (see "Teach Yourself Linguistics 5e" for much more detail than this book), as soon as the argument started, I could figure out the rest faster than it was explained. So, if you have some background in linguistics, this book is good for either (1) light reading, or (2) good explanations to use when people present the misconceptions described in the book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. Reynard VINE VOICE on December 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
I got my degree in Linguistics and this was one of the books for my classes. For some particular reason I kept it and decided to read it again today. Everyone loves a good myth, and just as much people generally enjoy debunking a myth as well. That is what this book sets out to do for language. It is comprised of several chapters, each having their title state what it is that will be discussed and written by several different authors.

The Meaning of Words Should Not Be Allowed to Vary or Change by Peter Trudgill
He takes the time to explain how languages naturally change and with them, their words change meaning as well. There is nothing wrong with this and it is a development that should not be feared. He gives several examples in this chapter as well.

Some Languages are Just Not Good Enough by Ray Harlow
This chapter takes the time to discuss people's notions that some languages are just not sufficient for the modern world. It also explores the concept of countries with several languages using one prominent language in place of all others for ease of communication.

The Media Are Ruining English by Jean Aitchison
This chapter explores the effects media have on speakers of English and how stylistically English is expressed through media.

French is a Logical Language by Anthony Lodge
Lodge attempts to explain how there isn't really a "logical" language in the sense that rules tend to change for different things and one base set can never be applied to any one language.

English Spelling is Kattastroffik by Edward Carney
Like it sounds, this chapter covers the different rules of English spelling and how at times they do not seem logical.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John Stephenson on April 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on January 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a great disappointment. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing I find healthier than a little myth-debunking. So I was predisposed to like this collection of 21 essays, edited by Bauer and Trudgill.

Each chapter takes a particular 'language myth' and then argues against the validity of the myth, some more convincingly than others. (Having tried to learn both Russian and Spanish as foreign languages, I think it's fair to say that the statement "Some languages are harder than others" is not a myth). The quality of the contributions is somewhat variable, though most are quite readable. This accessibility to readers who may not necessarily have any formal exposure to linguistics is the book's main strength, in my view.

The reason for my disappointment is that, for almost half the chapters, I found the stated myth to be a straw man, which made those chapters not particularly interesting to read. There were two common problems - in some cases, the wording of the myth was so non-specific as to be meaningless, another common flaw was that the myth was worded in a very extreme fashion, essentially presenting a straw man for the author to demolish.

For instance, myth 1 "The meanings of words should not be allowed to vary or change" is couched in such absolute terms that anyone expressing even slight disagreement is automatically made to seem unreasonable. Or take the example "bad grammar is slovenly". The author appears to interpret "bad" grammar to mean anything that deviates, even slightly, from some highly codified set of rules.
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