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Language Play

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140273854
ISBN-10: 0140273859
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Language play takes different forms for different people. Some people groove on crossword puzzles; others gravitate toward Scrabble. Still others like to rap, tell jokes, speak in puns, or recite Monty Python skits verbatim. What they all have in common--what we all have in common, says linguist David Crystal--is a love of language play. "The phenomenon of language play," he writes, "seems to cut across regional, social and professional background, age, sex, ethnicity, personality, intelligence and culture." As it turns out, little research has been done on the subject. Language exists, it is usually thought, to communicate ideas. Crystal argues that "it is difficult to see how ping-pong punning can possibly fit in with [this] view."

In Language Play, Crystal explores the various ways in which people play with language. He outlines the professions--including advertising, headline writing, and comedy--that rely on language play. He talks about the importance of play in language development, even for the infants. And he argues that the printed matter used in schools (he lives in the U.K., by the way) sorely needs updating to reflect children's interest in rhyme, nonsense, pattern, new words, and the like. Examples new and old (from the 1800s) demonstrate the ways in which language can entertain. But language play is more than just entertaining, the author says; "it brings people into rapport with each other." In fact, he says, "disaffection with someone's language play is ... a sign that a relationship is on the way to breaking down." Think about it: "When you get annoyed by someone's silly voices, find their mock regional accents extremely irritating, or their favourite word game pointless and boring, then all is definitely not well." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

In this exhilarating and often hilarious book, David Crystal examines why we devote so much time and energy to language games, how professionals make a career of them, and how young children instinctively take to them. Crystal makes a simple argument-that since playing with language is so natural, a natural way to learn language is to play with it-while he discusses puns, crosswords, lipograms, comic alphabets, rhymes, funny voices taken from dialect and popular culture, limericks, anagrams, scat singing, and much more.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin UK (June 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140273859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140273854
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,669,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has written or edited over 100 books and published numerous articles for scholarly, professional, and general readerships, in fields ranging from forensic linguistics and ELT to the liturgy and Shakespeare. His many books include Words, Words, Words (OUP 2006) and The Fight for English (OUP 2006).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C. Kunzler on August 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
The only review for this book on the american amazon. com was by an disgruntled reader who bought the book thinking it was supposed to be a history. If you want better reviews check go to the amazon uk page.
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By Harriet Hasenclever on April 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had already read other books by David Crystal and enjoy his explorations. This I in fact bought to give as a present.
It is playful.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Turner on January 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
I thought that this book was going to be about importance of language play to human life, but once I dug into the book, I found that it consists almost entirely of examples of different language games, without much evidence or analysis regarding how or why these games are actually important.
The first 2/3 of the book reads more like a catalog of word games than a discussion about the importance of language play. The background information provided about the games also feels rather thin -- the author tells you only a little bit about the history of some games without much development. Furthermore, readers will already be familiar with most of the games presented, so there's little new to learn.
Thankfully, the chapters on childhood language learning finally provided some actual research information on the topic, and finally built up an argument about how language play is critical to a person's development. In my opinion, the interesting stuff in the last 1/3 of the book is probably not worth the price.
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