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Contemporary Linguistics Sixth Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312555283
ISBN-10: 0312555288
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

WILLIAM O'GRADY teaches linguistics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is the author of several scholarly books. His research focuses on syntactic theory, language acquisition, and Korean.

JOHN ARCHIBALD
in addition to teaching linguistics at the University of Calgary, studies the acquisition of phonology and has written several books on the subject.

MARK ARONOFF
is professor of linguistics at Stony Brook University and was President of the Linguistic Society of America for 2005. He has written numerous articles and several books on aspects of linguistic morphology, as well as on orthography and the teaching of linguistics.

JANIE REES-MILLER
is director of the English as a Second Language program at Marietta College, Ohio. In research and teaching, she is concerned with the interface between theory and practice and with making linguistics accessible to nonlinguists. She is coeditor with Mark Aronoff of The Handbook of Linguistics.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's; Sixth Edition edition (August 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312555288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312555283
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

I am a Linguistics PhD student, and when I was taking Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics, this was the suggested textbook. The writing is clear and concise, with great explanations and examples. In my upper level classes I find myself returning to this book frequently to clarify concepts. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone studying linguistics at any level. My only qualm is that the book relies heavily on examples from the American English language. I suppose that is fine for beginners, but it is definitely important to have examples from other languages as well. :)
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I feel like I need to write a review to balance out all these reviews of the condition of the book. This book is terrible for someone that wants to be led through each section slow and steady with optimum examples and reasoning corresponding directly to the examples. The 'appendix' for each section, especially complex sections like Phonology, is painfully short.

It has exercises but absolutely no way to understand how to do those exercises except within the framework of the main definitions of the book and the aforementioned appendix sections. Think of it like a math book with no answers and very few examples on how to work your way through the various problems presented. A study guide is usually very helpful with math but I find it absolutely necessary here.

In short I find this book lacking for sections like Phonology. IMO you need the study guide or it's not going to be as clear as it needs to be. I guess with a great teacher and the book it is possible to work your way through it, but for me I was hoping for more.

TLDR: Get the study guide. This book by itself is mediocre for learning HOW to actually do problems.
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A great overview of the incredibly broad and intriguing field of linguistics. O'Grady et al. have done a very nice job presenting a clear, concise, and well-organized view of several essential elements of the field. As a sociolinguist, I definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for an overview of linguistics.

One of my only complaints is that there's a pretty significant bias toward structuralist, Universal Grammar, and generative linguistics, with very little indication given that this is the perspective the book is taking or that there are other perspectives (most notably the up-and-coming usage-based perspective), which may give readers with less knowledge of the field a somewhat unduly narrowed understanding. Overall though, this is a great work that was highly enjoyable and informative!
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Rented it for a class. I'm so glad I did not purchase it. The book is very poorly organized and written in a very confusing manner. If you've never taken a linguistics class, like I had not, this is a poor companion for an introductory class.
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O'grady et al. do a marvelous job of introducing a newcomer to ALL the major subfields of linguistics -- phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, historical & comparative linguistics & language universals, neurolinguistics, psycholinguistics, language acquisition & development, sociolinguistics, animal communication, writing versus speech, & computational linguistics. These are covered very clearly and in surprising detail for an overview textbook; each chapter grounds the reader in enough of the basic terminology and concepts to read further on topics that interest them. A great way to bootstrap yourself into the field.

Only two subfields get rather short shrift in this book: (1) discourse analysis/conversation analysis are not covered well, although they at least get some mention under "sociolinguistics"; and (2) and the role of gesture in discourse gets passing reference in the "nonverbal communication" section of "animal communication." A chapter on discourse pragmatics, with a solid description of conversational analysis & a short section on gesture, would be a worthwhile addition I think.

Overall, though, the best introductory textbook out there.
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Although used and a paperback edition, this textbook came in excellent condition. The charts and diagrams are very useful to organize and understand information, and it does a good job of trying to teach concepts as well as definitions. My one gripe is that the beginning rushes the content just a little quickly, but with a good teacher (or other resources if you're learning on your own) that shouldn't be an issue. The book does seem to assume that you have some prior knowledge of linguistics.

As for the body of the book, it is rather serious at times but balances that out with lighthearted, corny moments. There are also asides into topics such as geography and anatomy wherever such understanding helps the reader out--if you enjoy that sort of thing (and linguistics), the book will be very engaging. Otherwise, it may be rather trite.
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I was required to buy this book for a college linguistics class, and all I can say is that the authors are fortunate that they're being "subsidized" by universities. It's not that the information is bad. You can certainly learn from the book, but only if you're willing to read every section two or three times.

The authors introduce new terminology constantly (often poorly defining the terms) and then move on as though the reader has instantly assimilated the information.

This book is a nice option if you're looking to test yourself on how well you can assimilate information even when poorly presented. And it works if you've also got a decent professor walking you through the information in a classroom environment. It is not, however, the book to buy if you're interested in learning on your own.
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