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Historical Linguistics: An Introduction second edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262532679
ISBN-10: 0262532670
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Editorial Reviews


"The absolutely best textbook in historical linguistics."
Theo Vennemann, Department of Linguistics, University of Munich

"The textbook of choice for courses in historical linguistics."
William Poser, Department of Linguistics, University of Northern British Columbia --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Lyle Campbell is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. He is the author of American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America and Historical Syntax in Cross-Linguistic Perspective (with Alice C. Harris), both of which won the Linguistic Society of America's prestigious Leonard Bloomfield Book Award, and other books.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 470 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; second edition edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262532670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262532679
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Lyle Campbell's HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS: An Introduction is the latest textbook initiating students into the study of language change. Already in its second edition, the book is quite impressive and I highly recommend it to anyone entering the field.

Campbell begins by discussing three types of change, that of sounds, that of the lexicon in borrowing, and analogical change. After making students aware of these diachronic developments, he then presents the comparative method and the technique of proto-language reconstruction. After showing how regular correspondences indicate development from a common source, Campbell discusses the classification of languages and models of linguistic change. For me, the most exciting chapter is that on internal reconstruction, where Campbell gives a number of examples (not just the usual one of PIE ablaut). The author then covers three others types of change, semantic, lexical, and syntactic. A chapter on areal linguistics familiarises the reader with dialectology, and one on distant genetic relationships introduces theories like Nostratic. Finally, discussion of philology and a chapter on reconstruction of proto-cultures and the hunting of Urheimats closes the book.

The finest aspect of this book is the great variety of languages from which Campbell draws his examples. Many textbooks, such as that of Lehmann, limit their focus mostly to Indo-European, but Campbell also gives attention to Finno-Ugric, Polynesian languages, Semitic, and many indigenous American languages, especially the Mayan languages which the authors seems expert in.
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Format: Paperback
I would highly recomment this book to anyone interested in historical linguistics. Having read four introductory textbooks on historical linguistics (Campbell's, R. L. Trask's, Anthony Fox's, and Terry Crowley's), I believe that Campbell's is probably the best. His writing style is clear and accessible, his explanations easy to understand, and his examples drawn from a wide variety of languages, particularly indegenous languages of Central America (Campbell is one of the leading experts in Mayan languages today). His step-by-step description on how to apply the comparative method, in particular, is in my opinion both more detailed and better-illustrated than those in most of his colleague's works. He does assume some knowledge of basic linguistic concepts, but defines those concepts which are more advanced as they come up. The exercises given at the end of each chapter are well-chosen, but unfortunately for those who are not students but merely reading the book outside of a classroom, answers are not provided.

The only complaint I have is not a problem with the writing per se, but with the way the book was printed. Several of the diacritics used in the text (in particular, an upside-down semi-circle placed under a velar consonant to signify that the consonant is fronted or palatalized) do not appear correctly, and show up a line below where they are supposed to be, which tends to interfere with the reading, as it forces you to read slower and return to previous lines to see which characters are supposed to have diacritical marks. This is not a fault of Campbell's, but it does detract somewhat from the reading (hopefully it will be fixed if there is another edition).
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Format: Paperback
Campbell has written a book I never tire of using in my classes. Most textbooks are flawed, some more than others, and have to be changed after a few years to avoid driving professors and students crazy. This book has no imperfections. To those who find his orthography confusing, I recommend a close read of BOTH pages of his introductory section on his orthographic methods. Each chapter is concise, readable, and comprehensive, something few authors can achieve on ANY topic. The chapters also finish with exercises ideally suited to follow up on, and aid the understanding of, the material in the chapter. Campbell does not avoid the moderate and difficult comparative and internal reconstruction problems, as other books do by relying largely on Polynesian data, but presents the student with problem sets ranging from the simple to the highly complex. The choice of which to use can be determined by the instructor and the level of the class. (BTW, the problem with the Polynesian sets is that none of them deal with assimilation and dissimilation, two forces that drive the great majority of sound changes.) Campbell also bravely and politely wades into the Mother Tongue debate, and deals with it logically and brilliantly. Considering the damage done to the field of Historical Linguistics by folks engaged in this debate, that is no small contribution.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a textbook, and is not a good choice for the general reader. Perhaps as a complement to a well taught course it would be very helpful, but on its own it is dry, not well integrated, and not very enlightening. For a general reader wanting to learn more about historical linquistics, try Jean Aitchison's "Language Change: Progress or Decay"?
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