- Paperback: 640 pages
- Publisher: Wadsworth Publishing; 3 edition (October 28, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0155078275
- ISBN-13: 978-0155078277
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Language: Its Structure and Use 3rd Edition
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About the Author
Edward Finegan (MA and PhD, Ohio University) specializes in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, forensic linguistics, and the history and structure of the English language. He served as chair of the Department of Linguistics at USC and currently serves as director of USC's Center for Excellence in Teaching. President of the International Association of Forensic Linguists, Finegan is editor of DICTIONARIES: THE JOURNAL OF THE DICTIONARY SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA and has been Liberal Arts Fellow in Law and Linguistics, Harvard University; Visiting Professor at University of Zurich; and Visiting Scholar at University of Helsinki. He also served as Director of American Language Institute/National Iranian Radio and Television [1975-1976 in peaceful times]. He is the recipient of many teaching awards and honors.
Top customer reviews
My students found it easy to understand but difficult to use. The rather diffuse style makes it hard to use as a reference, and the lack of examples made it difficult for them to translate the topics discussed into actual phenomena. I, on the other hand, was embarassed by the many innacuracies in the book. Of course, any introductory textbook necessarily contains oversimplifications, but ideally these should serve some pedagogical purpose. LISU contains an unfortunate number of misrepresentations that are difficult to justify. Here are a few (based towards areas in which I feel confidant to judge):
1. The chapter on historical linguistics (though it starts of strong with a very cogent demonstration of the comparative method using Malayo-Polynesian languages) degenerates into something less commendable in the section on language families, concentrating on the language families I know best, I note the following problems (by page):
479: It is claimed that of Sino-Tibetan languages, only Tibetan and Burmese have speaker populations of over a million. This is simply untrue (see the case of Meithei [=Manipuri], for example).
484: It is claimed that Cambodian is the largest language in the Mon-Khmer family. This claim is based upon the curious assumption that Vietnamese is not Mon-Khmer, which does not reflect the consensus of scholars in the field.
Later (p. 486), it is even claimed that Vietnamese "does not have any clear genetic relationships," which is false--little could be more clear than the relationship between Vietnamese and the other Vietic languages. And all these languages are clearly Mon-Khmer.
If one is looking for distant relatives of Mon-Khmer, one should start with the Munda languages (a language family of India, with millions of speakers), which most everyone now agrees are related to Mon-Khmer.
485: There is a curious mishandling of the Tai family: "Tai languages may be related to a number of languages spoken in Vietnam, with which they may form a Kam-Tai family." What the author seems to mean is that "Tai languages are related to a number of languages in China (the Kam-Sui languages), with which they form the Kam-Tai family. Kam-Tai, in turn, may be related to a number of languages of China and Vietnam, with which they may form a Tai-Kadai family."
2. In the section on writing systems, the text presents a largely discredited notion of where writing systems came from. Of course, this is true of most linguistics textbooks that treat this subject, so it is not a failing peculiar to LISU. But note that on p. 432, a cuneiform symbol is both misidentified and rotated at a peculiar and misleading fashion.
3. In the chapter on phonetics, flaps and trills are grouped, inexplicably, with clicks, despite the fact that they share few articulatory properties and do not even employ the same airstream mechanism.
I hope that these errors and misrepresentations, which seem quite dense in certain parts of the text, are not representative of the accuracy of the text as a whole. It is true, of course, that these specific criticisms pick at nits. But why is it better to mislead students than to leave them in ignorance?
There are better introductory linguistics textbooks, although these too have their failings. The Fromkin et al. is great for an in-depth course, and Fromkin and Rodman is fine for a survey course. O'Grady, Dobrovolsky, and Aaronoff has some nice strengths, as well. Any of these three books makes a better text for an introductory linguistics course than LISU. LISU, however, would probably be a better choice than these books for individuals who want to learn some linguistics outside of a structured course, a fact which is reflected in some of the positive reviews on this page.
However, whoever designed the book, please take note: Chapter numbers at the top of the pages would be appreciated. It is very difficult to find a particular chapter without them. Also, the paper is too...too...WHITE. The black type against the blaring white of the bleached paper gives one tired eyes after only a few moments of study. Also, a bit of color would be appreciated in the charts and graphs to enable a student to clearly note the divisions Finegan makes in language.
Overall, academically, Finegan's is a decent book; design-wise, it is in vast need of an over-haul. Now that I have violated several language maxims, I bit you all a good night.