Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Review of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Second Edition)
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 21:54:27 +0100 From: Sara Laviosa Subject: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
AUTHOR: Crystal, David TITLE: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 2nd ed. PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2003
Sara Laviosa, Faculty of Languages, University of Bari, Italy
This is the second edition of David Crystal's well known Encyclopedia of the English Language, first published in 1995. Considerably reviewed, the new compilation represents a highly readable exploration of the history as well as the structural, pragmatic and sociolinguistic features of the English language. The new technological resources for studying language in a systematic way, such as corpora, are also illustrated. This fundamental work is addressed to a world-wide readership consisting of students, teachers, scholars, and professionals who are engaged with the English language in their daily lives. After an introductory chapter outlining the two models that underpin the structure and uses of English, the volume is divided into six parts. The appendices include a) an extensive glossary of technical terms, b) a list of special symbols and abbreviations, c) bibliographical references and a useful list of journals and societies with relative postal addresses and URLs, d) further reading, e) an index of linguistic terms, d) an index of authors and personalities, and f) an index of topics.
Part I deals with the history of English. Starting from early chronicles (chapter 2) it maps out the development of English from Old English (chapter 3) to Middle English (chapter 4), Early Modern English (chapter 5) and Modern English (chapter 6) to end up with a review of the concept of World English (chapter 7) and a discussion of the problems of identity arising from the dominant role of English as a world language. This chapter has been amply revised since the latest 1998 paperback edition, bringing the statistics on world English usage and country population figures up to date till 2001.
Part II concerns the English vocabulary, the largest component of English language structure. The size of the English lexicon and how it is calculated using the concept of lexeme are the main topics of chapter 8. The sources where the lexicon originates, i.e. the stock of native words, loan words, word-building, neologisms, unusual structures, and lexical creation are examined in chapter 9, while chapter 10 adopts a distinctive historical approach concerning itself with etymology. The popular topic of history names occupies a major part of this chapter. The structure of the lexicon is analysed in chapter 11 where all sense relations are carefully examined, i.e. synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, incompatibility, collocation, idioms, part-whole, hierarchies, and series. Dictionaries and thesauri are also mentioned here, although a fuller account is given in Part IV, of which more later. Part II then concludes (chapter 12) by looking at how words convey other meanings besides denotation and introduces the notions of connotation, taboo words, swearing, jargon, double speak and political correctness, catch phrases, vogue words, slogans, graffiti, slang, quotations, proverbs, archaisms, and clichés, so creating a fascinating balance between what is new and alive and what is old, dead or dying in current language use.
Part III deals with English grammar. It begins with a historical account (chapter 13) of the status of grammatical knowledge as a subject study for most of the last 200 years, distinguishing between grammar knowledge and knowledge about grammar, traditional grammar and prescriptive grammar, ancient and modern approaches to grammar. Finally, the two main domains of grammar are introduced, i.e. morphology and syntax. The remaining chapters are devoted to the systematic presentation of the structure of words with a particular focus on the role played by suffixation in expressing grammatical relationships (chapter 14), the analysis of the concept of word class, including traditional and new parts of speech (chapter 15), and sentence structure (chapter 16). The latter examines different types of sentences, levels of sentence structure, sentence functions, phrases, and structures beyond the sentence. As grammar is such a huge area of study only the basic notions of syntax have been introduced. What makes this chapter particularly valuable is the range of illustrative examples that have been excerpted from text genres as varied as everyday conversation and narrative prose.
Two main modes of transmitting messages, i.e. speech and writing are the topics of Part IV. Chapter 17 analyses the sound system, classifying vowels and consonants in relation to speech and writing and explaining how they combine into syllables, words and sentences. The prosodic features of the language, i.e. intonation, emphasis, and tone of voice are also outlined. Finally, the use of distinctive speech effects in writing is illustrated in contexts ranging from commercial advertising to poetry, competition radio programmes, and cartoons. Chapter 18 begins with the history of the English alphabet, then turns to the symbolic properties of letters from the perspective of graphologists. The complexities of English spelling, including a review of recent proposals of spelling reform, together with English punctuation round up Part IV.
While the previous three Parts investigate the abstract structural components of English and on the whole adopt a bottom-up approach, Part V turns to who speaks and writes the language as well as when, where, and what for. Chapter 19 first outlines the difference between language structure and language in use, it then introduces the notion of discourse and texts whose consistent linguistic features typify different language varieties. This chapter then concludes by examining the different features of speech versus writing, mixed modes of transmitting messages, and monologue versus dialogue. Variety in language use is the topic of the following four chapters. Chapter 20 looks at regional dialects which give information abut the speaker's geographical origins. It complements Part I and examines the following language varieties: American versus British English, American and British dialects, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, as well as the English spoken in Canada and the Caribbean Islands, Pidgin and Creoles, Australian, New Zealand English, South African English, and New Englishes. Chapter 21 adopts a sociolinguistic perspective and examines social variation in language use.
The following language varieties are looked at in detail: the language of religion, science, law, plain English, politics, news media, journalism, news broadcasting, weather forecasting, sports commentary, and commercial advertising. The concluding part of this chapter deals briefly with restricted varieties such as signalling codes or cookery recipes and new fashions in written styles, such as graphological minimalism and the varieties arising from new technologies such as the answerphone and telex transmission. Chapter 22 deals with personal variation and examines four areas concerning word games, linguistic deviance, verbal humour, and literature, the latter being the most creative domain of language variety. The final chapter (23) is entirely new, compared with the 1998 edition, and takes into account the rapid evolution of the Internet during the 1990s which has given rise to several language varieties such as short messaging service (SMS) and computer-mediated communication, also known as Netspeak, both of which exhibit distinctive discourse features, as well as specific graphetic, graphological, grammatical, and lexical properties.
Finally, Part VI deals with learning about English both in the field of first language acquisition and as an object of scholarly research carried out thanks to the development of new technological resources. More specifically, chapter 24 deals with oracy, literacy, grammatical development, early words and sounds, reading and writing, language failure and language pathologies whose accurate diagnosis and intervention depend on the accurate description of language structure and use provided by English language studies. Chapter 25 concludes the encyclopedia by looking at the new ways of studying English arising from recent developments in computing. Corpus studies play a central role in this recent trend and their contribution to the advancement of our knowledge of English is examined with regard to lexicography while a separate section is devoted to dictionaries. In the concluding section of Part VI we find a brief review of some of the main professional associations and periodicals that concern themselves with English studies. This complements the list provided at the end of Appendix III.
An interesting feature of this fundamental work is the ease and flexibility with which the reader can engage with the systematic study of the English language. Each chapter or section can be read as an independent unit or as part of the sequence chosen by the author. Cross-references are provided throughout to facilitate the complete coverage of a given topic or area of investigation. Individual topics are treated either within a single-page or a double-page spread and sentences never cross turn-over pages. Theories and descriptions are amply exemplified with an incredible variety of up to date text types and the exposition is lively and light-hearted throughout. Some themes and approaches run through various units. For example, as well as receiving a very interesting coverage in chapters 23 and 25 the role played by new technologies in English studies underpins other fields of scientific enquiry such as stylometry (in chapter 22), Netspeak (in chapter 21) and lexical structure (in chapter 11). The historical perspective is prominent not only in tracing the development of the English language but also in etymology (chapter 10) in the examination of the writing system (chapter 18) and the account of regional variation (chapter 20). Another feature is the coverage of literary language which is not treated separately but is present throughout in the many illustrative examples and in the section devoted to creative language (in chapter 22). The presentation is clear and pleasing throughout. Surprisingly, though, there is a repeated typo on p 430, 432, and 433, viz. disinctiveness*.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Sara Laviosa was Head of the Italian Section of the School of Languages at the University of Salford, UK, where she lectured in translation practice and theory. She is now a Research Fellow in English Language and Translation at the Dipartimento di Lingue, Letterature e Tradizioni Culturali Anglo-Germaniche, University of Bari, Italy. Her main research interests are in Corpus-based Translation Studies. She has designed the English Comparable Corpus (ECC) and the Commercial Italian Corpus (COMIC) and has contributed to the development of the Translational English Corpus(TEC). She has published articles and collected volumes on Translation Studies and Language Teaching Methodologies. She has authored the volume Corpus-based Translation Studies: Theory, Findings, Applications.