Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Books on Language

Last year, Brave New Words had our first giveaway. As part of this, we asked readers for suggestions for books on language. Here is the compiled book list:

Maya wrote: There was a classic book on language called The Mother Tongue. It must be out of print by now, but it was what started my passion for language and its history, way back in the early seventies.

Pennifer suggested: How about Horace Lunt's "Old Church Slavonic Grammar" one of my bibles when I took an OCS graduate seminar back in the day?

From Debs: I recommend David Crystal's "Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language". Covering everything from gender issues to regional variations, this gold mine of information is a definite asset on anyone's bookshelf.

S. Borei wrote: With a library full of books on language with some dating back to the early 1700s it is no easy task to choose just one or even two. So instead of picking an out-and-out reference work, let me recommend one that has given me both insights and pleasure - the latter a somewhat rare commodity for someone who struggles constantly with language. So for that then, I recommend Karen Elizabeth Gordon's "The Deluxe Transvestite Vampire – the ultimate handbook of grammar for the innocent, the eager and the doomed." It's a wondrous window on the winsome, winning ways of words.

Susan King recommended: I grew up in a house filled with books. I don't remember the exact title but I loved browsing through Menken's American Language when I was in Junior High. I didn't understand much of it, but it was fun.

Jaax suggested: My bible for paper-writing: The Little, Brown Handbook by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron.

Nina wrote: _In the Land of Invented Languages_ by Akira Okrent discusses non-naturally occuring languages like Esperanto, Klingon, Bliss Symbols (an early communication system for people with disabilities who are nonverbal. This is perhaps an unconventional choice, but I read it some time ago, and found it interesting.

A. Argandona recommended: I recently bought in France 'Le Pourquoi des Choses' by Anne Pouget. It is a very entertaining read about word origins, expressions and curiosities.

From Liz Nutting: One of my favorites is Sin and Syntax, by Constance Hale. She gives the grammar and syntax rules--then tells you how to break them for more effective prose!

From Luella Goodman: I still think "Eats, Roots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss is a winner in terms of presenting idiosyncracies of English punctuation in an entertaining read that appeals to both professional and lay linguists. Its tongue-in-cheek style dares any wannabe writer to flex their punctuation muscles!

Stephen wrote: Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language by Steven Pinker. Steven Pinker examines a rather narrow topic (irregular and regular verbs) and the cognitive processes behind these verbs. In it, Pinker explores how language is stored, produced, learned, etc. The book is more technical than his more famous work, The Language Instinct, but for anyone who wants to understand regular and irregular verbs and the many language oddities that come along with these verbs, it is a wonderful read. It will teach you more about language processes than almost any other mainstream book on the market.

Ben Boblis recommended: I love Native Tongues by Charles Berlitz. I can read it over and over and always find something new and interesting. It has a little bit about a lot. :)

Lauren Redman wrote: I'd like to recommend a fairly new book titled 'The Secret Life of Words' by Henry Hitchings. It's about the 'promiscuous' English language and how it came to have so many words - and synonyms - from over 350 other languages! It's entertainingly written and includes a bit of history too. Lots of interesting tidbits to drop into the dinner conversation!

Mehregan suggested: Halliday's An Introduction to Functional Grammar is a quite fruitful book. It is the basis of My M.A. thesis. I found wonderful notions about different languages especially English. I am not an English native speaker but this book took me to the depth of English.

From Prof Adam: I would recommend Bill Bryson'a book, "mother tongue" as it is a truly fascinating book about the Development and history of the English Language. I would also recommend "Troublesome Words" by the same author as it highlights interesting uses and misuses of modern English.


Brian Barker said...

I think Arika's book is a terrific read. However I think that the choice of an international language lies between English and Esperanto, rather than an untried project.

Your readers may be interested the following video at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a translator with the United Nations in Geneva.

A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks, Brian!

Best wishes,

Marie Curry said...

Thank you for this post; I was looking for recommendations on books on languages... Perfect!

Essentials said...

Yes, good post.
Can't wait to get all these books for myself to read (too bad they not available in Romania).