LINGUIST List 14.1477

Thu May 22 2003

Review: General Linguistics: Crystal, D. (2002)

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  1. C A Ankerstein, A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 5th ed.

Message 1: A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 5th ed.

Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 20:57:15 +0000
From: C A Ankerstein <>
Subject: A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 5th ed.

Crystal, D. (2002). A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. 5th ed.
Blackwell, paperback ISBN: 0-631-22664-8, 508pp.

Announced at

Carrie Ankerstein, Department of Human Communication Sciences,
University of Sheffield, England.

The scarcity of dictionaries specific to the field of linguistics lead
David Crystal to write the first edition of the dictionary entitled
''A First Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics'' in 1980. That
first book was a reaction to the ''endless flow of terminology''
pointed out by Dwight Bolinger in ''Aspects of Language''. Crystal
claims that what was (and still is) needed was ''a comprehensive
lexicographical survey, on historical principles, of twentieth-century
terminology in linguistics and phonetics'' (p. vi of the 5th edition).

The book under review is a continuation of the first attempt at a
comprehensive lexicographical survey. Terms have been added with the
growth of linguistic fields and Crystal has responded to readers'
comments on coverage and treatment of entries.

The dictionary was written for academics as well as non-academics who
are interested in the field of linguistics, though special attention
is paid to the needs of other language-related professions like
language teaching, speech and language therapy, psychology, sociology,
anthropology, literary criticism and philosophy.

Crystal covers terminology from the core of linguistics as well as
these periphery fields which have spawned fields in their own right,
e.g. psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, etc. Most of the book deals
with terminology that is used in the study of linguistics, but also
used in everyday usage, like ''form'', ''sense'' and
''feature''. These types of words may seem obvious to the reader of
linguistics texts, but they carry different meanings or ''senses'' in
linguistics than they do in common usage. Crystal has not included
terms for which a typical dictionary definition will do, like
''alphabet'' and ''aphorism''. In total, there are some 5,000 terms
grouped into over 3,000 entries.

For each entry, Crystal has tried to include some encyclopedic
information, like historical context or the relationship of the entry
to other entries. In some cases, diagrams are used for clarification,
e.g. a small syntactic tree is included to the definition of which
would probably have been too abstract in words only. The information
given is based on standard usage. He notes that there are some terms
which are used idiosyncratically or that have controversial meanings
or other particular problems. In the interest of space, Crystal does
not go into specific detail, instead he gives a general
description. In such cases, this will probably suffice for
undergraduate students or non-academics interested in language. Those
who are more familiar with the field will most likely be aware of the
issues that surround certain terminology.

The entries are for the most part self-contained, so one need not look
up other terms in order to understand the original term. There is
extensive cross- referencing throughout. There is also some
information about usage added with non-native speakers of English in

A list of abbreviations, symbols and International Phonetic Alphabet
(1993) chart are included.

For the most part, the dictionary is quite comprehensive, covering
terms from the basic subfields in linguistics like syntax, semantics,
pragmatics, phonology and phonetics. Terms from other areas like
applied linguistics, psycholinguistics, etc. are included.

As there are very few similar resources available, and Crystal himself
treats the dictionary as a work in progress so-to-speak, it is perhaps
unfair to criticise the dictionary for terms that have been
over-looked. For example, I was surprised to see that Grice or Gricean
is not mentioned as an entry on its own as he has contributed a lot to
current pragmatic theory, though his pragmatic principles are
listed. The obvious names are listed like N. Chomsky, R. Jacobson and
M.A.K. Halliday are included, though these are listed under their
adjectival forms. The reader will, however, find that the most common
and basic terminology are covered.

On the whole, Crystal's dictionary is an important resource for anyone
working within the general area of linguistics. And besides, what
other dictionary has a listing for the ''Yo-ho-ho Theory''?


Bolinger, D.L. (1968). Aspects of Language. New York: Harcourt, Brace
& World. 

Crystal, D. (1980). A First Dictionary of Linguistics and
Phonetics. London: Andre Deutsch.


Carrie Ankerstein is a PhD student in the Department of Human
Communication Sciences at the University of Sheffield, England. She
has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of
Cambridge, England and a Bachelor's degree in German Linguistics from
the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA / University of Freiburg,
Germany. She teaches practical tutorials on syntax and phonetics in
the Departments of Human Communication Sciences and English Language
and Linguistics to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Her
research interests include psycholinguistics and first and second
language acquisition.
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