LINGUIST List 15.1030

Mon Mar 29 2004

Review: General Linguistics: Crystal (2003)

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  1. Sara Laviosa, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language

Message 1: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 13:03:46 -0500 (EST)
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

Announced at

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
clich�s, 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

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 presey"tation is clear and pleasing
throughout. Surprisingly, though, there is a repeated typo on p 430,
432, and 433, viz. disinctiveness*.


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.
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