This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
Van Dijk presents a new theory of context that explains how text and talk are adapted to their social environment. He argues that instead of the usual direct relationship being established between society and discourse, this influence is indirect and depends on how language users themselves 'define' the communicative situation. The new concept Van Dijk introduces for such definitions is that of context models. These models control all language production and understanding and explain how discourse is made appropriate in each situation. They are the missing link between language and society so far ignored in pragmatics and sociolinguistics. In this interdisciplinary book, the new theory of context is developed from a linguistic and psychological perspective. The theory is applied to the domain of politics, including the debate about the war in Iraq, where political leaders' speeches serve as a case study for detailed contextual analysis.