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Review of  The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Second Edition)

Reviewer: Sara Laviosa
Book Title: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Second Edition)
Book Author: David Crystal
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Issue Number: 15.1030

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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

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 presentation 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,

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