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Review of  Language Change

Reviewer: Andrea Pham
Book Title: Language Change
Book Author: Adrian Beard
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Issue Number: 16.1040

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Date: Sun, 03 Apr 2005 12:48:39 -0400
From: Andrea Pham
Subject: Language Change

AUTHOR: Beard, Adrian
TITLE: Language Change
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2004

Andrea Pham, Department of African and Asian Languages and Literatures,
University of Florida.

Language Change is one of the 'satellite' texts in Routledge's INTERTEXT
series of books, the 'foundation' text of which is Working with Texts: A
core introduction to language analysis (Carter et al. 2001). Each of the
19 satellite books so far produced is designed to apply aspects of
language to a particular topic area in more detail, complement the main
text, and develop skills taught in that text. The INTERTEXT series is
designed to help pre-college/university students understand how texts
work. Language Change is a slender book of 114 pages, consisting of 6
teaching units, a brief section of answers and commentaries, a list of 17
references, and a glossary of some 60 or so basic terms. As a teaching
text, it contains a variety of student-oriented tasks, e.g., questions to
answer, topics for discussion and/or research, and suggestions for further

Unit one, Context and language change, immediately emphasizes that the
focus of the book is external change rather than internal change. The goal
is to show how changes in society are reflected in language. Moreover,
since change is an ongoing process, the data used are drawn mainly from
sources in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The data chosen to
illustrate topics are various: a bank advertisement from 1967, an excerpt
from a children's story book from 1947, an advice column from a book
published in 1901, and a bank recruitment notice from 2003. Students are
asked to consider matters having to do with vocabulary choices, formality
levels, the actual layout of texts, the assumptions behind the writing,
the persuasive techniques used, etc. The main focus of this unit is on how
texts reflect changes in social attitudes.

Unit two, Genre and change, further examines social attitudes and
practices in larger public and commercial discourses and focuses on how
genres change over time. A recent newspaper advertisement by a male
seeking a partner is followed by two different Victorian 'advice' columns,
and students are asked to try to figure out what they can about the
attitudes of those who seek advice or help and those who give such advice
or help using the evidence they see before them. Two reports of soccer
games, one played in 1882 and the other in 2002, are used to discuss
interesting points made about changes in narrative styling, biases, and
discourse structure. Finally, some recipes for 'pudding' are used to show
how expectations have changed over time about what a 'pudding' is, about
what a recipe should include, and exactly what its purpose should be.

Unit three, Interpersonal communication genres and change, uses material
from holiday postcards, letters from headmasters, emails, text messages,
and chat groups to look at such matters as language choices (What is one
expected to say on a holiday postcard?), levels of formality, greetings
(or the lack of them), individual vs joint creation of a text, the use of
symbols, and the element of 'play' in newer forms of communication.

Unit four, Visual representation and change, briefly introduces ideas from
semiotics but confines itself to a discussion of simple signs, e.g., How
exactly do the words of a message look on the page? There is reference
back to materials used in previous units and some additional examples are
introduced from a computer screen, various posters, and a garment label.
The emphasis here is on how there can be no single, definitive reading of
a text: readings change over time.

Unit five, Attitudes to language change, makes brief reference to such
matters as correctness, taboo, pronunciation changes, the split
infinitive, apostrophe (ab)use, Plain English, and political correctness
in a series of short observations and examples. The approach here is
entirely descriptive: how do people actually use the language?

Unit six, Internal aspects of change, is also very brief. It introduces no
new material and in less than 10 pages asks students to think about topics
such as borrowing, affixation, spelling, pronunciation, denotation,
etymology, etc. Little more than a series of hints is offered as to how to
proceed any further in dealing with these topics.

Language Change neither introduces historical linguistics nor attempts to
explain any of the mechanisms that might be at work in language change. It
is very much a non-technical, non-theoretical book designed to be used by
a teacher who has an interest in language (and perhaps some knowledge too)
with students who want to find out more about language when neither
teacher nor students wish to be encumbered with terminology or theory
while trying to document that language indeed does change and the evidence
for change is everywhere around them. Although the book is slender and its
scope is severely limited, the overall approach is sound: it provides
textual evidence that language is changing; it describes some ways one can
talk about changes that can be observed; and it suggests various ways of
furthering one's knowledge about change. The result is a very satisfying
textbook for the level of intended use.


Carter, Ronald, Angela Goddard, Danuta Reah, Keith Sanger, and Maggie
Bowring (2001) Working with Texts: A core introduction to language
analysis, 2nd edition. London: Routledge.


Andrea Pham is an assistant professor of Vietnamese language and
linguistics in the Department of African and Asian Languages and
Literatures at the University of Florida. Her research interests include
Phonology, Vietnamese tone, Phonology-Phonetics interface and Language

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