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Review of  A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics

Reviewer: Carrie A. Ankerstein
Book Title: A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics
Book Author: David Crystal
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Language Family(ies): New English
Issue Number: 14.1477

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Date: Mon, 19 May 2003 09:56:20 +0100
From: C A Ankerstein
Subject: Crystal, D. (2002). A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics

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

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

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

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 X-bar^◊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

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 mind.

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.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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. µ

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