1st Edition

Questions About Language What Everyone Should Know About Language in the 21st Century

Edited By Laurie Bauer, Andreea S. Calude Copyright 2020
    198 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    198 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Questions About Language sets out to answer, in a readable yet insightful format, a series of vital questions about language, some of which language specialists are regularly asked, and some of which are so surprising that only the specialists think about them.

    In this handy guide, sixteen language experts answer challenging questions about language, from What makes a language a language? to Do people swear because they don’t know enough words? Illustrating the complexity of human language, and the way in which we use it, the twelve chapters each end with a section on further reading for anyone interested in following up on the topic.

    Covering core questions about language, this is essential reading for both students new to language and linguistics and the interested general reader.

    List of illustrations

    About the contributors


    1. Do animals communicate using a language?
    Stephen R. Anderson

    2. Is talking work doing work?
    Jo Angouri and Ifigenia Machili

    3. What makes a language a language?
    Laurie Bauer

    4. Do people swear because they don’t know enough words?
    Kate Burridge

    5. Is written grammar better than spoken grammar?
    Andreea S. Calude

    6. Is language change good or bad?
    Lyle Campbell and Russell Barlow

    7. Are the sounds of languages influenced by climate, environment and biology?
    Dan Dediu and Scott R. Moisik

    8. Can you tell someone’s sexuality from the way they speak?
    Evan Hazenberg

    9. Is learning a signed language easier than learning a spoken language?
    Sara Pivac Alexander and George Major

    10. Can you forget your native language?
    Monika S. Schmid

    11. Can people really disguise themselves when writing or speaking?
    Corinne A. Seals and Natalie Schilling

    12. What is universal about intonation?
    Paul Warren



    Laurie Bauer FRSNZ is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of over twenty books including The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology (2013), which won the LSA’s Leonard Bloomfield Prize. In 2017 he was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Humanities Medal.

    Andreea S. Calude is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. She has a background in mathematics and linguistics and researches (spoken) grammar, language evolution, loanwords and just about any quantitative language-related question she can get data on. She has authored the TED ED Lesson “Does Grammar Matter?”.

    Suitable for expert and non-expert readers alike, this book offers accessible, thought-provoking and up-to-date discussions of a range of language-related topics. Engaging with a variety of questions from across the field of linguistics, the expert authors challenge commonly-held assumptions, prompting the reader to reflect on their own language attitudes and practices.

    Kate Scott, Kingston University, UK

    'The authors strike a commendable balance between the technicalities of their subjects and the need to explain them in ordinary prose. The questions are well chosen and leave few stones unturned… Hopefully it will whet the curiosity of lay readers with an interest in language to continue exploring this fascinating discipline. '

    Ross Smith MCIL