Questions About Language : What Everyone Should Know About Language in the 21st Century book cover
1st Edition

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

ISBN 9780367175016
Published June 3, 2020 by Routledge
198 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations

About the contributors


1. Do animals communicate using a language?

2. Is talking work doing work?

3. What makes a language a language?

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

5. Is written grammar better than spoken grammar?

6. Is language change good or bad?

7. Are the sounds of languages influenced by climate, environment and biology?

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

9. Is learning a signed language easier than learning a spoken language?

10. Can you forget your native language?

11. Can people really disguise themselves when writing or speaking?

12. What is universal about intonation?


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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