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How English Works A Linguistic Introduction

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-01-26
  • Publisher: Pearson

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Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?


A major introductory language/linguistics textbook written specifically for English and Education majors, this book is an engaging introduction to the structure of English, general theories in linguistics, and important issues in sociolinguistics.#xA0; #xA0; This accessible text provides more extensive coverage of issues of particular interest to English and Education majors.#xA0; Tapping into our natural curiosity about language, it invites all students to connect academic linguistics to everyday use of the English language and to become active participants in the construction of linguistic knowledge. #xA0; The second edition provides updated examples of language change-including new slang and other word coinages, grammatical developments, and sound changes-as well as new research findings on American dialects, language acquisition, language evolution, eggcorns, English and the Internet, and much more.

Author Biography

Anne Curzan is Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan, where she also holds an appointment in the Department of Linguistics and School of Education. In 2007, she received an Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. She is the author of Gender Shifts in the History of English (Cambridge UP, 2003) and co-author of First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching (U of Michigan P, 2006). She currently serves as co-editor of the Journal of English Linguistics.


 Michael Adams teaches English language and literature at Indiana University, Bloomington. For fifteen years, he taught at Albright College, in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he also served as chair of the Department of English and associate academic dean; he has been a visiting professor at Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Iceland. He is the author of Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon (Oxford UP, 2003) and Slang: The People’s Poetry (Oxford UP, 2009), as well as contributing editor to Word Histories and Mysteries: Abracadabra to Zeus (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). He was editor of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America for several years; currently, he is editor of the quarterly journal American Speech.

Table of Contents

Brief Contents


Inside Front Cover  Dialect Map of American English, Consonant Phonemes of American English, Vowel Phonemes of American English

Inside Back Cover Brief Timeline for the History of the English Language

Detailed Contents                                                         

List of Symbols, Linguistic Conventions, and Common Abbreviations 

What’s New to This Edition    

Preface to Instructors                                                  

Letter to Students                                                        


Chapter 1             A Language like English 

Chapter 2              Language and Authority 

Chapter 3              English Phonology 

Chapter 4              English Morphology 

Chapter 5              English Syntax: The Grammar of Words 

Chapter 6              English Syntax: Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences 

Chapter 7              Semantics 

Chapter 8              Spoken Discourse 

Chapter 9              Stylistics 

Chapter 10            Language Acquisition 

Chapter 11            Language Variation 

Chapter 12            American Dialects 

Chapter 13            History of English: Old to Early Modern English 

Chapter 14            History of English: Modern and Future English 





Detailed Table of Contents



Inside Front Cover Consonant Phonemes of English, Vowel Phonemes of English, Phonetic Alphabet for American English

Inside Back Cover Brief Timeline for the History of the English Language

List of Symbols, Linguistic Conventions, and Common Abbreviations  xviii

What’s New to This Edition                                      

Preface to Instructors                                                  

Letter to Students          


Chapter 1    A Language Like English 

The Story of Aks 

Language, Language Everywhere 

The Power of Language 

Name Calling 

Judging by Ear 

A Question to Discuss: What Makes Us Hear an Accent?

The System of Language 

Arbitrariness and Systematicity 

A Scholar to Know: Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913) 




Human Language versus Animal Communication 

Birds and Bees 

Chimps and Bonobos 

Distinctive Characteristics of Human Language 

The Process of Language Change 

Language Genealogies 

A Question to Discuss: Can Your Language Peeves Be Rethought? 

Mechanics of Language Change 

Progress or Decay? 

Special Focus: Attitudes about Language Change 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 2 Language and Authority 

Who Is in Control? 

Language Academies 

Language Mavens 

A Question to Discuss: Does the SAT Know Good Grammar from Bad? 

Defining Standard English

Descriptive versus Prescriptive Grammar Rules 

Case Study One: Multiple Negatives 

Case Study Two: Ain’t 

Case Study Three: Who and Whom 

The Status of Prescriptive Rules 

Spoken versus Written Language 

A Question to Discuss: Are We Losing Our Memories? 

Dictionaries of English 

The Earliest Dictionaries of English 

The Beginnings of Modern Lexicography 

Historical Lexicography 

American Lexicography 

A Question to Discuss: Should Dictionaries Ever Prescribe? 

English Grammar, Usage, and Style 

The Earliest Usage Books 

Prescriptive versus Descriptive Tendencies in Grammars of English 

Modern Approaches to English Usage 

Special Focus: Corpus Linguistics 

Brief History  of Corpus Linguistics 

Applications of Corpus Linguistics in the Twenty-first Century 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter English Phonology 

Phonetics and Phonology 

The Anatomy of Speech 

The International Phonetic Alphabet 

English Consonants 



Language Change at Work: Is /h/ Disappearing from English? 


A Question to Discuss: Does English Have Initial or Final /Z/? 


Liquids and Glides 

Syllabic Consonants 

English Vowels 

Front Vowels 

Back Vowels 

Central Vowels 


Language Change at Work: The cot/caught and pin/pen Mergers 

Natural Classes 

Phonemes and Allophones 

Sample Allophones 

Minimal Pairs 

Phonological Rules 





Language Change at Work: Is larynx Undergoing Metathesis? 

Syllables and Phonotactic Constraints 

Perception of Sound 

Special Focus: History of English Spelling 

Should English Spelling Be Reformed? 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 4   English Morphology 


Open and Closed Classes of Morphemes 

A Question to Discuss: Exceptions to the Closedness of Closed Classes? 

Bound and Free Morphemes 

Inflectional and Derivational Bound Morphemes 

Inflectional Morphemes 

Derivational Morphemes 

Language Change at Work: The Origins of Inflectional - s 

Affixes and Combining Forms  

Morphology Trees  

A Question to Discuss: What about Complex Words That Seem to Have Only One Morpheme? 

Ways of Forming English Words 


Language Change at Work: Where do Contractions Fit In?


A Question to Discuss: Is It Clipping or Backformation? 

Language Change at Work: Alice in Wonderland and the Portmanteau 



Language Change at Work: Success Rates for New Words 

Reanalysis, Eggcorns, and Folk Etymology 


Frequency of Different Word-Formation Processes 

Borrowing and the Multicultural Vocabulary of English 

A Question to Discuss: What’s Wrong with amorality

Special Focus: Slang and Creativity 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 5   English Syntax: The Grammar of Words 

Syntax and Lexical Categories 

Open-Class Lexical Categories 



Language Change at Work: Is It fish or fishes , oxen or oxes

A Question to Discuss: Am I Good or Well? 


A Question to Discuss: Did I Lie Down or Lay Down? 


Closed-Class Lexical Categories 



A Question to Discuss: What Is the up in call up


Language Change at Work: Himself, Hisself, Hisownself 


Auxiliary Verbs 

Challenges to Categorization 

The Suffix -ing 

Noun Modifiers 

Yes and No 

A Question to Discuss: What Can Phonology Reveal about Modifying - ing Forms? 

Special Focus: Descriptive Syntax and Prescriptive Rules  


Split Infinitive 

Sentence-Final Prepositions 


Singular Generic They 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 6   English Syntax: Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences 

Generative Grammar 

Universal Grammar 

A Scholar to Know: Noam Chomsky (1928– ) 

Constituents and Hierarchies 

Constituent Hierarchies 

Clauses and Sentences 

Constituency Tests

Phrase Structure Rules 

Form and Function 

Clause Types 

Basic Phrase Structure Trees 

Complex Phrase Structure Trees 

Adverbial Clauses 

Relative Clauses 

Language Change at Work: Which Is It, Which or That

Complementizer Clauses 

Reduced Subordinate Clauses 

Infinitive Phrases 

Gerund and Participial Phrases 

Tense and Auxiliaries 

A Question to Discuss: What Is the It in “It Is Raining”? 


Wh- Questions 


Yes-No Questions 

Passive Constructions 

A Question to Discuss: How Did This Passive Sentence Get Constructed? 

Relative Pronoun Deletion 

Does Generative Grammar Succeed? 

Special Focus: Syntax and Prescriptive Grammar 

Sentence Fragments and Run-on Sentences 

Colons, Semicolons, and Comma Splices 

Dangling Participles 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 7   Semantics 


The Limits of Reference 

The Role of Cognition 

The Role of Linguistic Context 

A Question to Discuss: How Do Function Words Mean? 

The Role of Physical and Cultural Context 

Language Change at Work: The Formation of Idioms 

A Brief History of Theories of Reference 


Plato and Forms 

Repairing Plato 

From Reference to Discourse 

From Reference to Translation 

Lexical Fields 

Hyponym to Homonym (and Other Nyms) 






A Question to Discuss: Does the Thesaurus Have a Bad Name? 

Organization of the Mental Lexicon 

Prototype Semantics 

Lexical Prototype Semantics 

Analogical Mapping 

Conceptual Metaphor 

The Intersection of Semantics, Syntax, and Discourse 

Projection Rules 

How Sentences Mean 

Sentences and Context 

Processes of Semantic Change 

Generalization and Specialization 

Metaphorical Extension 

Euphemism and Dysphemism 

Pejoration and Amelioration 

Linguistic Relativity 

Special Focus: Politically Correct Language 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 8   Spoken Discourse 

Defining Discourse Analysis 

Speech Act Theory: Accomplishing Things with Words 

Scholars to Know: J. L. Austin (1911–1960) and John Searle (1932– ) 

Components of Speech Acts 

Direct and Indirect Speech Acts 

Performative Speech Acts 

Evaluating Speech Act Theory 

The Cooperative Principle: Successfully Exchanging Information 

Conversational Maxims 

A Scholar to Know: Robin Tolmach Lakoff (1942-) 

Conversational Implicature 

A Question to Discuss: Entailment and Implicature 


Politeness and Face: Negotiating Relationships in Speaking 

Positive and Negative Politeness and Face 

Face-Threatening Acts 

A Question: A Question to Discuss: How Do Compliments Work? 

Discourse Markers: Signaling Discourse Organization  and Authority 

Function of Discourse Markers 

Language Change at Work: Discourse Markers rom Beowulf to Dude 

Types of Discourse Markers 

Language Change at Work: Like, I Was Like, What Is Going On with the Word Like? 

Conversation Analysis: Taking Turns and the Conversational  Floor 

Structure of Conversation 


Turn-Taking Violations 

Maintenance and Repair 

Style Shifting: Negotiating Social Meaning 

Indexical Meaning 

Style and Creativity 

Special Focus: Do Men and Women Speak Differently? 

Performing Gender

Early Language and Gender Research 

Different Models for Gender Difference 

Language, Sexuality, and Desire

Language and Identity 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 9  Stylistics 


Systematicity and Choice 

The World of Texts: Genres and Registers 

Variation among Text Types 

Which Comes First? 

Textual Unity: Cohesion 

Elements of Cohesion 

Cohesion at Work 

Telling Stories: The Structure of Narratives 

The Components of a Narrative

Literature and Speech Acts 

Speech Acts  and Narrative Perspecitives

Speech Acts in Literature

Investigating Dialogue

 Conversational Structure and Politeness

Reporting Speech: Direct and Indirect

Investigating Word Choice 




Language Variation at Work: Literary Forensics 

Linguistics into Poetics

Reading like Alice, Humpty Dumpty, and Michael Toolan

Poeticity and Its Axes 

A Scholar to Know: Roman Jakobson (1896—1982)  

Meter, Rhythm, and Scansion 

Prosody and Verse Structure 

Sound, Meaning, and Poetic Technique 

Language Change at Work: Hip Hop Rhymes 

Special Focus: What Makes “Good Writing”? 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 10 Language Acquisition 

Theories about Children’s Language Acquisition 

Imitation versus Instinct 

Noam Chomsky and Universal Grammar 

Debates about Language “Hard Wiring” 

Language and the Brain

Children Learning Sounds 

Language Acquisition Tests 

Acquisition of Phonemic Differences  

Children Learning Words 

Babbling and First Words 

Language Acquisition at Work: Imitating Faces 

Language Acquisition at Work: Deaf Children Learning ASL 

Acquisition of Words and Word Meaning 

A Question to Discuss: Why Do We Talk with Our Hands? 

Aquistion of Words and Word Meaning 

Children Learning Grammar 

Patterns of Children’s Errors 

Acquisition of Complex Grammatical Constructions 

The Role of Parents in Language Acquisition 

Features of Parentese 

Role of Parentese 

Language Acquisition in Special Circumstances 

Pidgins and Creoles 

Nicaraguan Sign Language 

Critical Age Hypothesis 

Critical Periods 

A Case Study: Genie 

Acquisition of Languages Later in Life 

When Things Go Wrong 

Broca’s Aphasia 

Language Variation at Work: Verbal Slips 

Wernicke’s Aphasia 


Special Focus: Children and Bilingualism 

Children Learning Two Languages 

Bilingual Education Programs 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 11 Language Variation 


Dialects versus Languages 

Standard and Nonstandard Dialects 

A Question to Discuss: Is American English a Dialect or a Language? 


Variationist Sociolinguistics 

Language Change at Work: Pop versus Soda 

William Labov’s Research 

A Methodological Issue

Analyzing Variation

Sociolinguistics versus Generative Grammar 

A Scholar to Know: William Labov (1927— ) 

Speech Communities and Communities of Practice 

A Question to Discuss: Should We Preserve Dialects? 

Major Factors in Language Variation within Speech Communities 




Race and Ethnicity 

Social Networks 

Effects of Language Contact 

Dialect Contact 

Language Contact 

Pidgins and Creoles 

Speaker Attitudes and Language Variation 

A Question to Discuss: What Does “Linguistic Equality” Mean? 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 12 American Dialects 

The Politics of American Dialects 

Speakers Who Control Multiple Dialects 

Judgments and Humor about Dialects 

Dialect Diversity and National Unity 

Language Change at Work: The Inconsistency of Language Attitudes 

Regional Variation 

A Sample Walk 

Language Change at Work: Why Does Unless Mean 'in case' in Pennsylvania? 

Defining Regions 

The Emergence of Regional Dialects 


Naturally Occurring Internal Language Change 

Language Change at Work: Regional Food Terms 

Language Contact 


Language Change at Work: A Dragonfly by Any Other Name 

Social Factors 

The History of Regional Dialects in the United States 

The Beginnings of American English 

The Northern Dialect Region 

The Southern Dialect Region 

The Midland Dialect Region 

The Western Dialect Region 

Dialects within Dialect Regions 

Two Case Studies of Regional Variation 

Appalachian English 

Language Change at Work: Jack, Will, and Jenny in the Swamp 

California English  

Social Variation 

Slang and Jargon versus Dialects 

Social Dialects 

Two Case Studies of Social Variation 

Chicano English 

African American English 

Special Focus: The Ebonics Controversy

A Scholar to Know: Geneva Smitherman (1940-) 


Suggested Reading 



Chapter 13 History of English: Old to Early Modern English 

Old English (449—1066): History of Its Speakers 

When Did English Begin? 

Which Germanic Dialect Is “Old English”? 

Language Change at Work: How English Was Written Down 

Where Do the Names English and England Originate? 

Old English Lexicon 

Latin Borrowing 

Old Norse Borrowing 

Native English Word Formation 

Old English Grammar 

The Origins of Modern English Noun Inflections 

The Gender of Things 

The Familiarity of Personal Pronouns 

The Many Faces of Modifiers 

The Origins of Some Modern English Irregular Verbs 

Variation in Word Order 

Middle English (1066—1476): History of Its Speakers 

The Norman Conquest 

A Scholar to Know: J. R. R. Tolkien the Philologist 

The Renewal of English 

The Emergence of a Standard 

Middle English Dialects 

The Middle English Lexicon 

French Borrowing 

Latin Borrowing 

Other Borrowing 

Word Formation Processes 

Middle English Grammar 

The Loss of Inflections and Its Effects 

The Inflections That Survive 

Early Modern English (1476—1776): History of Its Speakers 

The Printing Press 

Attitudes about English 

The Study of English 

A Question to Discuss: How Do We Preserve the Evidence of a Language? 

Early Modern English Lexicon 

Greek and Latin Borrowing 

Romance Borrowing 

Semantic Change in the Native Lexicon 


Early Modern English Grammar 

Older Grammatical Retentions 

Developments in Morphosyntax 

Language Change at Work: The Invention of pea  

The Fate of Final-e 

Language Change at Work: The Great Vowel Shift 

Looking Ahead 

Suggested Reading 



Chapter 14 History of English: Modern and Future  English 

Modern English (1776—Present): Social Forces at Work 

Prescription and the Standard Variety 

The Media 



Language Change at Work: The Debated Origins of O.K. 

Modern English: Language Change in Progress 

Word Formation 

Lexical Borrowing 

Phonological Changes 

Grammatical Changes 

A Question to Discuss: “Hey, You Guys, Is This Grammaticalization?” 

The Status of English in the United States 

Language Variation at Work: The Myth of the “German Vote” in 1776 

A Question to Discuss: Official State Languages 

The Status of English around the World 

The Meaning of a “Global Language” 

English as a Global Language 

World Englishes 

The Future of English as a Global Language 

What Happens after Modern English? 

Language Change at Work: Retronymy and Reduplication 

English and Electronically-Mediated Communication

Suggested Readings 









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