Language Matters A Guide to Everyday Questions About Language

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-07-08
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Is Ebonics really a dialect or simply bad English? Do women and men speak differently? Will computers ever really learn human language? Does offensive language harm children? These are only a few of the issues surrounding language that crop up every day. Most of us have very definite opinions on these questions one way or another. Yet as linguists Donna Jo Napoli and Vera Lee-Schoenfeld point out in this short and thoroughly readable volume, many of our most deeply held ideas about the nature of language and its role in our lives are either misconceived or influenced by myths and stereotypes. Language Matters provides a highly informative tour of the world of language, examining these and other vexing and controversial language-related questions. Throughout, Napoli and Lee-Schoenfeld encourage and lead the reader to use common-sense and everyday experience rather than preconceived notions or technical linguistic expertise. Both their questions and their conclusions are surprising, sometimes provocative, and always entertaining. This thoroughly revised second edition updates the book with a new co-author, and includes new chapters on language and power, language extinction, and what it is linguists actually do. Language Matters is sure to engage both general readers and students of language and linguistics at any level.

Author Biography

DONNA JO NAPOLI is Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College, author of Linguistics and Syntax (both published by Oxford University Press), and a well-known author of children's books. Her Web site is www. donnajonapoli.com.
VERA LEE-SCHOENFELD is a native of Hanover, Germany. She holds degrees in language pedagogy from Boston University and a PhD in linguistics from UC Santa Cruz. She currently teaches linguistics at Swarthmore College and, together with her husband, raises her children bilingually.

Table of Contents

Language: The Human Ability
How do we acquire language?
What is linguistics?
From one language to the next: Why is it hard to learn a second language? Why is translation so difficult?
Does language equal thought?
Are sign languages real languages?
Do animals have language?
Can computers learn language?
Language in Society
Can one person's speech be better than another's?
Why do dialects and creoles differ from standard language?
Do men and women speak differently? And who cares?
English spelling is hard, and it makes learning to read hard. Should we do anything about it?
Should the United States adopt English as our official language and overhaul our educational system accordingly?
How does language wield power over us? Can it overpower us?
Does exposure to and use of offensive language harm children?
What do we lose when a language dies? And who cares?
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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