Reflections on Language

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1999-01-14
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Reflections on Language brings together a collection of seventy-eight articles that examine language from many different perspectives. Its selections focus on language as a social form, demonstrating how it is an indispensable component of the world and how we interpret it. Organizedthematically, the text addresses many topics, including the acquisition of language, the rhetoric of advertising, the language of politics, language between the sexes, and language across cultures. It also discusses areas not covered by similar books, such as the bodily basis of language,communication across species, and the language of cyberspace. Ideal for courses in freshman composition, introduction to language, and a variety of writing classes, Reflections on Language helps students and other readers to become more aware of language and to use it more effectively. The text offers useful aids for writing instruction, including anopening chapter on writing and revising, a rhetorical table of contents, and a glossary, as well as introductory notes, journal writing prompts, and analytical exercises for each selection. Reflections on Language also includes an index as well as thirteen advertisements, eighteen cartoons, andnumerous end-of-chapter writing assignments. This unique reader incorporates a substantial number of scholarly articles by language theorists in addition to pieces by popular writers and works of short fiction, poetry, and drama. Lively, informative, and authoritative, Reflections on Language leadsstudents and general readers to a deeper understanding of language and its power.

Table of Contents

Rhetorical Contents xv(4)
List of Illustrations
Preface xxi(6)
Introduction xxvii(9)
Kurt Vonnegut
"How to Write with Style" A renowned contemporary novelist offers some practical tips on how to make what you write engaging and direct. xxxvi
1. Acquiring Language 1(50)
Helen Keller
"The Day Language Came Into My Life" The writer, whose experiences were dramatized in the play The Miracle Worker, relates the marvelous moment when she became aware of language through the efforts of her teacher, Annie Sullivan.
Eileen Simpson
"Dyslexia" A psychotherapist who has struggled all her life with dyslexia describes how difficult learning to read is for children with this problem.
Noam Chomsky
The renowned linguist argues for the existence of an innate capacity unique to human beings that makes it possible for children to master their particular culture's language
Jay Ingram
"Genespeak" With a mixture of erudition and humor, the author discusses the latest developments in the field of genetics that have identified specific genes responsible for controlling the ability to conceptualize past tenses and pulurals.
Jared Diamond
"Reinventions of Human Language" A physiologist explains how children of working-class immigrants to Hawaii, who had no common language, revolved grammar revealed an innate blueprint in the brain for language.
Steven Pinker
"Baby Born Talking-Describes Heaven" A linguist discusses the unusual precocity infants and children display in acquiring language as evidence of innate linguistic skills.
2. Communication Across Species 51(46)
Donald R. Griffin
A Professor of animal behavior reviews evidence that "lever pressing" and "signing" activities by chimpanzees raise the possibility that higher primates can be taught to communicate.
Francine Patterson
"Conversations with a Gorilla" Patterson describes experiments in which the gorilla Koko's acquistion and use of sign language led the author and other researchers to believe Koko displayed evidence of linguistic capabilities.
Herbert S. Terrace
"What I Learned from Nim Chimsky" The eminent researcher reluctantly concludes that years of close study of a chimpanzee failed to disclose a capacity for language.
Susanne K. Langer
"Language and Thought" A distinguished professor of philosophy speculates on important differences between signs and symbols that, in her view, differentiate animal communication from human Language.
Vicki Hearne
"How to Say Fetch!" A professor of English(and professional dog and horse trainer) Offers a deep insight into communications between humans and domestic animals.
David Ives
Words, Words, Words In this hilarious one-act comedy the inventive playwright brings to life the old question: What would happen if three monkeys were left to type into infinity. Could they produce Hamlet?
3. The Bodily Basis of Language 97(58)
Kenneth Burke
"Symbolic Action" An eminent philosopher and critic formulates a theory of mind-body connections in terms of what he calls "the dancing of an Attitude."
David Abram
"The Flesh of Language" This provocative discussion speculates about how human language arises from the perceptual interplay between the body and the world.
George Lakoff
"Anger" A case study by a professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley discusses how anger, lust, and rape are expressions of a conceptual system based on bodily states and its accompanying metaphors.
Oliver Sacks
"The President's Speech" A medical researcher explores the complex relationship between mind and body in patients who suffer from aphasia, which sensitizes them to discrepancies between words and gestures and makes them human lie detectors.
Temple Grandin
"Thinking in Pictures" This unprecedented account of what it is like to live with autism allows us to glimpse the unique way the mind interprets abstract terms throught visual symbols.
Richard Selzer
"The Language of Pain" A physician-turned-writer explainst the intimat connection between bodily states of pain and the language used to express theses states.
Terry Tempest Williams
"Yellowstone: The Erotics of Place" A naturalist explores the mythic dimensions of Places and our experience of them.
Alison Lurie
"The Language of Clothes" A Pulitizer Prize-winning author claims that clothes and body decorations are a form of language whose meaning depends on the symbolic values of the surrounding culture.
4. Can We Talk? 155(58)
Mikhail M. Bakhtin
"The Dialogic Imagination" The brilliant Russian theorist provides a philosophical basis for understanding how only in dialogue does language come alive.
Ronald Wardhaugh
"The Social Basis of Talk" Drawing on the research of Erving Goffman and H.P.Grice, the author elucidates the unspoken assumptions, norms, and ritual behavior that structure everyday conversation.
Peter Farb
"Verbal Dueling" The popular author delves into the range of strategies that people employ during dialogues.
James Gorman
"Like, Uptalk?" A columnist for Discovery magazine describes the pattern of rising tone at the end of sentences and phrases that have become part of American speech.
Fritz Peters
"Gurdjieff Remembered" A protege of the renowned philosopher describes an incident staged by his uncoventional mentor that taught him about the power words have to manipulate human behavior.
Tom Shachtman
"What's Wrong with TV?: Talk Shows" The author discusses how television talk shows sanction illiteracy through the pervasive use on incorrect grammar, limited vocabulary, and misused terms.
Raymond Carver
"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" The eminent American short story writer displays his uncanny gift for evoking the unsaid meanings in conversations when a group of friends discuss the many meanings of the term"love"
5. Communication Between the Sexes 213(60)
Robin Lakoff
"Language and Woman's Place" This pioneering study documents the extent to which how boys and girls learn to speak as children conditions their identities for the rest of their lives.
Deborah Tannen
"Sex, Lies, and Conversation" A professor of linguistics identifies the distinctive communication styles of men and women and explains how these differences can lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings.
Jane Tompkins
"Women and the Language of Men" A feminist critic of culture and language offers a penetrating account of how the "Old West's" hostility to language, evident in American films, reflects the distinction between stereotyped gender roles.
Eugene R. August
"Real Men Don't, or Anti-Male Bias in English" A professor of English asserts that anti-male bias in language is as pervasive, although generally overlooked, as language used to demean women.
Lance Morrow
"Advertisements for Oneself" A senior writer for Time magazine studies the language of personal ads, a form of courtship unique to the 1990s.
Sherrie Schneider
Ellen Fein
"Rule #19: Don't Open Up Too Fast" The authors of the best-selling guide for navigating the treacherous waters of dating in the 1990s advise women against revealing too much about themselves too soon.
Linda Stasi
"Your First Date" A columnist for the New York Daily News and contributor to Seventeen magazine explores the concealed levels of meaning in a conversation between two people on a first date.
6. Language Between Cultures 273(42)
Enrique Fernandez
"Salsa x 2" A columnist for the New York Daily News discusses the intersection of Hispanic language and culture in the evolution of the term "salsa".
Richard Rodriguez
"Public and Private Language" An accomplished essayist considers how his relationship with his family changed after he learned English in schools.
Sarah Min
"Language Lessons" A Korean-American explains the benefits of relearning the language of her childhood.
Amy Tan
"The Language of Discretion" A Chinese-American novelist offers insight into the pitfalls of intercultural communication.
Lydia Minatoya
"Transformation" The American-born author describes the expectations her Japanese parents attached to what they would name her.
David A. Ricks
"What's in a Name?" A professor of international business underscores the importance of test marketing product or company names to avoid unintended, humorous, offensive, and even obscene connotations when these names are translated into other languages
7. Many Englishes 315(60)
Paul Roberts
"Something About English" A late professor of English offers an illuminating account of how historical events in England and the influence of those who invalded in resulted in the evolution of the English language.
Julia Penelope
"The Glamour of Grammar" A brief history of the English language from a feminist perspective provides insight into how grammar shaped by a traditional male point of view has subjugated women through the centuries.
Lewis Carroll
"Jabberwocky" and "Explaining the Meaning of Jubberwocky" In this charming fable Humpty Dumpty's speculations on the meaning of unfamiliar words in the nonsense poem "Jebberwocky" provide humorous insight into the methods by which we interpret old word used in new ways--or the ways in which new words are added to the language.
Barbara Mellix
"From Outside, In" An African-American woman describes the linguistic and cultural transformation that took her from black English to standard English.
Itabari Njeri
"What's in a Name? A journalist discusses the importance of names, especially for African Americans, and Explains how her choice to adopt her African name changed her life.
Martha Barnette
"Ladyfingers & Nun's Tummies" A Contributing editor of Allure magazine and a student of classical languages serves up a fascinating concoction of history, culture, and language as she explores the derivation of the names of foods.
Anthony Burgess
From A Clockwork Orange This pivotal chapter from the classic nightmarish vision of the future takes us on a linguistic roller coaster ride through the invented slang of the narrator, a vicious fifteen-year-old who has been behaviorally conditioned to renounce violence.
John Agard
"Listen mr oxford don" A poet, short story writer, and journalist who lives in Guyana taps into the West Indian oral tradition of song, speech, and performance to satirize the official language of British colonialism in this delightful poem.
8. The Politics of Everyday Language 375(66)
Jack Solomon
"What's in a Name? The Ideology of Cultural Classification" A researcher in the field of semiotics analyzes the agendas underlying classifications of race, species, and ethnicity.
Fan Shen
"The Classroom and the Wider Culture: Identity as a Key to Learning English Composition" A professor of English compares how differences between Western and Chinese use of the first person pronoun "I," required him to relearn conventions of writing when he came to the United States.
Alleen Pace Nilsen
"Sexism in English: A 1990s Update" A linguist describes the inherent sexism in the English language and documents recent changes in the way Americans talk.
Susan Sontag
"AIDS and Its Metaphors" In her 1988 book the author discusses how the metaphorical meanings assigned to illness over the centuries condition our perception of AIDS today.
Michiko Kakutani
"The Word Police" A staff writer for the New York Times assails Rosalie Maggio's guide, The Dictionary of Bias-Free Usage, as a case of linguistic hypersensitivity.
Frank Nuessel
"Old Age Needs a New Name, But Don't Look for It in Webster's" A professor of Spanish and linguistics discloses how the terms society applies to old people reveal a systematic pattern of discrimination as damaging as sexism or racism.
Jonathan Kozol
"The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society" An educator and social critic discusses the numerous consequences that beset someone who is illiterate in today's society.
James Finn Garner
"Little Red Riding Hood" This witty takeoff on politically correct ways of thinking offers a modern-day version of the classic fairy tale.
9. The Rhetoric of Advertising 441(58)
Bill Bryson
"The Hard Sell: Advertising in America" A journalist discusses how advertising evolved in the United States and identifies important characteristics and trends that are still in evidence.
John Berger
"Ways of Seeing" A distinguished art critic demonstrates how the images and text of contemporary advertising use envy, glamour, and the language of oil painting to interpret the world for the consumer.
Stuart Hirschberg
"The Rhetoric of Advertising" An editor of the present text explains how the appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos, as identified by Aristotle, are still at work in the text and images of contemporary advertising.
Naomi Wolf
From The Beauty Myth A feminist author demonstrates how "beauty" functions as a cultural myth that imprisons women in their bodies and nullifies social gains made in recent times.
Jean Kilbourne
"Beauty and the Beast of Advertising" A multimedia specialist shows how increases in anorexia among young women can be traced to advertising's distorted, stereotyped images.
Susan Irvine
"Sprayed and Neutered" A winner of the Jasmine Award (an honor given to writers by the fragrance industry) examines how recent ads for perfume rely less on seductive images than on affirmations of innocence and self-acceptance.
10. The Language of Politics 499(56)
George Orwell
"Politics and the English Language" The English author presents what has become a classic analysis of how political language most clearly illustrates the deterioration of the quality of the English language.
Stuart Hirschberg
"Analyzing the Rhetoric of Nixon's Checkers Speech'" An editor of this text discusses the rhetorical strategies of this famous speech, drawing on Hugh Rank's "intensifying/downplaying" schema for analyzing doublespeak.
Gilbert Highet
"The Gettysburg Address" A classical scholar analyzes the structure, themes, and rhetoric of Lincoln's powerful Gettysburg Address.
Aldous Huxley
"Propaganda under a Dictatorship" The English novelist and essayist examines how manipulation of language in the propaganda of Nazi Germany conditioned the thoughts and behavior of the masses.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I Have a Dream" A leader of the Civil Rights movement uses a variety of rhetorical strategies to argue for the acceptance of his "dream" of freedom and equality for all Americans.
Earl Charles Spencer
"Eulogy for a Princess" The brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, delivers a heartfelt tribute to his sister on the occasion of her funeral on September 6, 1997, that touches on personal, political, and media issues
Neil Postman
Steve Powers
"How to Watch TV News" The authors maintain that the nightly news is a carefully contrived spectacle designed to entertain the public in the guise of providing information.
11. Cybertalk 555(56)
LynNell Hancock
"The Haves and the Have-Nots" A professor of journalism discusses inequities in access to the Internet that are due to race, economic status, and age.
Sven Birkerts
"Into the Electronic Millennium" The writer, whom some perceive as a neo-Luddite, bewails the erosion of grammatical precision accompanying electronic communications.
David Angell
Brent Heslop
"Return to Sender" The authors discuss how e-mail promotes egalitarianism and has already begun to change the English language.
Paula Span
"Woman and Computers: Is There Equity in Cyberspace?" A journalist describes the gender biases she encountered in gaining access to cyberspace.
Brian Hayes
"The Electronic Palimpsest" The author describes differences in archiving techniques and revision processes between electronically produced documents and their paper equivalents.
David Rothenberg
"How the Web Destroys the Quality of Students' Research Papers" A professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology decries the growing carelessness of students who surf the Net to gather information for their research papers.
Amy Bruckman
"Christmas Unplugged" The creator of several multiuser dungeon fantasy games reflects on the trauma she experienced when she took a vacation without her computer.
Chet Williamson
"The Personal Touch" A short story writer explores the theme of computer-driven mass-marketing intrusions on personal privacy that have become a part of contemporary life.
Glossary of Rhetorical and Linguistic Terms 611(8)
Index of Authors and Titles 619(3)
Index 622

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