Language Myths, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


This is a unique collection of original essays by 21 of the world's leading linguists.

The topics discussed focus on some of the most popular myths about language: the media are ruining English; children can't speak or write properly anymore; and, America is ruining the English language.

The tone is lively and entertaining throughout and there are cartoons from Doonesbury and The Wizard of Id to illustrate some of the points.

The book should have a wide readership not only amongst students who want to read leading linguists writing about popular misconceptions but also amongst the large number of people who enjoy reading about language in general.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208 pages, illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: linguistics
  • ISBN: 9780140260236



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

Each chapter is an essay which examines a common language myth. (E.g.: Appalachian English is Shakespeare's English, some languages are more logical than others, words shouldn't change meaning, etc.) An excellent resource for anyone who wants to get rid of their own language misconceptions or learn to defend against the miconceptions of others.

Review by

Contrary to the back cover, I don't imagine this book would be a very valuable source for the "language professional," but for introductory purposes and the "lay person," it is very valuable. It's capable of giving non-professionals a whole new perspective on language, particularly a sociolinguisitic one. As one would hope from a book written by linguists, it is well written. The book's short length is a plus, not because we want to be done with it, but because it avoids bogging down a reader who's just trying to get a basic understanding of the concepts.

Review by

It is some time ago, I read this book, but I remember it as a book, that will both entertain the linguist and the "ordinary man". Something as rare as an peek into an academic discipline which is both scientific correct, entertaining and easily read.

Review by

This book has a good heart, and a few really solid essays--Dennis Preston (funny guy, incidentally) on prestige ranking of American accents and JK Chambers on TV's non-effect on language change (the reason I bought it originally, and while a little offended that a certain nameless someone referred me to the shibboleths book to prove the point, I am also convinced). Some of the others are definitely kindergarten, and I don't mean for language scholars, but surely even the gen-pub doesn't needto be told that some languages aren't intrinsically "harder" or "more expressive" or "faster" or "more primitive" than others, and that language change isn't language decline? Then I think about how quickly I can come up with five people who have said just the opposite on one of these matters in the last six weeks, and how stubborn they were, and I'm like "oh yeah." So there is definitely a place for this book, even if I suspect most of the prescriptivists and cavilers will require more convincing than it provides. And it's a quick read.

Review by

A great little book doing away with misconceptions most people have about language. Since it's a collection of essays, there is variation in style and quality, but overall it's very good. The book could have done with tighter editing, however.

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