The Words between the Spaces: Buildings and Language

The Words between the Spaces: Buildings and Language

The Words between the Spaces: Buildings and Language

The Words between the Spaces: Buildings and Language

Synopsis

The authors of this work examine how texts which concern buildings and architecture relate to issues of national identity, power structures, the creation of heritage, and the evaluation of projects by professional and lay critics.

Excerpt

The book you are about to read brings together two fields of study that are rarely combined in a systematic way and may be rather unlike other books you have read. the two fields in question are architecture, the study of buildings and the built environment and discourse analysis, a branch of linguistics which studies language as it is actually used in real-world contexts. in this book, we explore how language is used, and what it does, in the particular context of writing and talking about buildings. Our title, The Words Between the Spaces, is meant to draw attention to the significance of language for our understanding of the built environment.

Writing a book on this subject requires expert knowledge about both buildings and language. Few individuals are equally knowledgeable about both, and we are no exception to that generalization. One of us (Thomas Markus) is an architect, the other (Deborah Cameron) a linguist. in writing this book, we have each brought our own specialized knowledge to bear on our chosen topic. Our discussions over a long period have produced a set of ideas and arguments which ‘belong’ to both of us equally, and for that reason we use the pronoun ‘we’ throughout the book. At the same time, however, our respective contributions to the book do reflect our differing areas of expertise. It takes many years to learn the special way of looking at buildings, or language, which distinguishes the trained architect, or linguist, from the layperson. Inevitably, then, the two of us—respectively an architect and a linguist—approach questions of architecture and language from different directions, and use different analytic tools to examine those questions. the linguist does not have the architect’s command of architectural theory and history, nor can she interpret a plan, say, with the same ease and insight he can. the architect, conversely, is less practised than the linguist in noticing the intricate patterns made by grammar in a text or discerning its generic structure. the two have different stores of background knowledge, and different technical terminologies. Our skills, in short, are complementary rather than identical, and that is also reflected in the way the book is written. We have not tried to produce a seamless text that reads like the product of a

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