An Encyclopaedia of Language

An Encyclopaedia of Language

An Encyclopaedia of Language

An Encyclopaedia of Language


• Examines how language works, accounting for its nature, its use, its study and its history

• Two comprehensive indexes of Topics and Technical Terms, and Names

• Carefully illustrated to explain key points in the text

'This rich repository of information on all aspects of language is a must for all libraries in higher education, schools and larger public libraries.' - Library Review
'Each article has an excellent bibliography. In addition, there are comprehensive indexes of topics and technical terms and names. Highly recommended for all college and general public libraries.' - Choice
'This important book is in many ways a state-of-the -art survey of current conceptions of, and approaches to, language, with generous references to more detailed sources. Each chapter has a good bibliography.' - Language International
'A comprehensive guide... with very thorough bibliographies... Collinge's Encyclopediais recommended to academic libraries.' - Reference Reviews
'The bibliographies are an invaluable aid... the editor is to be congratulated for having done an excellent job... there are virtually no areas of language and linguistics that do not get a look in somewhere, and there is good signposting in the text itself.' - Nigel Vincent, Times Higher Education Supplement


In the study of language the late 1980s may be seen in retrospect as an era of consolidation. No moderately aware eye will miss the epidemic of encyclopaedias of that time, their didactic sameness masked by a variety of style, even a desperate individuality. Some spread a single topic (say, dialectology) over an ample volume; some report on a kaleidoscope of topics under a summary, not always illuminating, heading (say, grammar). Some are terse and sober lexicons; some, like advertisers, seek their targets with a fine typographic frenzy. All suggest, no doubt involuntarily, that language and its study had for the moment stood still and might, while they caught their breath, conveniently sit for their portrait. And that is not a false picture.

It is not a true one, either. The truth is, as ever, muddy. Language is, after all, the medium of human interaction. Like humans, it is very rich in associations and enterprises and achievement, and fearfully complex in its own being. Neither it, nor its pursuit by scholars, ever stands still; even in apparently dormant parts lies a restless tic. At its heart are the sounds we use, the patterns we honour (however inadequately), the meanings we exploit; and phonology, grammar and semantics are their respective sciences. In the later 1980s phonology is perhaps not offering exciting new paths to the fuller understanding of how available sounds are organised. Phonetic facts, and products, are well known and documented; and hypotheses about systems have practically come to terms with one another. The domain of description (segment or sequence?) is still debated; and a novel conception of how syllables are sequenced and stress placed is being energetically ‘sold’. But preclusive devotion to specific theories has faded. Grammarians still admit to different allegiances. But they take in one another’s washing with surprising readiness: such a notion as ‘case’ is currently to be found, comfortably at home, in several apparently competing schools. Semantics concentrates on, and refines, its delineation of the manifold relations of word-meaning; but there is an air of prevailing orthodoxy.

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