Describing Language

Describing Language

Describing Language

Describing Language


A student introduction to descriptive linguistics, Describing Language is essentially practical in its orientation. It is useful for anyone who wishes to refer to technical literature involving linguistic description, who requires a basic conceptual framework and technical vocabulary with which to discuss language, and who needs to make elementary but principled descriptions and analyses of real data (such as classroom interaction or counselling sessions). Topics covered include phonetics, prosody, word structure, syntax, text and discourse structure, word and utterance meaning, and non-verbal behaviour.Includes an accessible introduction to both Chomsky's Universal Grammar and Halliday's Systemic Grammar. It is an invaluable textbook for students across the social sciences.


When this book first appeared in 1987, we expected that it would be used mainly by Open University students enrolled on a broadly based course in language study. We have been surprised, but gratified, by the number of other users which the book has acquired over the years, and it is this fact which persuaded the authors to provide an updated version. This new edition contains substantial changes - in particular, to Chapter 1 and Chapter 3. The latter chapter now makes a broader survey of approaches to grammatical description, more in keeping with the introductory nature of the book.

A book such as this shows the work of several hands. It draws on materials which have been written by various authors for undergraduate language courses at the Open University, in particular the subsections in Chapter 7 on Cohesion and quantitative approaches from material by Tony Pugh in E263 Language in use (originally published in 1981). It contains much new material which has been improved by comments and ideas from many colleagues and students. Various chapters have benefited greatly from the comments - at some time or another - of James Britton, Penelope Brown, John Green, James Hurford, Angus Mcintosh, Harold Rosen, Gordon Wells, colleagues at the Open University and many students thoughout the UK.

We are grateful to Janet Maybin for permission to reproduce the field notes on page 176 and to NATE Language and Gender Committee for permission to reproduce the figure on page 177.

David Graddol Jenny Cheshire Joan Swann . . .

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