The Encyclopedia of Language
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language
Cambridge University Press 1997
The overwhelming effect this book leaves the reader is amazement of the scholarship of its single author, who manages to cover everything you could possibly include under the heading 'language' in a single volume. To give you some idea, the indexes and glossary of the 65 chapters information take up nearly 40 pages. Although the depth he can cover everything in is therefore limited, even in 450 odd large pages, a good proportion of what is there is absolutely fascinating and of interest to anyone who uses language (i.e. everyone).
The book makes excellent use of boxes of information and visuals in full colour such as maps, graphs and photos. Like any good encyclopaedia, it can be dipped into almost randomly with the guarantee that some interesting titbit will stick in your head. More unusually, the fact that it doesn't use an A to Z format means that it can quite easily be read through as a general introduction to linguistics. In a sense it could be just as usefully called an encyclopedia of linguistics, as it provides as much information on research and theories of language as it does on the language itself. This shouldn't be taken to mean any of this would only be of interest to the professionally interested, though. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in what is going on around them, and even more so to any teacher or student of language or linguistics.
Alex Case, Central School of English, London
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