Book suggestions

Johanna Rubba jrubba at
Wed Dec 22 20:06:18 UTC 2010

Thanks to the many people who responded to my request!!

I think I may have found my book! Or, at least, a book that can be  
used alongside more-structure-oriented books. It's called _Language  
in the USA_, edited by Ed Finegan and John Rickford. It's relatively  
new (2004, Cambridge U Press, ISBN 0 521 77747 X ppbk., nearly 500  
pp.), and contains dynamite material for students new to the serious  
study of language. It's mostly sociolinguistics, and has articles on  
topics that are bound to be of interest to students in one way or  
another. Here is a sample from the Table of Contents:

American English: its origins and history, Richard W. Bailey (wow!)
Social varieties of American English, Walt Wolfram (wow again!)
Multilingualism and non-English mother tongues [in the USA], Joshua  
Fishman (okay, I'll stop saying 'wow' now)
Native American languages, Akira Y. Yamamoto and Ofelia Zepeda
Language ideology and language prejudice, Rosina Lipp-Green
Language planning, language policy, and the English-only movement,  
Terrence G. Wiley
Adolescent language, Penelope Eckert
Hip Hop Nation Language, H. Samy Alim
Linguistic identity and community in American literature, James Peterson
The language of cyberspace, Denise E. Murray

I have scanned or read parts of several of the chapters, and they  
look great. My only worry is that the level of the writing may be too  
demanding for sophomores, but I figure that even freshman are reading  
demanding prose in their composition books. Also, one can always  
prepare students for difficult concepts or terminology ahead of time.

The book is terrific also for engaging students in critical thinking  
about American culture and how language is treated here.

Of course, one of the usual goals in intro ling is to expose students  
to a variety of the world's languages to see how they are alike and  
how they differ. This is not lost in this book, as there are sketches  
of Native American languages, a chapter on ASL, and one on AAE. Also,  
as I noted above, I would use this book alongside other texts with a  
wider orientation.

In fact, I find this book a godsend (pardon my manic enthusiasm) in  
another way: I've been wanting for years to propose intro ling as a  
gen ed course under our diversity rubric. This rubric limits the  
content to marginalized groups in the USA, and this book covers 'em  
all -- Native Americans, immigrants, African Americans, native  
Spanish-speakers of the Southwest, the Deaf, and there's also a  
chapter on language and gender. Yiddish, PA German, and similar  
language situations are discussed. So, it's an all-around linguistic  
profile of the USA, from a sound linguistic perspective (I think  
students will be taken aback by Fishman's chapter, which unabashedly  
assumes that the loss of immigrant and indigenous languages in the US  
is a tragedy).

If you're not already familiar with the book, and teach courses to  
which it sounds relevant, I strongly recommend that you look at it. I  
would love to have others' opinions on the book, too, especially, of  
course, if they have used it in teaching.

Here is a list of other titles that were recommended by folks who  
responded to my question:

Language myths, Laurie Bauer & Peter Trudgill, eds. 1999. Plural  
How languages work, Carol Genetti, prospective 2011, Cambridge U
Psycholinguistics: Introduction and Applications, Lise Menn, PhD.  
Plural Publishing 2010
Linguistics: An introduction,William McGregor
Introducing Language in Use, by Bloomer, Griffiths, and Merrison  
(British English examples)
Aspects of Language and Language: The Loaded Weapon -- Dwight Bolinger
Yule, George. The Study of Language. Cambridge University Press
Relevant Linguistics, Paul W. Justice  (I've looked at this and found  
it wanting)
Mark Rosenfelder's "The Language Construction Kit" (Yonagu Books,  
2010) -- according to Victor Golla, who submitted the suggestion,  
it's "disguised as a primer for nerds who want to construct their own  
Klingon or Elvish," but his students loved the idea of building their  
own language!
The Ascent of Babel, Altman
Anthropological Linguistics, Bill Foley
Language: Its Structure and Use (Edward Finegan) (I use this for my  
grad class)


Engin Arik, Rosario Caballero, Richard Cameron, Mary Clinton, Seana  
Coulson, Carol Genetti, Spike Gildea, Tom Givón, Victor Golla, Angus  
Grieve-Smith, George Lakoff, José-Luis Mendívil, James J. Mischler,  
Mark P. Line, Lise Menn, Charles C. Rice, Wendy Smith, Phil Young

Peace to all during these holidays and always!

Dr. Johanna Rubba, Professor, Linguistics
Linguistics Minor Advisor
English Department
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
E-mail: jrubba at
Tel.: 805.756.2184
Dept. Ofc. Tel.: 805.756.2596
Dept. Fax: 805.756.6374

More information about the Funknet mailing list