Book suggestions

Tom Givon tgivon at
Thu Dec 23 02:46:41 UTC 2010

Well, it sounds like a most useful book, practically admirable. But  
would you still call your course "Intro to Linguistics for non-majors?"  
If so, perhaps you may wish to ask yourself this simple-minded question: 
After my students have finished reading this book (with my savvy helping 
hand embellishing, explaining, contextualizing all  the way),  what do 
they know now about Linguistics?  Linguistics as the field  dedicated to 
the study of human communication? Linguistics as the field charged with 
investigating language change or language acquisition?  About its core 
preoccupation and intellectual history? About its main 
inter-disciplinary connections--philosophy, cognitive neuro-science, 
developmental psychology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, computer 
science? My answer, I am afraid,, would be disgustingly predictable. I 
wonder what your answer would be, Johanna?

Cheers,  TG


On 12/22/2010 1:06 PM, Johanna Rubba wrote:
> 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 
> Publishing
> 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)
> Contributors:
> 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
> URL:

More information about the Funknet mailing list