ReviewsEveryone knows at least one language, but not everyone has in-depth knowledge of linguistics-i.e., the study of various aspects of human language. Sponsored by the Linguistic Society of America, this informative, entertaining book-a handy introduction for anyone curious about linguistics-is an excellent example of how experts in a specialized discipline can transmit their scholarship to the public sphere. The collection comprises 66 brief essays, grouped into 12 categories, and works like an FAQ on all things language related. Writing in a tone that is casual and occasionally funny, the contributors, recognized authorities on their topics, explain facets of linguistics in an easy-to-understand way. Readers will learn about, for example, where foreign accents originate, how babies learn language, whether texting is affecting English, and why Noam Chomsky is such a big name in the field. (The last of these does an excellent job of summarizing Chomsky's major contributions to linguistics in basic, nontechnical terms.) Originating as a radio series in 2005, The Five-Minute Linguist was first published in 2006, ed. by E. M. Rickerson and Barry Hilton (CH, Jul'07, 44-6071). This latest edition updates essays in the second edition (2012) and adds new entries on social media, gender issues, and other contemporary topics. Each entry includes suggestions for further reading.
Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.
Reviews of Previous Editions
An excellent, very accessible, and extremely easy- and fun-to-read introduction to some of the basic questions (and misconceptions) regarding language, language learning, and linguistics. The book clearly meets the editors’ intended goals; with each essay, the reader is engaged in a five-minute, light and informal conversation about the passionate topic of language.
This book is for anyone who has a question about languages or the nature of language—which means just about all of us. But it’s not just a musty academic text for specialists. While written by leading experts on the subject of language,The Five-Minute Linguist is a user-friendly exploration of the basics, a linguistic start-up kit for general readers. It assumes nothing on your part except interest in the subject. Its bite-sized chapters (no more than 3-4 pages each) give authoritative answers to the most frequently asked questions people have about language, and tell the story in a lively and colloquial style. It is a delightful read.
From the Foreword by Bret Lovejoy, Executive Director, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language
What a gift to those who love language and those who are simply curious about it. Leading experts each tackle an intriguing question, and explain it in straightforward, delightful prose. Read it from cover to cover or keep it by your bed to dip into for endless fascination.
Deborah Tannen, Professor of Linguistics, Georgetown University, and author of You Just Don't Understand
This is a marvellous collection of informative, provocative and stimulating essays. The topics that were selected are both timely, and timeless, and the essays are sure to pique the curiosity of a broad range of readers. The material is accessible and the suggestions for further reading are wonderful pointers to additional exploration. This collection certainly has my five-star recommendation.
G. Richard Tucker, Paul Mellon University Professor of Applied Linguistics, Carnegie Mellon University
...recommended for language majors, and attractive to language afficionados and mavens. Essential.
Each of the 66 chapters of the book contributes to the overall praiseworthiness of the book. While individual chapters were selected to illustrate particular strengths of the book above, there is no implication that the other chapters contribute less to the end product. There are no weak links in the chain, and that is an impressive feat considering the number of chapters in the book. There is every reason to believe that this book will be well received by a wide audience of non-linguists. It is hoped (and expected) that the readership includes interested individuals in the general public as well as students in basic social science or humanities classes where the curriculum has a unit (or units) calling for an introductory knowledge of language/linguistics.
A very solid work, one which sets out to achieve a very worthy goal and indisputably succeeds in that effort.
Every Chapter here is a good read. The price of the paperback edition works out at about 25p per chapter. Well worth the money for any language practitioner who is involved in professional development – their own or that of others.