Best Books on Linguistics

Jamey Muller
May 7, 2021
best-books-on-linguistics

The study of language can be fun and scholarly at the same time. Below are the Top 11 books on linguistics, each with their own unique approach and method, to help readers better understand this field of study.

The 6 Best-Selling Linguistics Books

11 Best Books on Linguistics

1. Linguistics For Dummies

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Linguistics For Dummies
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Dechaine, Rose-Marie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 03/06/2012 (Publication Date) - For Dummies (Publisher)

Linguistics For Dummies by Rose-Marie Dechaine, Strang Burton, and Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson explains in a fun, friendly, and fascinating way why people use language. There is a science to the words and language employed by humans. Such may not be easy to explain and understand, but Linguistics For Dummies turns a rather difficult subject matter into something that is light and easy. Linguistics is the scientific study of language employed by people – why man speaks, how words are formed, and how language was invented. The science focuses on how languages are constructed, how babies are so adept to learning their mother tongue, and how a language affects society. Linguistics may not be a subject for everyone, but everybody uses it in order to understand and be understood. It plays a vital role in life. Linguistics For Dummies explains language on a college introductory level, so that linguistic students could build their confidence and knowledge.

2. Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology

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Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
  • Stanlaw, James (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 466 Pages - 07/25/2017 (Publication Date) - Routledge (Publisher)

Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology by James Stanlaw, Nobuko Adachi and Zdenek Salzmann convinces its readers that the study of language is vital and relevant to one’s life and society, as it is also fun and interesting. The book tackles important questions as, “Why is linguistics important? How are our identities defined by the ways we communicate with people? And how is language affecting computers and the digital world? Such questions are tackled by a variety of scientific disciplines, including language, culture, and society, as well as linguistic anthropology. Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology talks about how language determines one’s identity. It tackles intriguing topics such as gender, race, and social class, as well as language and power, language ideology, and linguistic diasporas. And, as linguistics plays an important role in digital technology, the book also discusses online communication and social media relations.

3. The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language

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The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
  • Harper Perennial
  • McWhorter, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 01/01/2003 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

One of the most popular stories in the Bible is the Tower of Babel. It talks about how people came together to build a tower so high that it could reach heaven. God didn’t like the idea so he cursed man by giving them different languages. As a result, the people couldn’t work together and abandoned their plan to build the tower. The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter hints on this Old Testament story, as it talks about the variety of languages that humans use. Experts say there are over 6,000 languages spoken around the planet today, and each one originated from one Mother tongue some 150,000 years ago. John McWhorter, author and linguistics professor, explains that language is a dynamic entity that adapts to man’s ever-changing human environment. The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language explains all of this but in a fun, humorous, insightful, and imaginative way.

4. The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World

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The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (Oxford Linguistics)
  • Oxford University Press USA
  • Mallory, J. P. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 731 Pages - 11/09/2006 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World by J. P. Mallory and contributions from D. Q. Adams introduces Proto-Indo-European society and identifies earlier languages that led to its reconstruction. This book reveals how the people lived and used the descendant languages about 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. Knowing how people utilized language reveals much about the society in which they lived. Using evidence from archaeology and natural history, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World presents the lives, thoughts, passions, culture, economy, history, and society of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, even the environment in which they lived. Focusing on language, the author discusses ancient fauna and flora, clothing and textiles, family and kinship, food and drink, space and time, emotions, mythology, and religion. More than that, this book is also able to track down how these people from long ago were able to reach, build, and establish the Proto-Indo-European world.

5. The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention

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The Unfolding of Language
  • Holt Paperbacks
  • Deutscher, Guy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 05/01/2006 (Publication Date) - Holt Paperbacks (Publisher)

Through the annals of history, man has come up with amazing inventions and innovations. Life today will never be the same without automobiles, computers, the internet, and other man-made technological creations. People easily forget, however, that the most important and mysterious invention of man is language. The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind’s Greatest Invention by Guy Deutscher is an original inquiry into how man created and developed language. Linguist Guy Deutscher explains in his book that language, although created by man, is in fact not a human invention. The Unfolding of Language is an investigation into the creation and evolution of language. It identifies the several forces that had led to the creation of human communication and provides fresh insights into how a language can emerge, evolve, and eventually die out. Deutscher makes things interesting as he discusses how early people developed from uttering “man throw spear” to modern linguists who string sophisticated sentences and grammars, using rich vocabularies and intricately nuanced degrees of meaning.

6. Linguistics: A Complete Introduction: Teach Yourself

Linguistics: A Complete Introduction (Ty: Complete Courses)
  • Hornsby, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 12/26/2014 (Publication Date) - Teach Yourself (Publisher)

Linguistics: A Complete Introduction: Teach Yourself by David Hornsby covers essential areas that every linguistic student should know and master. Using basic, clear, and jargon-free instructions, the book outlines the best way to approach linguistics, provides summaries of helpful books, and presents questions that students might be asked during an exam. Linguistics: A Complete Introduction focuses on linguistic thought, syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, sound systems, and language acquisition, among others, following the system employed by universities when discussing such subject areas. David Hornsby, the author, teaches sociolinguistics at the School of European Languages and Linguistics, focusing particularly on English and French. He also briefly worked as a translator for the United Nations in Geneva and has taught a wide range of subjects at the University of Kent, including Russian, translation theory, and comparative literature. He has written several scholarly articles and books, including Norm and Ideology in Spoken French: A Sociolinguistic History of Liaison and Redefining Regional French: Koinéization and Dialect Levelling in Northern France.

7. On Language: Chomsky’s Classic Works Language and Responsibility and Reflections on Language in One Volume

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On Language: Chomsky's Classic Works Language and Responsibility and Reflections on Language in One Volume
  • New Press
  • Chomsky, Noam (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 269 Pages - 11/01/1998 (Publication Date) - New Press (Publisher)

Every serious student of linguistics has heard of the works and ideals of Noam Chomsky. A widely published American linguist, philosopher, historian, social critic, and political activist, Chomsky is considered by many as “the father of modern linguistics” and remains to be a prominent personality in analytic philosophy. He was one of the founders of cognitive science as a field of study. The book Language: Chomsky’s Classic Works Language and Responsibility and Reflections on Language in One Volume puts together two of his most popular titles. This work is the most ideal introduction to the rest of Chomsky’s collection of writings. The first part of Language: Chomsky’s Classic Works features a self-portrait of this popular linguist, including his moral, linguistic, and political thoughts. The second part tackles a more general view and implications of language, as well as analyses on what psychologists, philosophers, and linguists think about language and the many questions surrounding it.

8. In the Land of Invented Languages: Adventures in Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius

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In the Land of Invented Languages: Adventures in Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Okrent, Arika (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 05/11/2010 (Publication Date) - Random House (Publisher)

In the Land of Invented Languages: Adventures in Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius by Arika Okrent presents a fun and innovative approach to the study of language and linguistics. Once again focusing on the Old Testament story about the Tower of Babel, In the Land of Invented Languages looks deeply into the story of how man has endeavored to build a new language to better communicate with each other and eventually overcome the curse of Babel. In the Land of Invented Languages offers a fresh look at man’s attempt to invent a new language based on popular culture. One of the most well-known new language is Klingon, based on Star Trek fame. In this book, Ariak Okrent introduces 900 other invented languages, including Babm, Blissymbolics, Loglan and Esperanto’s attempt to unify the world by means of linguistic solidarity. Creators and inventors of new languages may be considered by many as delusional, yet their understanding of how language can affect people is noteworthy.

9. Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics)

Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics)
  • McEnery, Tony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 312 Pages - 11/21/2011 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)

Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory and Practice (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics) by Tony McEnery and Andrew Hardie introduces corpus linguistics and outlines its basic methods. Corpus linguistics is the study of language on a larger scale, making use of computer data and programs to analyze an extensive collection of transcribed utterances and written texts. According to this discipline, it is necessary to look at language as expressed in a wide collection of data to truly see how it functions in its natural context. Thus, language is best expressed with a large body (corpus) of text in the real world, with minimal experimentation. McEnery and Hardie bring to light how corpus linguistics may be employed to study language by using corpus data, giving rise to methodological and theoretical innovations in linguistics. The authors provide clear and detailed explanations on several key issues regarding the methods and theories in modern corpus linguistics. The book also provides an extensive glossary with definitions and technical terms.

10. How Languages Work: An Introduction to Language and Linguistics

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How Languages Work: An Introduction to Language and Linguistics
  • Hardcover Book
  • Genetti, Carol (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 704 Pages - 12/20/2018 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)

How Languages Work: An Introduction to Language and Linguistics by Carol Genetti takes a look at language and investigates how it functions as a sophisticated tool for humans to communicate with each other in a multitude of ways. Language and linguistics are so complex that experts continue to dig deep into their study. This book delves into the complexity and systematically guides its readers through the basics. The goal is for the reader to develop better appreciation of the different languages of the world. How Languages Work presents lessons that explain the structure of human language, how language is used, and how it affects society and culture. The first part of the book focuses on the basics (speech sounds, meanings, sound patterns and sentence structure), as well as discourse, prosody, pragmatics, and language contact. They come with illustrations, case studies, and study questions to better help the readers. The second part takes an interesting look at 14 language profiles and their similarities and differences.

11. The Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics (Oxford Handbooks)

The Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics (Oxford Handbooks)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 806 Pages - 03/10/2005 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

The Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics (Oxford Handbooks), edited by Ruslan Mitkov, is a collection of 38 chapters written by linguists and experts from all over the world. They introduce major concepts, discuss methods, and define applications in computational linguistics. Computational linguistics is one of the most active and productive fields in linguistics today. It is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the computational modelling of natural language, and studies the most effective computational approaches to the inquiry of language. Part I covers an overview of linguistic fundamentals that are helpful for senior university students not majoring in linguistics and related disciplines. Meanwhile, Part II is perfect for post-doctoral students embarking on computational language research. This part discusses related tasks, tools, and techniques in Natural Language Processing. Finally, Part III offers a survey on how language applies in real life. With insights from a number of experts and leaders in the field, The Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics promises to promote interest and define the practical uses of linguistics.

Best Books on Linguistics

Language is synonymous to life. Man needs to communicate in order to understand and be understood. Even those who were born unable to speak find a way to interact and make themselves known, thus they learn sign language. The need for humans to talk, hear, and communicate is so vital to their existence. Yet, language is as mysterious as it is essential to life. Who invented language? Who came up with the first set of words? Who decided which symbols and sounds should represent which object in the real world? How come different languages can be so different and yet similar at the same time? Why do language continue to evolve? These are just some of the questions that linguistics hope to answer. Linguistics is the scientific study of language, simply put. Language, however, is not a simple subject matter, and neither are its functions and systems. This is why linguistics continues to be one of the most intriguing fields of study relating to culture, humanities, philosophy, cognition, and history. Linguists make use of the scientific method and conduct formal studies into sounds, words,  grammatical structures, and meanings. Studying one language is difficult enough, and yet linguistics look into over 6,000 languages that are now spoken by people all over the world.

Final Thoughts: Best Books on Linguistics

final thoughts (100 words) These are just 11 of the many titles that have been published in the area of linguistics. There will be more as language continues to evolve and develop in time, alongside culture, philosophy, and other studies in human interest. The list covers a wide variety of insights from several experts around the world, including renowned linguists such as Noam Chomsky and David Hornsby. These books are designed to help readers and students better understand and appreciate words, grammar, sentence structures, and composition, and how all these apply in the real world. Language will continue to shape the societies, and linguistics will remain as a major field of scientific study.

Jamey Muller
Jamey is a 24-year-old living in Houston, Texas. He's an aspiring financial analyst with a passion for anything finance related. Over the last few years, he has taken many digital courses and read books on anything he's interested in. In his freetime he likes to hang out with his friends and likes to play video games.

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