The Oxford Companion to the English Language

The Oxford Companion to the English Language

by Tom McArthur
     
 


Language is the life blood of a culture, and to be interested in culture is in some sense to be interested in language, in the shapes and sounds of words, in the history of reading, writing, and speech, in the endless variety of dialects and slangs, in the incessant creativity of the human mind as it reaches out to others. It is surprising then that until now… See more details below

Overview


Language is the life blood of a culture, and to be interested in culture is in some sense to be interested in language, in the shapes and sounds of words, in the history of reading, writing, and speech, in the endless variety of dialects and slangs, in the incessant creativity of the human mind as it reaches out to others. It is surprising then that until now there has been no major one-volume reference devoted to the most widely dispersed and influential language of our time: the English language.
A language-lover's dream, The Oxford Companion to the English Language is a thousand-page cornucopia covering virtually every aspect of the English language as well as language in general. The range of topics is remarkable, offering a goldmine of information on writing and speech (including entries on grammar, literary terms, linguistics, rhetoric, and style) as well as on such wider issues as sexist language, bilingual education, child language acquisition, and the history of English. There are biographies of Shakespeare, Noah Webster, Noam Chomsky, James Joyce, and many others who have influenced the shape or study of the language; extended articles on everything from psycholinguistics to sign language to tragedy; coverage of every nation in which a significant part of the population speaks English as well as virtually every regional dialect and pidgin (from Gullah and Scouse to Cockney and Tok Pisin). In addition, the Companion provides bibliographies for the larger entries, generous cross-referencing, etymologies for headwords, a chronology of English from Roman times to 1990, and an index of people who appear in entries or bibliographies. And like all Oxford Companions, this volume is packed with delightful surprises. We learn, for instance, that the first Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard later became President (John Quincy Adams); that "slogan" originally meant "war cry"; that the keyboard arrangement QWERTY became popular not because it was efficient but the opposite (it slows down the fingers and keeps them from jamming the keys); that "mbenzi" is Swahili for "rich person" (i.e., one who owns a Mercedes Benz); and that in Scotland, "to dree yir ain weird" means "to follow your own star."
From Scrabble to Websters to TESOL to Gibraltar, the thirty-five hundred entries here offer more information on a wider variety of topics than any other reference on the English language. Featuring the work of nearly a hundred scholars from around the world, this unique volume is the ideal shelf-mate to The Oxford Companion to English Literature. It will captivate everyone who loves language.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
If a telephone reference caller asks what deconstructionism is--or for the difference between a spondee and a dactyl, or for a clarification of Nice-Nellyism or the Gunning Fog Index--this is the source to reach for. The range here is wonderfully broad: language history, dialects, grammar, style, rhetoric, and so forth. A typical Oxford ``Companion,'' this is both authoritative and fun. Articles are thorough, concise, and signed; cross-referencing is excellent; the ancient and au courant receive equal treatment; and the scope is global. Some will quibble (yes, quibble has an entry, but it's a cross reference to pun ); e.g., sundry authors who ``influenced the shape or study of language'' have entries, so that Mary Wollstonecraft is listed but Ruskin is not (although ``Pathetic Fallacy'' is). And the occasional bibliographies are perfunctory afterthoughts. Nevertheless, this is a fine book for reference and browsing. Highly recommended.-- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
Booknews
Some 3,500 entries encompass writing and speech, linguistics, rhetoric, literary terms; related topics such as bilingual education, child language acquisition, sign language, and psycholinguistics; and biographies of figures who have influenced the shape or study of English--Shakespeare, Joyce, Chomsky, Webster, among others. Longer entries include bibliographies. A solid, thoughtfully compiled reference. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Zom Zoms
Written to serve as an "interim report on the nature and use of the English language," this book is difficult to characterize. It combines some of the features of a dictionary, a style manual, and a usage guide. It attempts to provide a distillation of scholarship on the varieties of the increasingly global English language. Entries cover grammar, literary terms, linguistic terms, and subjects like sexist language and child language acquisition. There are entries for every nation where a significant part of the population speaks English as well as for dialects. The coverage of American English is extensive. (The fascinating entry "American English and British English" describes the systematic ways they differ.) Entries are provided for all major dictionaries and for people like Noah Webster who have influenced the language Entry arrangement is alphabetical, but entries can also be accessed from a very sophisticated system of cross-referencing. At the first level, cross-references lead to closely related words or phrases. For example, "Legalese" is cross-referenced to "Jargon", "Law French", "Legal Usage", and "Register". At the second level, the cross-reference system leads users to 22 broad linguistic "themes" where long lists of additional references can be found. For example, "Legalese" is cross-referenced to the themes "Style" and "Usage". At the entry for "Style" are listed more than 500 other entries, such as "Analogy", "Boilerplate", "Stream of Consciousness", and "Technospeak". Theme listings allow users to formulate reading plans or to draw up their own lists of terms within a field of study. The 22 themes used are based upon Murray's (editor, "Oxford English Dictionary", 1933) description of a "circle of the English language." However, "The Oxford Companion" has extended Murray's original concept of a nucleus that branches out into a few related circles of words to one with 22 related circles The approximately 5,000 entries range from the brief (e.g., "Comic Relief" is one sentence) to the lengthy (more than five pages for "Suffix"). Many entries also include references for further research and dates for a sense's use (when appropriate); all are signed by one of the more than 90 contributors. A few are accompanied by illustrations. For example, "Great Vowel Shift" has a chart that shows the change in pronunciation of vowels from Middle English The development of this scholarly reference was truly a labor of love. Linguists, students, and even trivia buffs will find it useful. The entries for linguistics terms are fairly technical, but most entries are accessible to the educated layperson. This book will ably serve as a companion to English-language dictionaries. Academic libraries serving departments of English and lingustics should purchase; public libraries will want to consider it, too.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780192141835
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/01/1992
Pages:
1216
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 6.50(h) x 2.40(d)

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