The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage

Overview

This book is not a usage manual in the conventional sense. It is a sui generis series of compact, self-contained essays arranged into chapters by broad topic categories of problematic points of linguistic usage in contemporary American speech and writing and cast in an uncompromisingly analytical style that is nevertheless accessible to any educated reader with a love of words, an inquisitiveness about language, and an appetite for exegesis.
The bias of the author is unabashedly...
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Overview

This book is not a usage manual in the conventional sense. It is a sui generis series of compact, self-contained essays arranged into chapters by broad topic categories of problematic points of linguistic usage in contemporary American speech and writing and cast in an uncompromisingly analytical style that is nevertheless accessible to any educated reader with a love of words, an inquisitiveness about language, and an appetite for exegesis.
The bias of the author is unabashedly prescriptivist. It is formed by a long-standing theoretical interest in and empirical observation of English usage, oral and written. Much of the material for analysis is drawn from the language of contemporary media, both print and broadcast. The discussion of examples frequently opens out on a perspective that takes in deeper questions of value and society in America as revealed by present-day language use.
The essays that comprise the chapters are what might be called linguistic vignettes. They call attention to points of grammar and style in contemporary American English, especially in cases where the language is changing due to innovative usage, including what older generations of speakers would consider errors in speech and writing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781478357049
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/30/2012
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Slavic and Semiotic Studies at Brown University, was born in 1939 in Yokohama (Japan) and grew up speaking Russian, Japanese, and English. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1952 and was educated in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Michael Shapiro's career as a teacher and scholar spans almost half a century. He has taught at several universities, including the University of California (Los Angeles and Berkeley) and Princeton, and served as president of the Charles S. Peirce Society in 1991. His articles on English usage have appeared in American Speech and Language.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    A new kind of book, May 14, 2013 By Robert Sokolowski - See a

    A new kind of book, May 14, 2013
    By
    Robert Sokolowski - See all my reviews
    This review is from: The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Paperback)
    Reading this book is like having a conversation with an expert in linguistics.

    There are six chapters, the headings of which are: sounds, meanings, style, syntax, theory, and poetics. Each chapter contains short, bite-sized descriptions of linguistic phenomena, ways in which things are now actually said. There are, by my count, 175 such "episodes." Many are a page or two long, others cover several pages. A phenomenon is recorded and an explanation is given: Why is "like" used so much? Why are people fond of saying "at the end of the day"? Why is the name for Beijing so often mispronounced? (The reason for this has to do with an Italian dialect brought by immigrants to the United States). How does rhyme reinforce meaning and why is it so pleasing? Why do geeks speak the way they do?

    In his previous writings, Michael Shapiro examined the more formal aspects of language as a system of signs: the semiotics of C. S. Peirce, the sense of grammatical form, form in literature. In this collection, he describes for us the colorful particularities of linguistic usage, the ways that language comes to life.

    The title of the book is appropriate. Language is a formal resource but it exists concretely in actual use, which is always situated and individualized. It is, furthermore, always executed by "someone," who is aptly called by Shapiro "the speaking self." This very name is a formalization, but what it names is any one us insofar as we enter into speech and hence into the rationality that makes us what we are as human beings. The book describes language and describes us in the ways we use it, both comical and tragical; it shows the curious human emotions, trends, and foibles behind the way we say things. Shapiro often uses technical terms, but he includes a glossary for each entry, which will help the reader expand his own vocabulary in the science of linguistics.

    I compared the book to a conversation, but I can draw another analogy. I found each of the entries comparable to a New Yorker cartoon. Each episode is interesting and a lot of them are funny, but the amusement is the beginning of an understanding. Because they describe what we see and hear all around us, they make the ordinary become remarkable. We see how language is at work in us and how we declare ourselves in the most common things we say.

    This book is different from a standard monograph. It is a compilation of many of Shapiro's blogs, enhanced for publication. It shows that the Internet is opening up new possibilities of linguistic composition. It's a thesaurus, not of words, but of linguistic incidents.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Destined to become a classic creative landmark of our times, April 7, 2013
    By
    Jeffrey Goodman "Shelter of Clear Light" (Los Angeles) - See all my reviews
    (REAL NAME)
    This review is from: The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Paperback)
    The Speaking Self, based on a collection of widely read and critically acclaimed blog posts from the eminent linguist Michael Shapiro, is a masterful and compelling set of self-contained essays on current American speech and writing.

    Mr. Shapiro applies his unmatched observations of contemporary linguistic usage with a master scholar's understanding of the roots and nuances of such diverse topics as "The Jazzification of Music Terminology, to "Stammering as a cultural Datum, to "The Genius of the Mot Juste."

    Compelling, witty, acerbic, and profound, the essays take the reader on an unforgettable journey. The book contains an abundant wealth of fascinating subjects combined with Mr. Shapiro's illuminating insights into the nature of language. This book is perhaps destined to become a classic creative landmark to the understanding of our time.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Language lore and deep insight, April 7, 2013
    By
    Ben Udell - See all my reviews
    This review is from: The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Paperback)
    I've read miscellanies on the lore and usage of language before, but never one that shows all at once such a fine ear, such love for language, and such theoretical depth glimmering in brief dips and deeper dives alike. This is the kind of book that has value far outweighing any disagreement about particulars. If you enjoy and value the lore and study of language, then read _The Speaking Self_ because Michael Shapiro is a master.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Linguistic Tutorial, April 3, 2013
    By
    Milt Lowe - See all my reviews
    This review is from: The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Paperback)
    "The Speaking Self" is a brilliant linguistic tutorial of modern American speech and a much needed one. Michael Shapiro's love of words is contagious.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars A MUCH NEEDED BOOK, April 1, 2013
    By
    Lanie L. - See all my reviews
    This review is from: The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Paperback)
    This book is a windfall for anyone interested in language. It is a book to keep forever and everyone can learn from it. The stories are interesting and the glossary is a great touch.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars How to do the right thing with words, February 4, 2013
    By
    Anthony Jappy - See all my reviews
    (REAL NAME)
    This review is from: The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Paperback)
    Michael Shapiro's new book takes an Internet genre - a corpus of weblog posts - and revitalises the conventional `Introduction to Linguistics' by means of a microscopic analysis of a multitude of linguistic blemishes that characterise Anglo-Saxon culture today. The tone of the posts, thematically organised in six chapters, is always authoritative, often acerbic but never hectoring: this is no opposition to language change - a process that neither individual nor culture can halt - but a plea for effective and courteous communication with others as a self-controlled, deliberate exploitation of the riches of our linguistic heritage. Among the intellectual pleasures are the discussions of Shapiro's encounters with trainers, waitresses and various members of the medical profession, while the most frequent and probably the most vital of the analyses target the logorrhoea of politicians and the slipshod linguistic performance of persons of the media. The Speaking Self should be on every linguist's bookshelf, should figure in the bibliographies of linguistics courses, and should be mandatory reading for TV presenters, sports commentators and the subeditors of our national newspapers. A very fine achievement.
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    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Never a dull page, January 27, 20

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