12 Linguistics Books To Help You Learn More About Language (2022)

Language is one of the most complex phenomena in the universe, and yet we encounter it every single day of our lives in a way that many of us take for granted. Fortunately, you can learn to speak a language without learning all the details of how it works — and to be honest, we don’t have a full grasp of that anyway. But finding out more about how language works can teach you a lot: about human nature, about the brain, about history and more. Reading linguistics books is a great way to dive deeper into the world of the word.

Good news for you: There are countless options out there. We rounded up some of the best linguistics books we’ve read that cover a wide range of topics. Whether you’re into history, science or fantasy, there’s a compendium about communication or a book about babble out there for you.

The 12 Best Linguistics Books By Topic

For A Good Overview:Don’t Believe A Word By David Shariatmadari

Everyone uses language, and so it makes sense that everyone has some preconceived notions about how it works. But in Don’t Believe a Word, linguist David Shariatmadari looks at nine common myths and the truth hiding behind them. On the way, he covers the most up-to-date language science in an accessible way (the book came out in 2020, so it’s one of the newest there is). Shariatmadari also uses a number of real-world examples to show you how the mechanisms of language play out in our lives every time we open our mouths.

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For Learning About English History:The Stories Of English By David Crystal

English is a complicated language. From its humble origins in Proto-Germanic to its worldwide status as a lingua franca today, English can’t really be boiled down into a simple narrative. That’s why this book isn’t the story of English butThe Stories of English; it looks at history in all its multifaceted glory (and also some parts that are not so glorious). David Crystal, the author of this book, is also hugely prolific on the topic of language, and in particular English. If you like his writing style, you can learn a lot more about language by checking out his bibliography (his Little Book of Language also makes a good introductory text).

For Learning About Other Languages’ History: Babel By Gaston Dorren

There are over 7,000 languages in the world, but the size of each varies drastically. In fact, Gaston Dorren calculated that if you wanted to be able to communicate with about half of the world’s population, you’d need to master just 20. In Babel, Dorren looks at each of these 20 languages — which come from all over the world — and the stories behind them. While there’s only so much detail he can go into in a single chapter per language, the book is jam-packed with information, and it gives you a good survey of how different languages can be.

For The Origins Of Language: The First Word By Christine Kenneally

There is a first time for everything, which means that there must have been — at some point in history — a first word. In The First Word, linguist and journalist Christine Kenneally looks at a “new” field in linguistics that studies the origins of human language. She interviews a number of linguists who have done research on this topic and discusses some of the most fascinating studies. The result of the book is that there are a number of theories as to how language first came about. But if you’re looking for an actual “first word” you are likely out of luck. It’s more about the journey than the destination, anyway.

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For The Intersection Of Language And Gender:Wordslut By Amanda Montell

As you can probably guess from the title beingWordslut, this is not your father’s linguistics book. It’s a radical but research-intensive look at how language and gender interact. Do women actually talk more than men? Why do people get so annoyed by vocal fry? Why do so many words that refer to women also happen to be horrific insults? Montell interviews experts in gendered linguistics to write this diatribe against sexism in language.

For The Intersection Of Language And Race: Talking Back, Talking Black By John McWhorter

John McWhorter is one of the most popular linguists working today, and he’s written books on a number of topics, as well as hosting Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast. He knows a lot about a number of topics, but one of his primary research subjects is African American Vernacular English. In Talking Back, Talking Black, McWhorter looks at the historic treatment of Black English (hint: it’s not great), and argues for its wider acceptance. Black English, like any other dialect, is a fully developed form of communication, and any arguments against it are rooted in racism and discrimination. Language and race are far more intertwined than this one issue, but McWhorter provides a great entryway to learning more about this particular intersection.

For The Intersection Of Language And Power: Words Matter By Sally McConnell-Ginet

Can changing language change society? It’s a complicated question. Sometimes social justice movements get knocked for focusing more on language than on concrete change that matters to people. But Sally McConnell-Ginet argues in Words Matter that these linguistic choices are important. McConnell-Ginet says language can be a tool of the powerful, and demonstrates her point with relevant examples (this book came out in 2020, so you’ll probably be all-too-aware of most of them).

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For A Classic Linguistic Tome:On Language By Noam Chomsky

There are very few linguists who ever reach the status of a household name. In fact, there may only be one: Noam Chomsky. He’s probably better known today for his political and philosophical views, but back in his youth he put forth the theory of universal grammar, which (put simply) is the theory that humans are born with an innate capacity for language. If you’re curious about his ideas, you can learn more inOn Language, which collects two of Chomsky’s most popular works. It’s worth mentioning that linguistics is a rapidly changing field, and we know a lot more now than when Chomsky was working, but it’s worth reading his linguistics books because his ideas have had such a huge impact on linguists.

For Language On The Internet:Because Internet By Gretchen McCulloch

We’ve written about this book before, and we will continue to. Because Internet is one of the most fun linguistics books out there. It looks at how technology has shaped language, and how language has shaped technology, from the birth of the telephone to today. It also acts as a pretty good intro to linguistics as a whole, so even if you’re a beginner this book is readily understandable. It’s the kind of book where you’ll want to highlight facts on every page just to bring them up at the next cocktail party, and it will also make you more aware of how you’re using language on social media.

For A Look At How Dictionaries Work: Word By Word By Kory Stamper

It’s easy to forget that dictionaries are books made by people. They seem like immovable tomes, passed down by some linguistic overlord. Yet every single word and definition in a dictionary was made by a real person. In Word By Word, former Merriam-Webster lexicographer Kory Stamper takes you behind the curtains to show you how all of these word decisions are made. She also discusses the role dictionaries play in society, and what it truly means when a dictionary defines a word like “marriage.”

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For The Philosophy Of Translation: Is That A Fish In Your Ear? By David Bellos

If you live in a largely monolingual society, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about translation. But the work of translation is central to making our global society function. In Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, David Bellos looks at all the various facets of translation. From the complex system of translation performed at the United Nations to the careful word choices made when translating a classic work like Madame Bovary, Bellos shows how translation is really more philosophical than it is a mechanical process of transforming one language into another.

For Fantasy Languages: The Art Of Language Invention By David J. Peterson

Who says linguistics books have to be about languages that already exist? If you, like many people, watched Game of Thrones, you probably heard the languages Dothraki and High Valyrian. Both of these constructed languages, or conlangs, were created by a single person: David J. Peterson. Should you find yourself asking how someone invents a language, you’re in luck. Peterson’s The Art of Language Invention not only gives you a behind-the-scenes look at his work on Game of Thrones and Thor, but also shows you how you can get started making your own. You might not be getting hired by any directors to work on their next sci-fi film, but making a conlang can be a fun hobby that teaches you quite a bit about how language works.

FAQs

How does linguistics help in language learning? ›

Linguistics helps us understand our world

It captures unique conceptualizations of the world and has its own ways of constructing words, phrases and sentences for communicating ideas. As we compare the words and structures of various languages, we come to a greater understanding of the world we live in.

What is the best introduction to linguistics? ›

10 Best Linguistics Books for Beginners
  • Second Language Acquisition. An Introductory Course. ...
  • The Anthropology of Language. ...
  • The Languages and Linguistics of Western Asia. ...
  • Applying Phonetics. ...
  • Languages of the World. ...
  • How English Works. ...
  • An Introduction to Linguistics and Language Studies. ...
  • Language and Linguistic Diversity in the US.

How do I start reading linguistics? ›

Buy an introductory textbook on linguistics. Most likely the book will be written in an academic style. Maybe it's a good idea to start by reading a book on the subject for a readership of non students first. Knowing about linguistics (a very theoretical subject) will not give you an advantage in studying languages.

How can studying linguistics improve your ability as a student? ›

Linguistics helps us understand our world

Apart from simply understanding the intricacies of world languages, this knowledge can be applied to improving communication between people, contributing to translation activities, assisting in literacy efforts, and treating speech disorders.

What are the examples of linguistics? ›

What is Linguistics?
  • Phonetics - the study of speech sounds in their physical aspects.
  • Phonology - the study of speech sounds in their cognitive aspects.
  • Morphology - the study of the formation of words.
  • Syntax - the study of the formation of sentences.
  • Semantics - the study of meaning.
  • Pragmatics - the study of language use.
Aug 4, 2017

What are the 3 purposes of linguistics? ›

The informative, expressive, and directive purposes of language.

What are the best books to read on linguistics? ›

The best books on Linguistics
  • The Resilience of Language. by Susan Goldin-Meadow.
  • Language and Experience: Evidence from the Blind Child. by Barbara Landau & Lila Gleitman.
  • The Language of Thought. by Jerry Fodor.
  • On Nature and Language. by Noam Chomsky.
  • Embassytown. by China Miéville.

What is the base of linguistic study? ›

Phonology and phonetics — the study of the sound systems of languages — deals with the basic utterances in speech. It can be investigated by observing which physical properties of the vocal tract (including the lips and tongue) are used to form distinct linguistic sounds to convey information.

Who is the author of linguistic theory? ›

Linguistic Theory was formed by Noam Chomsky who described language as having a grammar that is largely independent of language use. Unlike Behavioral Theory, Linguistic Theory argues that language acquisition is governed by universal, underlying grammatical rules that are common to all typically developing humans.

What are the advantages of linguistics? ›

Studying linguistics not only teaches you about languages, but also improves practical and intellectual skills! Linguistics research involves talking with native speakers of different languages and collaborating with a team to develop experiments.

How is linguistics used in everyday life? ›

Language use is an essential human ability: Whether it's telling a joke, naming a baby, using voice recognition software, or helping a relative who's had a stroke, you'll find the study of language reflected in almost everything you do.

What is the most important for linguistic? ›

Hence, we conclude that the Dictionary and grammar is the most important for linguists.

Why is linguistics important to human development? ›

Language helps us express our feelings and thoughts — this is unique to our species because it is a way to express unique ideas and customs within different cultures and societies. By learning a foreign language, you can understand ideas and thoughts that may be different from your own culture.

by Marissa Blaszko ·. July 25, 2021. Not only did I fail out of high school Spanish, but I also managed to forget my native language (Polish) in the process.. After 10 years of establishing my career in the arts I decided to give language learning one last chance, and many years (and languages) later, I now help others online learn or relearn languages.. I now speak English, Spanish, French, Catalan, Portuguese and am relearning Polish, my heritage language.. I've also studied Italian, German, and other languages to low- or intermediate-levels for fun.. If you want to relearn a language, I'd love to help!

In this post, I’m sharing 10 inspiring books about language and linguistics that I’ve loved and I think you will too.. You *must* learn one language at a time.. All that hunting around online for “the one method/system/formula” to learn a language leads to is feeling guilty about where you’re at.. Time to quit feeling guilty about your language learning.. It’s one of those books that you can dip in and out of easily with short chapters made up of already short expressions, idioms and words that have sometimes bizarre meanings when translated back into English.. If you love this as much as I do, the good news is that there’s also a second book called Toujours Tingo.. Queries such as ‘do people speaking different languages see colour differently?’, ‘how about direction?’, ‘and how is gender perception affected by language, if at all?’.. I didn’t actually buy this one – Ashley did.. Michel Rosen takes a fresh approach here and focuses on one letter of the English alphabet per chapter.. No doubt you’ve seen some images from this book online already.. How Language Works is a book I keep coming back to over the years to read a little more each time.. He makes you feel included in the conversation, and if you’ve never read anything by him before, How Language Works is a great starting point.. Guest Post: 3 Novel Reading Tips for Language Learning Bookworms All The Reading Resources for Language Learning Than You’ll Ever Need 7 Reading Resources to Inspire Language Learning for Young Children Why Social Media is the Best Free Language Learning Tool The Ultimate Guide to Language Learning Podcasts The Quick Start Guide to Facebook for Language Learning

These books will both teach you about language and linguistics, and you’ll also learn more about the world than you thought some language book could teach you.. Image Via Amazon A personal favorite, Because Internet is a hilarious, relatable, immensely interesting read.. Linguist Gretchen McCullogh’s entertaining writing style keeps you engaged on the fascinating things she’s talking about, and you won’t be able to put this book down.. Seriously, go read Because Internet !. What about accents—are those different languages?. With big ideas and fun facts, What Language Is will entertain and educate you, so go check it out!. Image Via Amazon Language Myths is all about tackling the common myths and misconceptions about language and debunking them.. Language Myths also tackles some things you didn’t even know were myths before you read this book.. But seriously, Arika Okrent’s awesome book talks about the many invented languages, from ones that everyone knows about like Klingon to more obscure languages like Blissymbolics or Babm.. Featured Image Via Book ‘Em Whether you use language to communicate or have formally studied linguistics, you can’t deny that language is interesting.. These books will both teach you about language and linguistics, and you’ll also learn more about the world than you thought some language book could teach you.. Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCullogh A personal favorite, Because Internet is a hilarious, relatable, …

All of the considerable research that’s been done in various linguistics departments, particularly insofar as applied linguistics is concerned into language learning, hasn’t done much to improve the quality of language instruction.. Some people see him as akin to Darwin in terms of his discovery (according to him a discovery) that we have some innate sort of capability to learn languages and that our ability to learn a language is not just based on the way the brain learns other things; in other words, how the brain develops patterns to deal with all of the experiences that it encounters in life.. His position is that there must be some innate ability to sort of understand or identify what is correct grammar and what is not correct grammar and since grammar varies from language to language, there must be a universal grammar, sort of the essence of grammar, that is hardwired in our brains and that then is the secret of why we are able to understand what is correct and not correct.. What is difficult in learning a language, to my mind, would not be this sort of essence of grammar, but all the ways in which different languages are different, all of the exceptions, all of the idiomatic patterns, the vocabulary, that’s a huge part of learning a language.. The problem with linguistics to me is, in many cases, people who teach languages have been studying linguistics so they are all wrapped up in these theories.. One of my favorite educators Rubem Alves, whom I listened to a lot when I was learning Portuguese, says that when we are reading nothing destroys our interest in reading as much as being asked to analyze what we have read, to answer questions about what we have read.. We expect the sounds, the structures and so forth to conform to what we learned for our first language which is kind of hardwired in our brain and we need to exposure our brains to as much as possible of this second language so that the brain has a chance to develop another set of patterns to deal with this second language.. There was a study by the American Center for Applied Linguistics on the effectiveness of classroom instructional hours on ESL learning, English learning by immigrants, and they showed that it improved depending on the number of hours, but, in fact, in some cases it went down.. Again, we had this example in Canada of several thousand Chinese immigrants who were measured after seven years and who had, essentially, made no progress in their language learning despite attending language class.

I love learning languages by reading, and I love reading in other languages.. What is clear is that if you want to learn a language by reading, you have to read a lot .. In this case, you would have to read just about 300 000 words (or 3 books) to pick up another thousand words at the 3000-level.. For me, having a basic 1000 words vocabulary is a prerequisite for reading anything in another language.. So how much time would it take to learn a language by reading from zero?. With the reading speed of 200 words per minutes (which is comfortable enough: I tend to read English at 295 wpm, and English is far from being my native language), it would take you 150 minutes a day (2.5 hours) to process all this beauty in a year.

Science, history and linguistics (duh) collide in another highly informative glimpse at how language happens and, of course, evolves.. A fascinating perspective even detractors should consider when researching English and more.. influence philosophy and other metaphysical subjects.. In The Architecture of Language , Chomsky traces its history, tenets and the way it shape the field forever.. The Grammar Girl blogger and podcaster outlines English's 101 most common semantic and etymological mistakes.. At the same time, though, it still educates readers looking for advice on polishing their writing.

by Marissa Blaszko ·. January 22, 2022. Not only did I fail out of high school Spanish, but I also managed to forget my native language (Polish) in the process.. After 10 years of establishing my career in the arts I decided to give language learning one last chance, and many years (and languages) later, I now help others online learn or relearn languages.. I now speak English, Spanish, French, Catalan, Portuguese and am relearning Polish, my heritage language.. I've also studied Italian, German, and other languages to low- or intermediate-levels for fun.. If you want to relearn a language, I'd love to help!

If you want to learn Spanish from scratch and start with a pretty affordable book, Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish might be right for you.. If you’re looking to start with a beginner book and then move on to other more advanced and specific books in a series, the Practice Makes Perfect Spanish Series might be right for you.. This series includes a book for Beginner Spanish, Complete Spanish Grammar, Spanish Verb Tenses, Spanish Conversation, Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions, and Complete Spanish All-in-One.. If you think that the most essential part of learning a language is verb conjugation, then you might enjoy Barron’s 501 Spanish Verbs book.. If you like the “Dummies” approach to learning something new, the Spanish for Dummies book is a simple, straightforward way to start learning some Spanish.. It is meant to be used to learn Spanish at home, using their lessons and MP3 files to listen to native speakers of Spanish, as well as the practice exercises.. Based on his own experience learning Spanish, the author wrote this book full of tips for English speakers to improve their Spanish.. So whether you want to learn Spanish for fun, for work, or travel, if you enjoy the learning from a book, one of the books on this list might be right for you.

Nothing is better than a great book.. In other words, a book can improve your way of life and your language learning at the same time.. So, what’s the best way to read a book in your target language?. In this article, I will show you five simple hacks that you can use to help you learn a language more effectively through reading literature.. This method consists of reading the text, underlining unknown vocabulary, looking up these words in a reliable dictionary, then writing down their meanings.. It is necessary to have a reliable notebook.. Digressions aside, this is the book I read in two languages:. I was only 9 years old when I started to learn Italian and at the time, I was a voracious reader of comics .. It is worth spending a little time to read comic strips in other languages.. Reading and listening to a poem at the same time can be a great way to start applying this technique.. Easy reading books are a great way to learn a language.

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