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Word4Word - Recommended books on language

Updated Thursday, 28th July 2005

Want to know more about linguistics, the story of English and how people communicate, why not try your local library or bookshop with our list of books, selected by our team of experts:

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The English Language: Past, Present and Future:
English: History, Diversity and Change
Graddol, D., Leith, R. and Swann, J.
Using English: From Conversation to Canon
Maybin, J. and Mercer, N.M.
Learning English: Development and Diversity
Mercer, N. M. and Swann, J
Redesigning English: New Texts, New Identities
Goodman, S. and Graddol, D.
(all published by Routledge in 1996)

Other useful and accessible books include:

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language
Crystal, D. (1997) CUP

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
Crystal, D. (1995) CUP

The English Language
Crystal, D. (2002, 2nd edition) Penguin Books
Professor Crystal is an international authority on the English language and writes accessibly for a general audience

The Future of English
Graddol, D. (1997) The British Council
A rich compendium of facts and figures on the current global position of English in relation to other languages, together with analysis of future trends

The Languages of the World
Katzner, K. (1977) Routledge
An introduction to the histories and cultures of the world’s major languages, with brief written examples of each

The Story of English
McCrum, R. et al (3rd edition, 2002) Faber/BBC Publications
Originally produced to accompany the BBC series of the same name, an outline of the history of English as a global language, full of fascinating examples and illustrations

The Lore and Language of Childhood
Opie, I. and Opie, P. (1959) OUP
A classic anthropological study of children’s games and the word play that accompanies them, collected from schools around the British Isles in the late 1950s

Oxford English Dictionary
A goldmine of information if you are interested in the etymologies of words (but do consider consulting the online version at your local library)

Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics
Romaine, S. (2000, 2nd edn) OUP
A classic, accessible introduction to the field of sociolinguistics

An Atlas of English Dialects
Upton, C. and Widdowson, J.D.A. (1996) OUP
Based on findings of the Survey of English Dialects conducted in the mid-twentieth century, this is a fascinating guide to the diversity of English regional speech.

The Surgeon of Crowthorne
Winchester, S. (2003) Penguin Books
The rather surprising story of the compilation of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary

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