Friday, June 17, 2011

My Language Library

Here is a list of my books on words and languages, sorted by categories. I will dip into each of them eventually and give you a sample of what I have learned from it. If there are books that you have enjoyed, please post them in a comment. I update this page regularly with recent purchases.

Reference Books
  • The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2001 edition.
  • Canadian Thesaurus, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010.
  • The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992.
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1985 edition.
History and Development of Language
  • The Origin of Language – Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue, Merritt Ruhlen, 1994. Attempts to trace all extant languages back to a common ancestral language.
  • The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Calvert Watkins, 2000. Has a good 29 page introduction to Indo-European.
  • The Horse, the Wheel and Language - how Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W. Anthony, 2007. Makes a good case for the southern Russian steppes as the homeland of the speakers of Proto-Indo-European.
  • The First Word – the Search for the Origins of Language, Christine Kenneally, 2007.
  • The Power of Babel – a Natural History of Language, John McWhorter, 2001
  • The Unfolding of Language – an evolutionary tour of mankind’s greatest invention, Guy Deutscher, 2005.
  • How Language Works, David Crystal, 2005.
  • The Story of Human Language, John McWhorter, The Great Courses DVD, 2004
  • You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity, Robert Lane Greene, 2011.
  • Through the Language Glass - Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, Guy Deutscher, 2011.
  • Languages of the World - an Introduction, Asya Pereltsvaig, 2012
  • Myths, Lies, and Half-truths of Language Usage, John McWhorter, The Great Courses DVD, 2011
History of the English Language
  • The Mother Tongue – English & how it got that way, Bill Bryson, 1990. An entertaining but not particularly accurate history of English.
  • The Stories of English, David Crystal, 2004. Recognizes that there are many histories of English, not just that of Standard English.
  • By Hook or by Crook - a Journey in Search of English, David Crystal, 2007
  • The Secret Life of Words – How English Became English, Henry Hitchings, 2008.
  • The History of the English Language, 2nd Ed., Seth Lerer, The Great Courses DVD, 2008
  • The Story of English – How the English Language Conquered the World, Philip Gooden, 2009.
  • The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins, Anne Curzan, The Great Courses DVD, 2012. This course is more a history of English than just word origins.
Punctuation, Grammar & Spelling
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss, 2003. A humorous reference to punctuation.
  • The Grouchy Grammarian, Thomas Parrish, 2002. Does for grammar what Truss did for punctuation (and did it first).
  • Comma Sense – A Fundamental Guide to Punctuation, Richard Lederer & John Shore, 2005.
  • Dictionary of Disagreeable English - a Curmudgeon's Compendium of Excruciatingly Correct Grammar, Robert Hartwell Fiske (the "Grumbling Grammarian"), 2006. A dictionary of commonly misused words.
  • Righting the Mother Tongue – from Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling, David Wolman, 2008. Explains why all attempts over the centuries to standardize English spelling have failed.
Word & Phrase References
  • NTC’s English Idioms Dictionary, Richard A. Spears & Betty Kirkpatrick, 1993. Explains meaning but not origin.
  • A Concise Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Brian A. Pythian, 1993. Includes some history as well as definitions.
  • A Guide to Familiar Latin Quotes and Phrases, Robin Langley Somer, 1995.
  • Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, 1997. 
Word Origins
  • Word Origins…and how we know them, Anatoly Liberman, 2005. Subtitled “Etymology for Everyone”, this is a laypersons guide to the study of word origins, explaining the science behind the many dictionaries of word origins.
  • Why Do We Say It? The stories behind the words, expressions and clich├ęs we use, 1985, Castle Books.
  • Dictionary of Word Origins, John Ayto, 1990.
  • QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson, 1997.
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, Glynnis Chantrell, 2002.
  • Word Myths – Debunking Linguistic Urban Lengends, David Wilton, 2004.
  • 500 Years of New Words, Bill Sherk, 2004. One new word every year from 1504-2004 (uh, Bill, that would be 501 years).
  • POSH and other language myths, Michael Quinion, 2004
  • Native Tongues – a book of captivating language facts…, Charles Berlitz, 2005.
  • The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two – the Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-so-Common Words, Anu Garg, 2007.
Specialty Language books
  • Cockney Rabbit – A Dick’n’arry of Rhyming Slang, Ray Puxley, 1992.
  • Born to Kvetch – Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods, Michael Wex, 2005. 

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