A mind-boggling journey through the phenomenon of language, busting nine common myths about humanity's greatest achievement
THINK YOU KNOW LANGUAGE? THINK AGAIN
A word's origin doesn't tell you what it means today
There are languages that change when your mother-in-law is present
Mistakes don't undermine English, they lay its foundations
The language you speak could make you more prone to accidents
'Untranslatable' words are usually anything but
There's a special part of the brain that produces swear words
The truth is so much more interesting than the rumours . . .
Over the past few decades, we have reached new frontiers of linguistic knowledge. Linguists can now explain how and why language changes, describe its structures, and map its activity in the brain. But most of us know as much about language today as we did about physics before Galileo, and the little we know is still largely based on folklore, instinct or hearsay.
In DON'T BELIEVE A WORD linguist David Shariatmadari takes us on a mind-boggling journey through the science of language, urging us to abandon our prejudices in a bid to uncover the (far more interesting) truth about what we do with words. Exploding nine widely-held myths about language while introducing us to some of the fundamental insights of modern linguistics, David Shariatmadari is an energetic guide to the beauty and quirkiness of humanity's greatest achievement.
Wonderful. David Shariatmadari wears his deep learning with such an admirable and alluring lightness of touch. He brilliantly swats away the pesky 'language guardian' flies, whose misbegotten pedantries and ignorant persnicketiness are the real threats to living language. You finish the book more alive than ever to the enduring mystery and miracle of that thing that makes us most human, the gift of language that was bestowed upon us so astonishingly recently in evolutionary time and that has made us everything that we are . . . for good or ill
David Shariatmadari translates the often arcane theories of linguistics into a sequence of accessible ideas and theories, making us look afresh at the language we speak and how it structures our intimacies, our thoughts, and our identities. Wry and immensely intelligent, this learned book awakens us to complexities of communication that we too readily ignore, and it does so with both deep scholarship and a light touch
A skilful summation of the latest research on how languages emerge, change, convey meaning and influence how we think . . . a meaty, rewarding and necessary read - GUARDIAN
This lucid examination of linguistics entertains as much as it informs . . . above all, this is a generous and enthralling study of the basis of how we communicate - OBSERVER
Fascinating and thought-provoking . . . crammed with weird and wonderful facts. Don't Believe a Word is a serious piece of research, cogently and carefully presented . . . for anyone who delights in linguistics it's a richly rewarding read - MAIL ON SUNDAY
David Shariatmadari is a writer and editor at the GUARDIAN. He read Linguistics at Cambridge University, and went on to study at the University of London, where he focused on neurolinguistics and sound change. He was awarded a Master's degree with distinction after completing his thesis in phonology. DON'T BELIEVE A WORD is his first book.