Book Review: How English Works by Anne Curzan & Michael Adams

Posted 22 December, 2017 by Alicia in Book Review / 0 Comments  


A major introductory language/linguistics textbook written specifically for English and Education majors, this book is an engaging introduction to the structure of English, general theories in linguistics, and important issues in sociolinguistics. This accessible text provides more extensive coverage of issues of particular interest to English and Education majors. Tapping into our natural curiosity about language, it invites all students to connect academic linguistics to everyday use of the English language and to become active participants in the construction of linguistic knowledge. The second edition provides updated examples of language change–including new slang and other word coinages, grammatical developments, and sound changes–as well as new research findings on American dialects, language acquisition, language evolution, eggcorns, English and the Internet, and much more.

my review

This was one of my textbooks for my Intro to the Study of Language class. It’s a brilliant textbook and I recommend it. The authors write with personality and the information is conveyed really effectively. It covers the very fundamental aspects of language, primarily the English language (but it also explains the IPA). It talks about phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, semantics, you name it. It finishes up with a very brief history of English (Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, and Modern English) and a few thoughts on how it might be in the future. This is one of the few books I’ve read that really goes into the most basic aspects of grammar and syntax and for that I find it invaluable. I do think that the authors get a little too friendly at times and the editing wasn’t perfect, but as an introduction to the language I think it does an overall marvellous job. It also makes a grand effort to cover all types of English, from Standard to nonstandard, American to British (and Canadian, Australian, and others), and regional dialects to accents. There is even some philosophy in here too, as well as the science of language acquisition. It really covers a broad range of topics and for that it is worth the price. It’s not a resource I would consult regularly, but if I need a refresher on a specific topic (I can see myself brushing up on the IPA frequently) it’s good to have on hand. There are also many topics in it that I’d love to discuss further in a blog post or essay. This has been one of my most useful textbooks for any class, but I might be biased since I love the English language so much.

This review was originally published on my book blog. You can find the book on Goodreads and Amazon.



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