Cover image for The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax, and other irreverent essays on the study of language
Title:
The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax, and other irreverent essays on the study of language
Author:
Pullum, Geoffrey K.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [1991]

©1991
Physical Description:
x, 236 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780226685335

9780226685342
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library P27 .P85 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

How reliable are all those stories about the number of Eskimo words for snow? How can lamps, flags, and parrots be libelous? How might Star Trek's Commander Spock react to Noam Chomsky's theories of language? These and many other odd questions are typical topics in this collection of essays that present an occasionally zany, often wry, but always fascinating look at language and the people who study it.

Geoffrey K. Pullum's writings began as columns in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory in 1983. For six years, in almost every issue, under the banner "TOPIC. . .COMMENT," he published a captivating mélange of commentary, criticism, satire, whimsy, and fiction. Those columns are reproduced here--almost exactly as his friends and colleagues originally warned him not to publish them--along with new material including a foreword by James D. McCawley, a prologue, and a new introduction to each of these clever pieces. Whether making a sneak attack on some sacred cow, delivering a tongue-in-cheek protest against current standards, or supplying a caustic review of some recent development, Pullum remains in touch with serious concerns about language and society. At the same time, he reminds the reader not to take linguistics too seriously all of the time.

Pullum will take you on an excursion into the wild and untamed fringes of linguistics. Among the unusual encounters in store are a conversation between Star Trek's Commander Spock and three real earth linguists, the strange tale of the author's imprisonment for embezzling funds from the Campaign for Typographical Freedom, a harrowing account of a day in the research life of four unhappy grammarians, and the true story of how a monograph on syntax was suppressed because the examples were judged to be libelous. You will also find a volley of humorous broadsides aimed at dishonest attributional practices, meddlesome copy editors, mathematical incompetence, and "cracker-barrel philosophy of science." These learned and witty pieces will delight anyone who is fascinated by the quirks of language and linguists.


Summary

How reliable are all those stories about the number of Eskimo words for snow? How can lamps, flags, and parrots be libelous? How might Star Trek's Commander Spock react to Noam Chomsky's theories of language? These and many other odd questions are typical topics in this collection of essays that present an occasionally zany, often wry, but always fascinating look at language and the people who study it.

Geoffrey K. Pullum's writings began as columns in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory in 1983. For six years, in almost every issue, under the banner "TOPIC. . .COMMENT," he published a captivating mélange of commentary, criticism, satire, whimsy, and fiction. Those columns are reproduced here--almost exactly as his friends and colleagues originally warned him not to publish them--along with new material including a foreword by James D. McCawley, a prologue, and a new introduction to each of these clever pieces. Whether making a sneak attack on some sacred cow, delivering a tongue-in-cheek protest against current standards, or supplying a caustic review of some recent development, Pullum remains in touch with serious concerns about language and society. At the same time, he reminds the reader not to take linguistics too seriously all of the time.

Pullum will take you on an excursion into the wild and untamed fringes of linguistics. Among the unusual encounters in store are a conversation between Star Trek's Commander Spock and three real earth linguists, the strange tale of the author's imprisonment for embezzling funds from the Campaign for Typographical Freedom, a harrowing account of a day in the research life of four unhappy grammarians, and the true story of how a monograph on syntax was suppressed because the examples were judged to be libelous. You will also find a volley of humorous broadsides aimed at dishonest attributional practices, meddlesome copy editors, mathematical incompetence, and "cracker-barrel philosophy of science." These learned and witty pieces will delight anyone who is fascinated by the quirks of language and linguists.


Author Notes

Geoffrey K. Pullum is professor of linguistics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.


Geoffrey K. Pullum is professor of linguistics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

The 23 entertaining essays collected here originally appeared as columns in a linguistics journal between 1983 and 1989. Slight revisions have been made, and introductory and explanatory notes added. Although some of the material here is a sometimes gossipy, sometimes technical insider's view of the linguistics profession, most of it is a highly interesting and enlightening discussion of a subject that is largely a mystery to most people. However, it is also ``perhaps the only subject that regularly gets research funding from agencies in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences,'' and therefore has cross-disciplinary pertinence. The title essay refers to Whorf's (according to the author, incorrect) work on the Eskimo lexicon. For public as well as academic libraries.-- Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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