The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language. 2nd edn. By David Crystal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. 499. ISBN 0521530334. $35.
Reviewed by R. A. Cloutier, University of Amsterdam
Divided into six parts that are further subdivided into chapters and subsections, this revised volume by David Crystal offers a colorful and informative overview of various aspects of the English language. The texts on each topic are short but informative, and almost every page is punctuated with various tidbits of information contained in boxes of varying colors. Turning to a random page, the reader will surely find something interesting to read. A summary of the various parts and chapters gives a good idea of the breadth of the book.
Part 1 gives an overview of the history of English, from its continental Germanic origins (Ch. 2) to the various stages of its development—Old English (Ch. 3), Middle English (Ch. 4), Early Modern English (Ch. 5), and Modern English (Ch. 6)—and continuing on to the status and the varieties of English the world over (Ch. 7). Part 2 informs the reader on various aspects of English vocabulary: ‘The nature of the lexicon’ (Ch. 8), native and foreign vocabulary items and various other sources of new words in ‘The sources of the lexicon’ (Ch. 9), ‘Etymology’ (Ch. 10), ‘The structure of the lexicon’ (Ch. 11), and ‘Lexical dimensions’ (Ch. 12), discussing other facets of the lexicon such as jargon, doublespeak, slang, archaisms, political correctness, and so on. Part 3 discusses various aspects of English grammar: an introduction to the nature of grammar, knowing about versus knowing grammar, prescriptivism, and the like (‘Grammatical mythology’, Ch. 13); different features of morphology (‘The structure of words’, Ch. 14); parts of speech (‘Word classes’, Ch. 15); and word order (‘The structure of sentence’, Ch. 16).
Part 4 treats the sound system of English (Ch. 17) and the writing system (Ch. 18). Part 5 concerns the use of English: varieties of discourse (Ch. 19) and variation on a regional (Ch. 20), social (Ch. 21), personal (Ch. 22), and electronic (Ch. 23) scale. Part 6 concludes the volume by enlightening the reader on aspects of learning about and learning English: Ch. 24 deals with learning English as a mother tongue and Ch. 25 with new ways of studying English.
The volume includes various helpful appendices: a glossary for those who may be less familiar with various linguistic terms; a list of special symbols and abbreviations used throughout the book, including phonetic symbols; a list of references; general suggestions for further reading, as well as suggestions corresponding to the various parts of the book; and indices of linguistic items, authors and personalities, and topics. As claimed on the back cover, this book is aimed at ‘a new generation of language-lovers and of teacher, students and professional English-users concerned with their own linguistic legacy’.