The linguistics student’s handbook

The linguistics student’s handbook. By Laurie Bauer. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. Pp. 387. ISBN 9780748627585. $90 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ashley Lober, The University of Texas at Arlington

Laurie Bauer has produced an easily accessible resource for students of linguistics that introduces the basics of the field. This volume contains six thematically arranged parts. Part 1, ‘Some fundamentals of linguistics’ (1–92), contains fifteen chapters that provide explanations of basic concepts such as ‘Language’, ‘Accent, dialect, variety’, ‘Linguistics’, ‘Grammar’, ‘Parts of speech’, ‘Rules’, ‘The Saussurean dichotomies’, ‘Chomsky’s influence’, ‘Form and function’, ‘Contrast and substitution’, ‘Binarity’, ‘Trees’, ‘State versus process’, ‘Native speaker’, and ‘The data of linguistics’. Each chapter concludes with a list of references.

Part 2, ‘Notation and terminology’ (95–123), contains four chapters. Ch. 16, ‘Notational conventions’, and Ch. 17, ‘Frequent abbreviations and initialisms’, provide an introduction to the most frequent symbols and abbreviations that students are likely to encounter. Ch. 18, ‘Terminology: Ambiguity’, and Ch. 19, ‘Terminology: Synonymy’, discuss terminology that may be ambiguous (i.e. technical terms with different meanings in different subdisciplines of linguistics) and terms that may be synonymous (e.g. coinage and neologism).

Part 3, ‘Reading linguistics’ (127–73), contains nine chapters. Ch. 20, ‘The International Phonetic Association’ (IPA), and Ch. 21, ‘Reading phonetics and phonology’, provide background on IPA and non-IPA phonetic systems. Ch. 22, ‘Foreign expressions’, and Ch. 23, ‘Letters, accents and diacritics’, include definitions and examples of linguistic terms (e.g. ceteris paribus) and symbols (e.g. tilda). Ch. 24, ‘Journals’, Ch. 25, ‘Linguists’ names’, and Ch. 26, ‘Laws and principles’, will be useful references for beginning linguists. Ch. 27, ‘Statistics’, overviews statistical methods that linguists use for data analysis. This part ends with Ch. 28, ‘Some on-line resources for linguists’.

Parts 4 and 5 focus on writing in the field of linguistics. Part 4, ‘Writing and presenting linguistics’, (178–96) contains five chapters. Ch. 29, ‘Essay writing’, focuses on the writing process, while Ch. 30, ‘Glosses’, explores the technical aspects of glossing. Ch. 31, ‘Use versus mention’, and Ch. 32, ‘Reification’, reinforce the importance of clarity in writing. Ch. 33, ‘Spelling’, provides a short list of fundamental terms (e.g. auxiliary) with spelling hints (e.g. ‘one l’). Part 5, ‘Bibliographies’ (199–218), contains two chapters about referencing and documenting sources: Ch. 34, ‘Citation etiquette’, and Ch. 35, ‘Reference lists’.

Part 6, ‘Language file’ (221–381), the largest section of the book, explains the methods used to collect data from 280 languages and presents a table that contains structural information (e.g. word order) and socio-linguistic information (e.g. number of speakers) for each of the languages.

One challenge for constructing a handbook like this is deciding how much (or how little) information to include for each subject; this text provides an excellent introduction to each topic. However, due to its brevity, this handbook is best viewed as a supplement to other texts. With its concise chapters enhanced with tables and examples, this handbook is recommended for students who desire clarification of the basic concepts and the professional requirements of the field of linguistics.