Introducing form with the help of potatoes

The Linguistics Student's Handbook. Author Laurie Bauer. Edition First. Publisher Edinburgh University Press. Pages 400. Price £14.99. ISBN 9780748627592.

May 22, 2008

Linguistics - a study of language. Student - an individual required to learn, understand, recall and recite information. Handbook - a compendium of information, a short complete summary, a concise reference point. The Linguistics Student's Handbook is exactly what it claims to be.

Entering the world of linguistics in an academic field for the first time requires a student to become familiar with a lot of information quickly and efficiently. This book, a reservoir of information, will help you not only understand the subject matter, explaining fundamental linguistics, concepts and the history of the subject, but will also help teach how to master the approaches to studying and writing, knowledge usually acquired through time and experience.

The perplexing new ideas of referencing, glossing, journal research and statistical analysis are all addressed in this omniscient guide, and an attempt is made to explain why we have to do these mundane yet crucial things. Even the brief overview of how to write an essay, at first appearing condescending, actually highlights the key points crucial for aspiring linguists and is far from irrelevant.

The definitions and descriptions are simultaneously concise and clear, cheerful and comical, with plenty of examples and analogies in everyday terms. Although it may seem laughable, patronising or borderline ridiculous, using different types of potatoes to describe form and functions is one way to penetrate the student mind. Plenty of references are offered throughout.

A lot of valuable information is given, but a few sections should be read with caution. The lists of journals and linguists, plus the 140 pages of individual language summaries, are all subject to change and are by no means exhaustive. However, they do provide a good starting point.

The book itself claims, when broaching the topic of statistics, that "the simplified presentation here is for those who are not trying to be expert in the field". This sums up the handbook neatly: although it is not all you will ever need, it is, as the title suggests, a brilliant introduction and reference point, perfect for students, on the topic of linguistics.

Who is it for? New students entering into linguistic study.

Presentation - Plenty of concise chapters. Easy to locate what you are after if you use the contents page.

Would you recommend it? Definitely, for those starting their linguistic studies.

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