Sticks and stones...

April 5, 1996

The tone and conclusions of the ill-tempered review of English Words (THES, March 15) surprised me. It is bizarre for your reviewer to dismiss my treatment of English word formation as "pedestrian" by asserting that many linguists are no longer concerned about the make-up of words like "sang" which, unlike comparable words such as "walked", do not appear to be unambiguously made up of two parts. Surely, the treatment of irregular inflection lies at the heart of mainstream morphological theories such as lexical morphology.

Likewise, the other charge levelled against the book, that of incoherence, baffled me - he refers to it as "a bag of all sorts for all sorts". It made me wonder if he had indeed taken the trouble to read English Words - beyond skimming through the table of contents. For even a very superficial reading shows that the first six chapters deal with the nature and structure of words, the seventh chapter treats the orthographic representation of words in a socio-historical context, the next three chapters develop further the theme of the social context of word creation and the final chapter addresses the way in which words are stored and retrieved from the mind, since word knowledge also has a personal psychological dimension.

For a view of the book, one is more inclined to trust the judgement of the 3,000 students of English linguistics and their teachers in Britain and elsewhere who have bought English Words since it appeared about 18 months ago.

FRANCIS KATAMBA Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language, Lancaster University

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