THE SOCIAL ART

LANGUAGE AND ITS USES

A modest survey of recent linguistic theory and practice in which Macaulay (Linguistics/Pitzer College; Generally Speaking, 1980—not reviewed) draws on 25 years of teaching to present what he admits is derivative, technical, and pedagogically oriented. Unlike the luminous and artful version of contemporary linguistics by Anthony Burgess (A Mouthful of Air, 1993), or the vivid and original contributions by Ray Jackendoff, Steven Pinker, and Joel Davis, this study is tidy, conservative, distinguished by the 30 short and methodical chapters, the teacher's voice, and the wide array of examples. Mostly, Macaulay describes familiar facets of language by using linguistics terminology: language acquisition, phonemics, vocabulary, syntax, semantics, and ``deictic'' elements- -the implied gestures of spoken language. He divides dialects into region, social class, written and spoken language; and he ``registers'' the technical vocabularies of different fields, stylistic devices, and also sexual differences, which he believes are unimportant despite the ``nonsense'' the topic has produced. The power of language; ``magic'' words; rhetoric as both an abuse that obscures meaning (or lack of it) and as a power of persuasion; conversation; narratives; foreign languages; the history of English; of Indo-European; and the literary uses of language—all these expand the topics beyond the typical linguistic preoccupation of describing how language is used. Except for Macaulay's disarming ``Envoi,'' revealing his personal experience with linguistics and with gathering authentic examples, especially from his native Scottish dialect, the scope and approach are familiar, indeed self- evident. Competent, noncontroversial, and instructive: it's difficult to determine why a reader would prefer this volume to all the brilliant competition.

Pub Date: March 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-508382-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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