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Languages and linguistics

Times Higher Education languages and linguistics textbook guide (7 November 2013)

Even if the subject matter is unfamiliar, a well-written book can entice you into unexplored areas. Rachel Wicaksono’s initial trepidation wears off as she heads into the unknown

As the textbooks I had selected for review started to arrive, I panicked. I’m an applied linguist with a special interest in teaching English as a second language (Tesol). So why had I requested copies of books from some remote (to me) areas of the linguistics galaxy? I consulted my departmental colleagues, many of whom are also textbook writers, and they reminded me that all the books I had selected were textbooks; if they weren’t accessible or interesting then they weren’t likely to be any good.

Encouraged, I read on. I looked for clear directions to new (and some familiar) areas that didn’t ignore complex or challenging sights encountered along the way. I hoped to find summary overviews and questions or exercises to test my understanding. Lists of key concepts, glossaries, a detailed index, suggestions for further reading, web links and relevant visuals were all on my kit list – as was a personal authorial voice; a welcome companion for the journey. The books, much like the wide range of areas they covered, turned out to vary enormously in their aims, scope and format. Here is a brief guide to some of them.

I’ll start with three examples in the area of the galaxy with which I am most familiar. Teaching Materials and the Roles of EFL/ESL Teachers: Practice and Theory (McGrath) is aimed at postgraduate students and would be an ideal core text for a module on materials development. Many of the items on my textbook kit list are here and work well. Not the personal authorial voice, though. Instead, the author references himself in a way that made me check the bibliography. Ah yes, the person you are citing in support of that point is yourself. Indeed.

On the same topic, and aimed at the same readership, is Tomlinson’s Applied Linguistics and Materials Development, which draws on the work of members of the excellent Materials Development Association. This book aims “to give practitioners information about research findings and theories with the potential for useful application”. This sounds to me like top-down “linguistics applied” rather than the more bottom-up approach that we aim for on our MA in applied linguistics. I like the case studies of published mater-ials, but without access to the materials themselves, I’m not convinced that these sections are meaningful. It’s definitely one for the library, but I don’t think I will be using this book in class. Changing Methodologies in TESOL (Spiro) is a book I may use in class, but only for the excellent fieldwork ideas and well-designed research tasks. Students with a background in linguistics will be under-challenged by some parts of this book.

I read a section of The Sociolinguistics of Writing (Lillis) with York St John colleagues teaching English for academic purposes. Ideal for practitioners, or used as a supplementary resource for advanced undergraduates and postgraduates, this book makes a strong case for writing as a neglected but entirely legitimate focus for research in sociolinguistics. The author details her own stance, bias, interests and assumptions in a way that helps readers to examine their own. We found this to be a thought-provoking, useful and usable book.

An Introduction to Interaction: Understanding Talk in Formal and Informal Settings (Garcia) is another extremely usable book. With all the features on my textbook kit list and a detailed online instructor’s manual (I am definitely going to try the “teaching while lying down” idea to illustrate the concept of accountability), I will be recommending this excellent book to colleagues and students.

Also published by Bloomsbury are three new titles in its Companions series (Discourse Analysis, Second Language Acquisition and Historical Linguistics). The short overview chapters on important issues, written by leading scholars, would be ideal seminar reading. Another edited collection, Self-Translation: Brokering Originality in Hybrid Culture (Cordingley), provides multiple perspectives on this fascinating area, challenging the reader to consider what counts as a language in multilingual contexts.

My departmental colleagues enjoyed O’Grady’s Key Concepts in Phonetics and Phonology (comprehensive though necessarily brief), Odden’s Introducing Phonology (stimulating data exercises drawn from a range of languages), Lobeck and Denham’s Navigating English Grammar and Nunan’s What is This Thing Called Language? (we’re going to include this on our first-year reading list).

I wish I’d had Hough and Corbett’s Beginning Old English as a first-year undergraduate myself. It would have made the study of Anglo-Saxon much more interesting than my feeble attempts to memorise the translations I had inherited from the year above. My two teenagers enjoyed the New Oxford Rhyming Dictionary and the introduction settled a long-standing argument about the artistic merits of the rapper Eminem in their favour. They also liked the jacket design: two French bulldogs in knitted frog hats. I’ve kept Labov: A Guide for the Perplexed (Gordon) aside for them. Written for the general reader, this lively overview of Labov’s life and work captures the many ways in which his ideas still inspire generations of linguists to make a difference.

Exploring such a variety of areas of the galaxy wasn’t as frightening as I’d first feared, thanks to the judicious use by the textbook writers and publishers of many of the items on my kit list (although with surprisingly little in the way of online resources). This year, I’m looking forward to recommending some new books to my students, in the hope that they might kindle a desire to explore both familiar and far-flung places.

Rachel Wicaksono is head of languages and linguistics at York St John University, and a Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellow.

Publisher Title Author/Editor ISBN (hardback/paperback/e-book) Edition
Bloomsbury Labov: A Guide for the Perplexed Gordon NA/9781441158529/9781441186003 1
Bloomsbury Applied Linguistics and Materials Development Tomlinson NA/9781441109439/9781441133953 1
Bloomsbury The Bloomsbury Companion to Second Language Acquisition Macaro NA/9781441180353/9781441136923 1
Bloomsbury The Bloomsbury Companion to Historical Linguistics Luraghi & Bubenik NA/9781441130105/9781441149664 1
Bloomsbury The Bloomsbury Companion to Discourse Analysis Hyland & Paltridge NA/9781441167866/9781441160126 1
Bloomsbury Self-Translation: Brokering Originality in Hybrid Culture Cordingley NA/9781441142894/9781441175755 1
Bloomsbury Teaching Materials and the Roles of EFL/ESL Teachers: Practice and Theory McGrath NA/9781441143693/9781441194923 1
Bloomsbury An Introduction to Interaction: Understanding Talk in Formal and Informal Settings Garcia NA/9781441157614/9781623561529 1
Bloomsbury Quality In Professional Translation: Assessment and Improvement Drugan NA/9781441149541/9781441194510 1
Broadview Press The Broadview Pocket Guide to Citation and Documentation Okun NA/9781554811663/NA 1
Cambridge University Press How Languages Work Genetti 9780521767446/9780521174688/NA 1
Cambridge University Press Syntactic Analysis, A Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar Approach Levine 9781107018884/9781107614123/NA 1
Cambridge University Press Introducing Phonology Odden 9781107031449/9781107627970/NA 2
Cambridge University Press Modern Standard Arabic Abboud et al NA/9780521708180/NA 1
Edinburgh University Press Historical Linguistics Campbell 9780748646012/9780748645947/9780748675609 3
Edinburgh University Press The Sociolinguistics of Writing Lillis 9780748616909/9780748637508/9780748677511 1
Edinburgh University Press Changing Methodologies in TESOL Spiro 9780748646203/9780748646197/9780748646197 1
Edinburgh University Press Humboldt, Worldview and Language Underhill 9780748638420/9780748668793/9780748640225 1
Edinburgh University Press Understanding Pragmatic Markers Aijmer 9780748635498/9780748635504/9780748681655 1
Edinburgh University Press Classroom Discourse and Teacher Development Walsh 9780748645183/9780748645176/9780748645176 1
Edinburgh University Press Creating Worldviews Underhill 9780748643158/9780748679096/9780748688678 1
Indiana University Press Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary Beinfeld & Bochner 9780253009838/NA/NA 1
Open Book Publishers Virgil, Aeneid, 4.1-299: Latin Text, Study Questions, Commentary and Interpretative Essays Gildenhard 9781909254169/9781909254152/9781909254176 1
Open Book Publishers Tacitus, Annals, 15.20-23, 33-45: Latin Text, Study Aids with Vocabulary, and Commentary Owen & Gildenhard 9781783740017/9781783740000/9781783740024 1
Oxford University Press New Oxford Rhyming Dictionary
NA/9780199674220/NA 2
Oxford University Press I-Language: An Introduction to Linguistics as Cognitive Science Isac & Reiss NA/9780199660179/NA 2
Oxford University Press Grammar and Complexity: Language at the Intersection of Competence and Performance Culicover 9780199654598/9780199654604/NA 1
Oxford University Press Nature and Origin of Language Bouchard 9780199681624/9780199681631/NA 1
Oxford University Press Sociolinguistics: A Very Short Introduction Edwards NA/9780199858613/NA 1
Palgrave Macmillan Analysing Political Speeches Charteris-Black 9780230274389/9780230274396/NA 1
Palgrave Macmillan Beginning Old English Hough & Corbett 9780230301405/NA/NA 2
Palgrave Macmillan English Syntax and Argumentation Aarts 9780230361690/NA/NA 4
Palgrave Macmillan Key Concepts in Phonetics and Phonology O’Grady 9780230276475/NA/NA 1
Palgrave Macmillan What is This Thing Called Language? Nunan 9780230291379/NA/NA 2
Palgrave Macmillan Word of Mouth Finch 9780230276840/NA/NA 2
Palgrave Macmillan Dimensions of Vocabulary Knowledge Milton & Fitzpatrick 9780230275720/9780230275737/NA 1
Palgrave Macmillan Phonology Carr & Montreuil 9780230573147/NA/NA 2
Palgrave Macmillan The Frameworks of English Ballard 9780230392434/9780230392427/NA 3
Routledge Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues Pérez-González 9780415530255/9780415530279/NA 1
Routledge Canadian English: A Sociolinguistic Perspective Walker 9780415535366/9780415535373/NA 1
Routledge Research Methods in Second Language Psycholinguistics Jegerski & VanPatten 9780415518253/9780415518260/NA 1
Routledge Discourse Analysis: A Multi-perspective and Multi-lingual Approach Strauss & Feiz 9780415522182/9780415522199/NA 1
Routledge Introducing Language in Use: A Course Book Merrison et al 9780415583053/9780415583381/NA 2
Routledge Exploring Digital Communication Tagg 9780415524919/9780415524933/NA 1
Springer Puzzles in Logic, Languages and Computation: The Red Book Radev 9783642343773/NA/9783642343780 1
Springer Puzzles in Logic, Languages and Computation: The Green Book Radev 9783642343711/NA/9783642343728 1
American University in Cairo Press al-Murshid: A Guide to Modern Standard Arabic Grammar for the Intermediate Level Al-Sawi & Saad NA/9789774165399/NA 1
American University in Cairo Press Umm al-Dunya: Advanced Egyptian Colloquial Arabic Al-Tonsi et al NA/9789774165641/NA 1
American University in Cairo Press Uktub al-‘arabiya: Beginners Writing Skills in Modern Standard Arabic Hassanein et al NA/9789774165856/NA 1
Tilde University Press Brazilian Portuguese: Beginner 1 Ferraro NA/9780734608123/NA 1
University of Chicago Press Attitudes De Se: Linguistics, Epistemology, Metaphysics Feit & Capone NA/9781575866642/9781575866666 1
University of Hawai‘i Press A Resource for Korean Grammar Instruction Park & Sohn NA/9780824838164/NA 1
University of Hawai‘i Press Integrated Korean: Intermediate 2 Cho et al NA/9780824838133/NA 2
Wiley Navigating English Grammar: A Guide to Analyzing Real Language Lobeck & Denham 9781405159937/9781405159944/9781118340233 1
Wiley Articulatory Phonetics Gick et al 9781405193214/9781405193207/9781118438084 1
Wiley An Annotated Syntax Reader: Lasting Insights and Questions Kayne et al 9780631235880/9780631235897/NA 1
Wiley The Guidebook to Sociolinguistics Bell 9780631228653/9780631228660/9781118593974 1
Wiley The Sounds of Language: An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology Zsiga 9781405191043/9781405191036/9781118340585 1