Sunday, December 09, 2007

Paging Santa

Holiday book recommendations from Boston Globe language columnist Jan Freeman. These two in particular are on my own to-read list:

"How Language Works" (Avery, $17.95), by the formidable British linguist David Crystal, more than lives up to its ambitious subtitle: "How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning, and Languages Live or Die." It's a wide-ranging introduction to the study of language, touching on virtually every aspect from neuroscience to dialects to language death....

Remember those Latin conjugations? A lot of Brits apparently do; Harry Mount's tribute to the undead language, "Carpe Diem" (Hyperion, $19.95), was a bestseller in England last year. Subtitled "Put a Little Latin in Your Life," it purports to be a workable introduction to the language, with basic grammar brightened by illustrations (John Belushi in a toga), whimsy (the Latin bit from "Life of Brian"), and fun facts about Roman emperors. But Mount's affectionate ramble, with its tributes to teachers past, seems more likely to lure nostalgia trippers than budding classicists.

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