A Mouthful of Air: Language, Languages.Especially English

Anthony Burgess

Published by William Morrow & Co, 1993
ISBN 10: 0688119352 / ISBN 13: 9780688119355
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Synopsis: A survey of language describes how it reached its present state, how it operates, and how it will develop in the future, discussing such topics as Shakespeare's pronunciation, low-life language, and English's place in the world. 30,000 first printing. $25,000 ad/promo.

From Kirkus Reviews: Burgess has demonstrated his passion for language in his fiction, his essays and reviews, and his multivolumed autobiography (You've Had Your Time, 1991, etc.)--but now, at age 76, he explains it, sharing in this personable yet encyclopedic survey his intimate and extensive knowledge of the ``miracle'' of it. The author--whose pedagogic career began with teaching illiterate WW I British soldiers to read--argues convincingly that we should all study linguistics, an often dry field that he animates here through rich imagination and vivid style. The title, from a Yeats poem, suggests an ironic dimension, but the material, far from tongue-in-cheek, includes a history of linguistics from Saussure to Chomsky; a consideration of the parts of speech and grammar in several languages; as well as discussions of the physiology of speech (``the buzzes, hisses, and bangs''), the history of the alphabet, and peculiarities of spelling and punctuation. Burgess pauses to consider meaning, context, semantics, and the value of learning many languages, ancient as well as modern, before moving on to an epic survey of families of languages and how they developed and are related, as well as a history of English itself, which he finds ``volatile,'' ``hospitable,'' and ``maternal.'' He introduces Russian and Japanese, savoring the prospect of learning them, and tours English dialects--from the ``Received Thespian'' of Shakespeare to dialects of America, Australia, South Africa, Scotland, and ``closed'' groups (feminists, blacks, gays). Slang and euphemism, the ambiguities and instability of language, and the consensual nature of dictionary definitions also come under his gaze. If the role of literature, as Burgess says, is to challenge the commonplace uses of words--to use language inventively and to exploit it aesthetically--then this remarkable book is a rare contribution to the literature of language: a love affair explained and shared. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: A Mouthful of Air: Language, ...
Publisher: William Morrow & Co
Publication Date: 1993
Book Condition: Fair
Edition: 1st.

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Anthony Burgess
Published by William Morrow & Co (1993)
ISBN 10: 0688119352 ISBN 13: 9780688119355
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Book Description William Morrow & Co, 1993. Condition: Good. 1st. Ships from Reno, NV. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Seller Inventory # GRP91103081

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Book Description William Morrow & Co, 1993. Condition: Good. 1st. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Seller Inventory # GRP2457119

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers. Hardcover. Condition: Good. A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact. The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include previous owner inscriptions. An ex-library book and may have standard library stamps and/or stickers. At ThriftBooks, our motto is: Read More, Spend Less. Seller Inventory # G0688119352I3N10

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