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Language and Human Nature


Language and Human Nature Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Language and Human Nature exposes a centurys worth of flawed thinking about language, to exhibit some of the dangers it presents, and to suggest a path to recovery. It begins by examining the causes of changes in the English vocabulary. These sometimes take the form of new words, but more often that of new senses for old words. In the course of this examination, Halpern discusses a wide variety of verbal solecisms, vulgarisms, and infelicities generally. His objective is not to deplore such things, but to expose the reasons for their existence, the human traits that generate them. A large part of this book is devoted to contesting the claims of academic linguists to be the only experts in the study of language change. Language is too central to civilied life to be so deeply misunderstood without causing a multitude of troubles throughout our culture. We are currently experiencing such troubles, a number of which are examined here. The exposure of linguists misunderstandings is not an end in itself, but a necessary first step in recovery from the confusion we are now enmeshed in. The picture of the relationship between words and thoughts that is part of the attempt to deal with language scientifically is partly responsible for dangerous cultural developments. The attempt by linguists to treat their subject scientifically makes them view meaning as an irritating complication to be ignored if possible. It turns them into formalists who try to understand language by studying its physical representations, with a resort to semantics only when unavoidable. With words practically stripped of their role as bearers of meaning, it becomes easy to see them as unimportant. Halperns book is a serious critique of such oversimplified theoriing. Mark Halpern is a freelance editor and writer. He holds degrees in English Language and Literature from the City College of New York and Columbia University. His writings have appeared in The Vocabula Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The American Scholar, and The New Atlantis. He is the author of Binding Time, a book about computer programming.

Book News Annotation:

American writer and editor Halpern set out to describe the faults of language usage that caused or contributed to serious social and political problems. Along the way, he also took up such issues such as the status of linguistics and linguists, authority in language usage, language as a medium for a fantasy or alternative life, and specialized languages such as programming and calculus. The original was published in 2006 by Regent Press, Oakland, California. This reprint contains a new introduction and index. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


Language & Human Nature shows how faults in language usage, far from being merely irritants to pedants and esthetes, are often both causes and effects of serious public problems, and explores the strange role that linguistics plays in this turbulent scene.

Product Details

Halpern, Mark
Transaction Publishers
Language and languages
Language and culture
Language and languages -- Philosophy.
Linguistics - General
Communication Studies
Publication Date:
8.80x5.80x.90 in. 1.20 lbs.

Related Subjects

Business » Communication
History and Social Science » Intercultural Communications » General
History and Social Science » Linguistics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Reference » Rhetoric

Language and Human Nature New Trade Paper
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Product details 386 pages Transaction Publishers - English 9781412808255 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Language & Human Nature shows how faults in language usage, far from being merely irritants to pedants and esthetes, are often both causes and effects of serious public problems, and explores the strange role that linguistics plays in this turbulent scene.
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