LinguisticsWhy It Matters
Why It Matters
Language is the medium in which we humans compose our thoughts, explain our thinking, construct our arguments, and create works of literature. Without language, societies as complex as ours could not exist.

Geoffrey Pullum offers a stimulating introduction to the many ways in which linguistics, as the scientific study of language, matters. With its close relationships to psychology, education, philosophy, and computer science, the subject has a compelling human story to tell about the ways in which different societies see and describe the world, and its far-reaching applications range from law to medicine and from developmental psychology to artificial intelligence.

Introducing Polity’s <i>Why It Matters</i> series: In these short and lively books, world-leading thinkers make the case for the importance of their subjects and aim to inspire a new generation of students.
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More Info
  • September 2018
  • 140 pages
  • 130 x 193 mm / 5 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509530755
  • Paperback $12.95
  • 9781509530762
  • Open eBook $12.95
  • 9781509530786
Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: What Makes Us Human
  • Chapter 2: How Sentences Work
  • Chapter 3: Words, Meaning and Thought
  • Chapter 4: Language and Social Life
  • Chapter 5: Machines That Understand Us
  • Conclusion
  • Notes on Further Reading
About the Author
Geoff Pullum has been interested in linguistics ever since he discovered that there was such a subject. He gave up his job (he was a professional rock musician) and has been studying language ever since. He is currently Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, and formerly worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts, a Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He regularly contributes popular articles on language and writing to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Though he has published very widely in many subfields of linguistics, his best-known work is probably The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002), a massive reference grammar co-authored with Rodney Huddleston. It won the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award from the Linguistic Society of America in 2004.
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'An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.'  
​The Guardian

‘Geoff Pullum, tart and cosmopolitan as always, has at last given the world the handiest possible remedy for idea that what's interesting about language is snippy rules about where prepositions shouldn't be, that different languages make you think in different ways, or that Siri actually understands us. Linguistics is fascinating far beyond these myths and this book will show you why in a quick coffee-cup read.’
John McWhorter, Columbia University

‘Geoff Pullum is among our greatest living linguists, with a deep appreciation of the richness of language and the elegance of linguistic theory. He is also one of the finest stylists writing today, and presents ideas with dazzling clarity and wit. No one is better equipped to explain linguistics and why it matters.’
Steve Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works.

'[A] fascinating, beautifully written and highly accessible exposition of why the science of language matters. Strongly recommend it.’
Oliver Kamm, columnist for The Times of London

“Hard to put down and infinitely informative ... Pullum’s book has the feel of a casual conversation with a personable and knowledgeable companion.”

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