To tell someone how to find your house, you can direct them to go left then right, or you can say “head east for half a mile.” These two options are available to English speakers, that is. For Australian aboriginal speakers of Guuga  Yimithirr, only the latter mode is possible, as their language lacks an “egocentric” vocabulary of “left, “right,” “in front of,” and “behind.” In his fascinating trip THROUGH THE LANGUAGE GLASS (Metropolitan, $28), Guy Deutscher, author of The Unfolding of Language, investigates how language shapes, expands, and constrains human world views—or doesn’t. Does speaking a language that genders objects reflect a greater sensitivity to essential male and female traits than one, like English, in which all objects are “it”? Do speakers of languages that combine nouns and verbs see the world differently from those who need two words to describe an object in action? To address questions of individual languages and universal experience, Deutscher focuses on colors. “Why is the sky blue?” might seem to be a basic, formative question, but for linguists the first inquiry is “where is the ‘blue’?” Blue—or just “blue”—is absent from Homer’s epics, rich in descriptions and other colors though they are.

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages Cover Image
$21.00
ISBN: 9780312610494
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - August 30th, 2011

Roy Peter Clark’s THE GLAMOUR OF GRAMMAR (Little, Brown, $19.99) is an indispensable book for anyone who loves the English language. It is a guide, not a manifesto and Clark is no crusading “grammazon,” but a patient and thorough teacher. Covering the basics with brio, Clark utilizes examples that range from Chaucer to Twitter, religious poetry to Rolling Stone.  His explanation of the deeper elements of writing: standards, meaning, and purpose, are handled deftly with sensitivity and charm.  This book will serve writers at all levels, from beginner to expert, and the section on mastering new forms in the digital age should be required reading for anyone who sets fingers to a keyboard of any type.  Each chapter ends with helpful “keepsake” ideas, and the handy appendices list commonly misspelled and misused words.  This is a book to turn to again and again for both reference and pleasure.

The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780316027908
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Spark - September 8th, 2011