As professional translators, we here at Language Now are all very interested in linguistics, philology, translation theory, and other fields of study related to the science and development of language. A blog post about one of the key figures of modern linguistics, David Crystal, therefore seemed fitting. His work greatly influenced us in our decision to read languages at university and branch into the world of professional translation, thus allowing us to use our knowledge of language and linguistics on a daily basis.
So who is David Crystal, what is his contribution to the field of linguistics, and which key texts should one endeavour to read in order to satisfy one’s curiosity about this eminent academic’s area of work? From a glance at the bibliography on his official website (davidcrystal.com), one can see the breadth of topics he has touched upon during his academic career: his works are listed under categories of ‘Child Linguistics’, ‘Creative Linguistics’, ‘Internet language’, ‘Language death and diversity’ and ‘Lexicography’.
For example, there is Crystal’s encyclopaedia of language: a substantial, coffee-table-sized tome (complete with colourful illustrations) in which one can look up almost any term related to language and linguistics, the Bible of all language-lovers. The compendium of terms related to languages and linguistics provides a fascinating introduction to the subjects, whets the appetite of confirmed linguistics, and acts as a useful reference book for language professionals wishing to refine their knowledge or deepen their understanding of a certain aspect of their field.
Crystal’s contribution to the field of sociolinguistics (the field of study which looks at the way in which language is used in a social context, at the connotations linked to regional accents, the use of slang and so forth) has been particularly influential in directing the studies of many of those at Language Now, while his book ‘How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning and Languages Lives or Die’ was cited in many a university essay. It explains the construction of language, the use and meaning of things such as names, compares cross-cultural examples of politeness and decodes the language of infants.
For those who wish to further add to their linguistic-centric reading list, David Crystal himself recommended what in his opinion are ten of the best books about languages and linguistics in a Guardian interview of 2006. In the article, entitled ‘David Crystal’s top 10 books on the English language’, Crystal recommends a mix of grammars, dictionaries and histories of the English language for all those who wish to learn more about the structure, development and current usage of the idiom. Among his selection of ten texts is the less academic yet very entertaining ‘Mother Tongue’ by Bill Bryson, which comes highly recommended by those at LanguageNow.