A MOUTHFUL OF AIR

Language and Languages, Especially English

Anthony Burgess

London, 1992.


The prodigious author of Earthly Powers and A Clockwork Orange had much to say about language(s). For anyone interested in learning a foreign language, this book should make you feel like learning more than one. It may be of particular interest, too, for singers: the chapters, Buzzes and Hisses and Bangs and Flutings, discuss the mechanics of linguistic noise-making.

There is a great deal on the development of English, and its affinities and contrasts with other languages. Burgess covers dialect and dictionaries, literature and low-life, introducing the International Phonetic Alphabet along the way.

Specialists are prone to complain about the scholarly details of Burgess's writing, but most readers will be impressed by his voracious erudition, and the way he breathes life into linguistics.



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Paul Taylor 2001