The World of LanguageA Carrollinian Canvas

Rudolf P. Botha


'All this time the Guard was looking at [Alice], first through a telescope. then through a microscope. and then through an opera-glass'.

[Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, p.2IS]

This book paints a picture of the world of language as a whole: a picture showing clearly both what its large-scale features are and how they hang together. 'But what makes that sort of picture special?', you might wonder. 'Surely producing a picture of this sort is part of linguists' stock-in-trade?' In terms of what many linguists profess to be doing, yes indeed. In terms of how they routinely spend their days, though, certainly not. Ordinary linguists, you see, have been bent on taking the world of language apart, rather than on picturing it as a whole. And, in the spirit of the trade, they have been looking at ever smaller bits of this world. In fact, many linguists have become so glued to their microscopes that they completely forget to step back once in a while to view the whole from a suitable distance. As a result, there are many technical texts that picture the micro texture of the world of language in all its fme-grained splendour. One can indeed rightly marvel at the detail in which many microscopic analyses reveal this world's finer fibres. One also misses something, however: some picture of the general architecture and dynamics of the world of language as a whole.

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