The Study of Language by George Yule. Eighth Edition, Cambridge University Press.

The Study of Language, 8th Edition [Review]

New year, new books. Well, we have to live by some adage don’t we? And perhaps it’s the time of year, but shiny new tomes in the postbox do have their appeal. Appropriately, this week’s doormat delight was George Yule‘s essential Linguistics primer The Study of Language, refreshed and updated in its 8th iteration.

It’s a text with some measure of nostalgia for me, appearing on a preliminary reader list ahead of my own MSc. And it has doubtless done so for many other courses, having become something of a modern classic; it offers a solid and systematic overview of all branches of the field, from historical linguistics to second language acquisition. If your university offers a course on it, there’s probably an introductory chapter on it in The Study of Language. It’s as comprehensive as it is reliable.

An Interactive Text

It’s been a good two years since the last edition, so what’s changed? One key enhancement is a considerable expansion of the end-of-unit study questions and tasks. It’s something that always made the volume perfect for working in tandem with programme instructors, now even more so. Activities range from simple questions to more exploratory project-based tasks, providing ample independent learning opportunities.

An example from one of the sections of study questions in The Study of Language by George Yule (8th Edition, Cambridge University Press).

Extensive study questions cap each of the concise, snappy chapters.

There is additional online support on the Cambridge website, too, which has seen a refresh along with the core text. This includes a substantial, 152-page PDF study guide for students, adding a good deal of value to the course.

Keeping It Current

The commitment of Cambridge University Press to keeping this key text up-to-date is impressive. Several of the chapters have gone through major rewrites to reflect current research. This is immediately evident in the further reading lists, replete with pointers to fresh, new sources.

The chapter on Second Language Acquisition is a case in point. Clearly it’s quite a dear topic to my own heart, and (predictably) one of my first stop-offs. But even I spotted some interesting new references to follow up in the mix, in the form of recent papers and monographs. It’s great to see the last couple of years represented in the lists of publications like this, underscoring the fact that this is a bang up-to-date edition.

The Study of Language is a broad, engaging and highly readable introduction to language sciences. It equips the reader with a robust roadmap to ensure they aren’t overwhelmed by unfamiliar buzzwords and jargon on starting out on a formal Linguistics course. This eighth edition is a very welcome continuation of that, ensuring that students get the very best and most up-to-date start possible.

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