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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Speaking Self, by Michael Shapiro

Michael Shapiro has just published a book The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage (Amazon link). It draws upon his blog posts and "is an attempt to reconceive linguistics in the light of pragmaticism," as he said in a message to me. He has variously authored and edited a number of books, including the Peirce Seminar Series.

Here is the book's official description:

This book is not a usage manual in the conventional sense. It is a sui generis series of compact, self-contained essays arranged into chapters by broad topic categories of problematic points of linguistic usage in contemporary American speech and writing and cast in an uncompromisingly analytical style that is nevertheless accessible to any educated reader with a love of words, an inquisitiveness about language, and an appetite for exegesis. The bias of the author is unabashedly prescriptivist. It is formed by a long-standing theoretical interest in and empirical observation of English usage, oral and written. Much of the material for analysis is drawn from the language of contemporary media, both print and broadcast. The discussion of examples frequently opens out on a perspective that takes in deeper questions of value and society in America as revealed by present-day language use. The essays that comprise the chapters are what might be called linguistic vignettes. They call attention to points of grammar and style in contemporary American English, especially in cases where the language is changing due to innovative usage, including what older generations of speakers would consider errors in speech and writing.

Anybody who has read his posts at Language Lore will be acquainted with his analysis of linguistic phenomena wherein, again and again, he brings into relief the difference made by a pragmaticist approach with its attention not just to the more obviously or narrowly linguistic factors in language but to conceivable practical implications and to real generals in their sometimes lively interplay affecting the phenomena.

Quotes on the book's back cover:

Michael Shapiro is one of the great thinkers in the realm of linguistics and language use, and his integrated understanding of language and speech in its semantic and pragmatic structure, grammatical and historical grounding, and colloquial to literary stylistic variants is perhaps unmatched today.

Who might be interested in this book? Certainly linguists, language scholars, literary theorists, novelists, poets, essayists, journalists--but also those who find the dictionary entertaining reading (there are surprisingly many of us), or simply those whose fascination with the inner workings of language knows no bounds. This book is a treasure to be shared.

— Robert S. Hatten, The University of Texas at Austin

"Michael Shapiro provides a critical review of contemporary American English usage in a richly multifarious analytical context. The result is both provocative and illuminating."

— Howard Hibbett, Harvard University

The Speaking Self at
326 pages.
ISBN-10: 1478357045
ISBN-13: 978-1478357049

From the Amazon page:

Michael Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Slavic and Semiotic Studies at Brown University, was born in 1939 in Yokohama (Japan) and grew up speaking Russian, Japanese, and English. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1952 and was educated in Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Michael Shapiro’s career as a teacher and scholar spans almost half a century. He has taught at several universities, including the University of California (Los Angeles and Berkeley) and Princeton, and served as president of the Charles S. Peirce Society in 1991. His articles on English usage have appeared in American Speech and Language.