The Speaking Self: Language Lore and English Usage
Second Edition, by Michael Shapiro
Shapiro has long applied Peircean insights to linguistics.
Series: Springer Texts in Education. From the publisher's page at
Offers a substantive analysis of contemporary American English speech
Contains unique examples of comparative data from foreign languages
Gives synoptic presentations of speech data in their cultural and social contexts
This book aims to explain social variation in language, otherwise the meaning and motivation of language change in its social aspect. It is the expanded and improved 2nd edition of the author’s self-published volume with the same title, based on revised and adapted posts on the author’s Language Lore blog.
Each vignette calls attention to points of grammar and style in contemporary American English, especially cases where language is changing due to innovative usage. In every case where an analysis contains technical or recondite vocabulary, a Glossary precedes the body of the essay, and readers can also consult the Master Glossary which contains all items glossed in the text.
The unique form of the book’s presentation is aimed at readers who are alert to the peculiarities of present-day American English as they pertain to pronunciation, grammar, and style, without “dumbing down” or compromising the language in which the explanations are couched.
Praise for the First Edition
“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. This book is a treasure to be shared.” Robert S. Hatten, The University of Texas at Austin
“Jewel of a book. . . . a gift to us all from Michael Shapiro. Like a Medieval Chapbook it can be a kind of companion whose vignettes on language use can be randomly and profitably consulted at any moment. Some may consider these vignettes opinionated. That would be to ignore how deeply anchored each vignette is in Shapiro’s long and rare polyglot experience with language. It could well serve as a night table book, taken up each night to read and reflect upon ––to ponder––both in the twilight mind and in the deeper reaches of associative somnolence. There is nothing else like it that I know of.” James W. Fernandez, The University of Chicago
About the author
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. His career as a teacher and scholar spans over 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. He is the co-author, with his late wife the medievalist and Renaissance scholar Marianne Shapiro, of Figuration in Verbal Art (1988) and The Sense of Form in Literature and Language (2nd ed., 2009).
Among Shapiro's many publications are five volumes of The Peirce Seminar Papers.
He blogs at Language Lore.