The Social Art is an engagingly written, highly accessible tour through the world of languages. Macaulay uses jokes, anecdotes, quotations, and examples to introduce readers to the full range of current linguistic knowledge, covering in 35 chapters, topics like language acquisition, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, dialects, conversation, narrative, swearing, and many others.
In this revised and expanded second edition, Macaulay brings the book up to date with the last decade of progress in linguistics, adding more American examples, and updating bibliographies. Two new chapters have been added, on theories of language development and on the evolution of language. The Social Art is perfect for general readers and students who want to learn about what it is that linguists do.
Despite its academic flavor, this survey of language will entertain the general reader. Its 33 short chapters range from children's language acquisition to semantics, syntax, creoles and language around the world. Macaulay, a linguistics professor at Pitzer College in California, highlights unspoken rules of conversation, decodes the puffery of advertisements, considers the finer points of insults and swearing and explains how the interactive nature of language affects what we say and how we say it. Calling Standard English a ``nonregional dialect'' promulgated by an educated minority, he argues that it may not be superior to nonstandard dialects in its logic, regularity or beauty. He also disputes the popular ``linguistic relativity theory,'' finding insufficient evidence for its proponents' claim that people's thought processes are molded by the particular language they speak. (Mar.)