An Introduction to Language
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More About This Title An Introduction to Language


An Introduction to Language offers an engaging guide to the nature of language, focusing on how language works – its sounds, words, structures, and phrases – all investigated through wide-ranging examples from Old English to contemporary pop culture.

  • Explores the idea of a scientific approach to language, inviting students to consider what qualities of language comprise everyday skills for us, be they sounds, words, phrases, or conversation
  • Helps shape our understanding of what language is, how it works, and why it is both elegantly complex and essential to who we are
  • Includes exercises within each chapter to help readers explore key concepts and directly observe the patterns that are part of all human language
  • Examines linguistic variation and change to illustrate social nuances and language-in-use, drawing primarily on examples from English
  • Avoids linguistic jargon, focusing instead on a broader and more general approach to the study of language, and making it ideal for those coming to the subject for the first time
  • Supported by additional web resources – available upon publication at– including student study aids and testbank and notes for instructors


Kirk Hazen is Professor of Linguistics at West Virginia University. He is co-editor of Research Methods in Sociolinguistics (with Janet Holmes, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013).


Companion Website xiv

Acknowledgments xv

Note to Instructors xvii

Preface: About the Book xix

1 Introduction 1

2 Sounds 31

3 Patterns of Sounds 73

4 Simple Words in the Lexicon 109

5 Idioms, Slang, and the English Lexicon 147

6 Words Made of Many Parts 177

7 Putting Pieces Together 217

8 Building Bigger Phrases 249

9 From Phrases to Meaning 295

10 The Winding Paths of Language in Education 327

11 The Life Cycles of Language 361

Glossary 395

Index 421


"In an alternate universe the dozen or so topics that we unite under what we call "linguistics" would barely be considered aspects of the same subject at all—and yet here is an approachable yet thorough textbook that makes the whole panorama feel like a jolly ten-stop trip on a bright, sunny day." –John McWhorter, Columbia University