English Language, The: An Owner's Manual

Lee Thomas / Stephen Tchudi  
Total pages
September 1998
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English Language, The: An Owner's Manual
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The English Language: An Owner's Manual is the first text designed to be used in general introductory courses in the English language that is reader friendly, accessible, and fun. Rather than focus on technical linguistics, the book offers a more eclectic set of topics to introduce students to various aspects of language. Its goals are to draw on the daily use of language, especially students' own language; explore the cultural significance of so called “traditional” grammar as a set of tools and terms; and give students a basic understanding of the modern linguistic view of language as a rule governed system. The focus throughout is on language analysis that students should find more relevant: that language is a system of universal qualities, that it is dynamic and always changing, and that studying it pushes us to rethink the assumptions we have about language.


  • Student-centered approach focuses on students' own use and mastery of the English language. By avoiding a focus on technical linguistics, it offers a more eclectic set of topics to introduce students to aspects of language.
  • Integrates material traditionally taught by instructors trained in rhetoric and literature (Chs. 1, 4, 6, 10) with that taught by those trained in linguistics (Chs. 2, 5, 7, 9).
  • Covers socio-linguistic, transformational, and generative approaches to grammar.
  • Exploration and Extension Activities (x-squared) go beyond typical study questions to engage students in detailed and novel expeditions into language study.
  • Students learn about grammar by understanding historical traditions, what problems grammars solve, and how modern grammars have posed exciting new questions for investigation.
  • Shows that each type of media has its own conventions (Ch. 4).
  • A unique chapter, “Comparing Grammars” (Ch. 8) shows how diverse languages have similar traits; the chapter begins with an artificial language (Klingon) to illustrate.
  • A unique chapter, “Language and the Marketplace of Ideas,” (Ch. 10) discusses the use of language in every day life.

Table of Contents

Each chapter concludes with “Summing Up” and “For Further Exploration.”

1.The Play of Language.


The Play of Language.

Fun and Games with Language.

Language, Magic, and Power.

The Dimensions of Discourse.

2.The Nature of Language.

What Is Language?

Why Do Linguists Want to Describe Languages?

How Do Linguistics Describe Languages?

3.Language and Society.

Language in Context: Micro-Language

Language and Gender.

Language and Culture.

Language and Organizations.

The Politics of Language.

Language Suppression.

4.Extended Language.

Media and Their Cultures.

Rhetoric and Media Analysis.

The Medium of Print.

The Mass Entertainment Media.

Interactive Media.

The Fine Arts as Mass Media.

Rhetoric in Popular Culture.

5.A Brief History of the English Language.

English as a Changing Tongue.

The Indo-European Language Family and Its History.

Indo-European to Germanic.

Old English (449-1100 A.D.).

Middle English (1100-1500 A.D.).

Modern English (1500 A.D.-Present).

World Englishes.

6.Traditions in Grammar.

A Brief History of Grammar.

A Short Introduction to Grammar.

7.Modern Grammars.

The Research Agenda of Modern Syntax.

Describing Language.

The Generative Syntax Model.


8.Comparing Grammars.

Comparing Grammars.

The Artificial Language Movement.

Three Natural Indo-European Languages.

Non Indo-European Languages.

English as a World Language.

9.Varieties, Dialects, and Registers.

The Nature of Variation.

Describing Variation.

Why Does Language Variation Exist?

Varieties of English.

Local and Global Considerations in Language Variation.

10.Language and the Marketplace of Ideas.

Speech, Writing, and the Human Record.

Literature and the World of Words.

Language and the World of Persuasion.

Language and Inquiry.

Learning Language and Learning through Language.

Language and Salvation.