A linguist and editor at The Guardian takes readers on a journey through the science of language. Challenging nine widely held myths about language while introducing readers to some of the fundamental insights of modern linguistics, Shariatmadari explores the beauty and quirkiness of humanity’s greatest achievement.
... [a] lucid and insightful study of linguistics ... Yet Don’t Believe A Word is too wise, and too personal, to be regarded as just another book on language: it entertains just as much as it informs ... Shariatmadari, a Guardian journalist, is excellent on the way in which class associations between language and an accent are immediately forged, just as there is no such thing as a classless, accentless use of language; everyone has an accent as a social identifier ... There are reminders of the gravity of language throughout, and how it distinguishes itself from 'lesser forms' ... The odd section can be somewhat hard going, despite Shariatmadari’s obvious enthusiasm, but some good jokes make up for that ... above all, this is a generous and enthralling study of the basis of how we communicate.
It’s a brisk and friendly introduction to linguistics, and a synthesis of the field’s recent discoveries ... The scope of Don't Beliee a Word is impressive ... Shariatmadari is an earnest writer—clarity, not style, is his priority—but the quirks of human and animal speech are strange and alluring enough to leaven the narrative ... I am glad to have had this conversation.
... a skilful summation of the latest research on how languages emerge, change, convey meaning and influence how we think ... This is quite a scholarly and serious book. I admired its refusal to lighten its denser arguments with that jokey 'here comes the science bit' flippancy that so often grates in non-fiction books on complex topics. Shariatmadari’s style is never less than clear, but there isn’t too much handholding. His account requires a little patience, but then so does linguistics. Stick with it and it is a meaty, rewarding and even necessary read.