Why don’t eleven and twelve end in –teen? The rest of our counting system sits in neatly arithmetical sets of ten, so why do these two rulebreakers seem so at odds to the numbers that follow them?
Admittedly, that’s probably a question you’ve never thought to ask. But if you’re interested in the origins and oddities of language, it’s likely also a question you’re now intrigued to know the answer to. Nor is it alone: take a step back and think about how our language appears or operates and even more questions like this come to mind. Why do these letters look the way they do? Why are some uppercase and others lowercase? Why are these words in the order they’re in? Why are you reading them from left to right? And what is this question mark really doing at this end of this sentence?
Books explaining the origins of our language’s most intriguing words and phrases have long proved popular, but language titles often overlook the true nuts and bolts of our language—the origins our alphabet and writing system; our grammatical rules and conventions; the sound structure of language; and even how our brains and bodies interpret and communicate language itself. Why Is This A Question? redresses that balance, and explores a number of complex yet fascinating linguistic disciplines across its 50 chapters, each headed by a question you’ve likely never thought to ask. Moreover:
Topics covered here include the pre-history of English; sound production and phonology; lexicography; the origins of our grammar and punctuation systems; language cognition; and psycholinguistics, the branch of language study that deals with how our brains store and lexical material. As challenging as many of these subjects can be, each is dealt with in an accessible and entertaining way that will fascinate armchair verbivores and professional linguists alike.
Paul Anthony Jones was born in South Shields in 1983. Graduating with a Masters degree in English from the University of Newcastle in 2009, his first book The British Isles: A Trivia Gazetteer (2012) was inspired by a university study into the origins of English place names. This was quickly followed by two guides to English etymology, Haggard Hawks & Paltry Poltroons (2013) – named as one of best language titles of the year by The Guardian – and its sequel, Jedburgh Justice & Kentish Fire (2014). Paul also runs the popular tie-in Twitter account, @HaggardHawks, which ha...
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