Goodbye Chomsky

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A book review of Goodbye Chomsky, and Other Essays on Language by Robert D. King

A book review of Goodbye Chomsky, and Other Essays on Language by Robert D. King

Stars: ***

Austin MacAuley (2021)
328 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: The idea of this book is that language is too interesting to be enjoyed exclusively by linguists. This is undoubtedly unfair to linguists–not people who speak several languages but academic linguists (for whom linguistics is the scientific study of language).

Though this book is informed by linguistics, it is not a linguistics book, rather a language-not-linguistics book. It is a book about topics involving language that interest me and that I hope will be interesting to the intellectually curious reader.

Its topics include J.R.R. Tolkien’s languages of Middle-earth, invented and artificial languages, language and gender, dialects, American versus British (Noah Webster), the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis, African-American vernacular English, the history of English, English as the world’s language, language death, the rebirth of Hebrew in Israel, the Yiddish language, language in India, language and nationalism, DNA and the origins of language, the dilemma of the postcolonial writer, and more.

Goodbye Chomsky

The point of this book is to talk about language to the average person interested in learning more. It’s not supposed to be too scientific or made only for linguists. Overall it mostly does a good job of this but there are a few chapters that lost me. I only have a high school education although I’ve read a bit about language as it’s one of my favourite topics. So you don’t have to be college educated to read most of it.

The three chapters on nationalism bored me. However that’s because I hate politics and although it was about language and politics, it was not for me. I couldn’t even tell you what exactly it was about because it’s American nationalism and I’m Canadian so it was confusing.

There were definitely some interesting essays. Reading about J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and how language played a big role was very interesting. Language and gender, American versus British and African-American vernacular English were also intriguing. I knew some stuff I read but I also learned new things.

The chapter on English as a World language explains how English became the language of business around the world. If you know your basic history the reason won’t come as a surprise. However it was still interesting to read more about it.

At the end of each chapter is a suggested reading list. A few of the books are now on my TBR list. Many of the author’s essays are just easier explanations of what other authors wrote or are gleaned from Wikipedia and checked from other sources. So if you read a lot about language and you’re looking for new ideas, this might not be your book. However if you are newer to reading about language this book may help get you started.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.