An Encyclopedia of Language

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: In the study of language the late 1980s may be seen in retrospect as an era of consolidation. No moderately aware eye will miss the epidemic of encyclopedias of that time, their didactic sameness masked by a variety of style, even a desperate individuality. Some spread a single topic (say, dialectology) over an ample volume; some report on a kaleidoscope of topics under a summary, not always illuminating, heading (say, grammar). Some are terse and sober lexicons; some, like advertisers,seek their targets with a fine typographic frenzy. All suggest, no doubt involuntarily, that language and its study had for the moment stood still and might, while they caught their breath, conveniently sit for their portrait. And that is not a false picture. It is not a true one, either. The truth is, as ever, muddy. Language is, after all, the medium of human interaction.


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