Don't Believe A Word

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781474608435

Price: £16.99

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‘Wonderful. David Shariatmadari wears his deep learning with such an admirable and alluring lightness of touch . . . You finish the book more alive than ever to the enduring mystery and miracle of that thing that makes us most human’ STEPHEN FRY

Everyone likes to think they know a bit about language:

There’s a term in Portuguese you simply can’t translate
The origin of a word tells you how it should be used
Standards of grammar have taken a nosedive recently
The real meaning of ‘disinterested’ is ‘unbiased’
Computers will soon be able to speak like human beings
A dialect is inferior to a language

The problem is, none of these statements is true.

Over the past few decades, we have reached new frontiers of linguistic knowledge. Linguists can now explain how and why language changes, describe its structures, and map its activity in the brain. But most of us know as much about language today as we did about physics before Galileo, and the little we know is still largely based on folklore, instinct or hearsay.

In DON’T BELIEVE A WORD linguist David Shariatmadari takes us on a mind-boggling journey through the science of language, urging us to abandon our prejudices in a bid to uncover the (far more interesting) truth about what we do with words. Exploding nine widely-held myths about language while introducing us to some of the fundamental insights of modern linguistics, David Shariatmadari is an energetic guide to the beauty and quirkiness of humanity’s greatest achievement.


David Shariatmadari translates the often arcane theories of linguistics into a sequence of accessible ideas and theories, making us look afresh at the language we speak and how it structures our intimacies, our thoughts, and our identities. Wry and immensely intelligent, this learned book awakens us to complexities of communication that we too readily ignore, and it does so with both deep scholarship and a light touch
An illuminating and thought-provoking journey through language
Completely fascinating and eye-opening. David Shariatmadari is warm, wise and wonderfully steeped in his subject - the perfect guide to the brilliantly strange world of language
Wonderful. David Shariatmadari wears his deep learning with such an admirable and alluring lightness of touch. He brilliantly swats away the pesky 'language guardian' flies, whose misbegotten pedantries and ignorant persnicketiness are the real threats to living language. You finish the book more alive than ever to the enduring mystery and miracle of that thing that makes us most human, the gift of language that was bestowed upon us so astonishingly recently in evolutionary time and that has made us everything that we are . . . for good or ill
Come for the myth-busting, stay for the lighthearted introduction to linguistics. David Shariatmadari ably demonstrates that there are plenty of fascinating things to learn about language without indulging in sensationalist headlines. Recommended for both language fans and anyone who enjoys learning about the hidden patterns in everyday life
A skilful summation of the latest research on how languages emerge, change, convey meaning and influence how we think . . . a meaty, rewarding and necessary read
This lucid examination of linguistics entertains as much as it informs . . . above all, this is a generous and enthralling study of the basis of how we communicate
Alexander Larman, OBSERVER
Fascinating and thought-provoking . . . crammed with weird and wonderful facts. Don't Believe a Word is a serious piece of research, cogently and carefully presented . . . for anyone who delights in linguistics it's a richly rewarding read
Most popular books on language dumb down; Shariatmadari's smartens things up, and is all the more entertaining for it
THE SUNDAY TIMES, Books of the Year