Cover image for
The dictionary of historical and comparative linguistics / R.L. Trask.
Trask, R. L. (Robert Lawrence), 1944-
Chicago : Fitzroy Dearborn, c2000.
viii, 403 p. ; 24 cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 373-403).


Material Type
Call Number
Reference Book P143.T775

On Order



First Published in 2000. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Focusing uniquely on historical linguistics, namely, the study of how languages change over time, Trask (A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics) offers an alphabetical dictionary that will best serve those already knowledgeable about linguistics. The author emphasizes terms related to how languages change, such as methods of comparison and reconstruction, philological terms, and terms describing word formation. "Metatypy" and "Northern Cities Shift" are among those entries citing recent trends and scholarship. Prominent language families and individual languages (some extinct) receive coverage, but individual scholars do not, and Trask excludes entries on tagmemics and detailed entries on theories of generative grammar. Definitions range in length from a single short sentence to multiple paragraphs running more than a page. Boldface type indicates cross references to other definitions, highly consistent guides that are especially helpful given the book's lack of an index. The entries are supported by references to a 30-page bibliography and 12 tables. Unfortunately, because the list of tables offers only page numbers with no titles, the tables are less accessible than they should be. In comparison, the Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics, edited by Hadumod Bussmann (Routledge, 1999. 2d ed. ), offers depth and breadth for beginning and advanced readers, while David Crystal's Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (Blackwell, 1997. 4th ed.) is a thorough work addressing a wide audience. Recommended for specialized collections and academic libraries.DMarianne Orme, West Lafayette IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The first dictionary devoted to historical linguistics, the oldest scholarly branch of the discipline, this book fills a need. Most terms, laws, techniques, and processes that it defines are not listed in existing general or specialized dictionaries of linguistics. These include such tantalizing entries as "cranberry morpheme," "Dante classification," "lower-middle-class crossover," "'only-six' argument," "Northern cities shift," and "upper exit principle." Trask, a prolific author of student dictionaries in linguistics, provides clear definitions, examples, and lively commentary ranging from two lines to about half a page. He defines "pejoration," for example, as "a type of semantic change in which a word comes to denote something more offensive than formerly," and notes that "all of English 'churl,' 'villain' and 'boor' originally meant only 'farm worker,' but all have come to be insults, and much the same is now happening to 'peasant.'" The book includes a brief preface; lists of symbols, abbreviations, and tables; cross-references; and a 30-page bibliography. Although the price may seem high (a paperback edition would be welcome), the book's high quality and uniqueness make this a necessary purchase for all academic and many public libraries. J. M. Alexander; Carnegie Mellon University