Routledge

Just a Phrase

Both an autobiography and a highly accessible introduction to the field of linguistics, Just a Phrase I'm Going Through answers the question Crystal is most frequently asked these days: “How did you become a linguist?” The response takes the reader through unexpected tales of attempted kidnapping, assassination, espionage and so much more, with language as the common thread throughout.

On this part of the website you can listen to an extract of David Crystal reading his book and download a sample chapter.

“David Crystal loves and appreciates every word he speaks, and every word written in this book helps us to understand someone who is not just a great linguist, but a true champion and lover of language.“
Benjamin Zephaniah
“I enjoyed this very much: it is a clear and modest account of a good and useful life.“
Philip Pullman
Just a Phrase I'm Going Through is an engaging, can't-put-it down hybrid of autobiography, suspense, humour, scientific writing, narrative, and even a bit of trivia. As an introductory linguistics text or leisure reading selection, it addresses the kinds of language-based questions that emerge literally everywhere and that pique the curiosity of linguists and non-linguists alike — transmitted to us through the wonderful wit, style, and personal perspective of David Crystal.”
Susan Strauss, Pennsylvania State University, USA
“Crystal's wit and story-telling skills, continuously reveal the magic of encountering and investigating the ever-new kaleidoscope of language — sounds, words, identity, change — and of its applications — learning, teaching and therapy.”
Paola Vettorel, University of Verona, Italy

“David Crystal, the UK's Linguist-at-Large, author of the indispensable Cambridge Encyclopedias (of Language and of the English Language) and much much more, starts his autobiography Just a Phrase I'm Going Through right off in Chapter 1 by summing up what it means to be a linguist.  He does such a good job that every linguist in the world will go yessing through this chapter, and copy it on the sly to pass out to their students who ask what linguistics is really all about.

Then he goes on to lay out his linguistic life and times in as charming and readable a form as I've ever seen, explaining how he went, all unwitting, from being a schoolboy in Wales to having his books and lectures on the bookshelves and hard disks of practically every library and schoolroom in the Anglophone world.

I've never met Dr. Crystal in person, but now I've read this book and seen its companion lecture series, he seems like an old friend I'd enjoy sharing a pint with.  You'll feel the same.”

John Lawler, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
“David Crystal has a magic narrative touch.  His talent is to make the sometimes abstruse subject matter of linguistics relevant to everybody's lives.  He has done more than anyone to win the discipline the attention and popularity it deserves.  Now he shows how the study of language has played out in his own life.  In this captivating professional autobiography he intertwines linguistic insights with his own personal and professional story, demonstrating what he has always told us so eloquently: that neither life nor language can be understood without the other.
Guy Cook, The Open University, UK
“The book is a delight to read. It's beautifully written, witty, entertaining and profoundly reflective on matters of language and life. If anyone needs persuading how and why language is central to our lives and can be both serious and fun, it is here.”
Ronald Carter, University of Nottingham, UK
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