Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language

Key IdeasIt’s been a long time coming but the book I’ve recently co-edited with Siobhan Chapman is finally here. This is the second in a somewhat specialised two book series that we’ve been working on since 2002. More information about Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language is on this page. Information about Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language is here.

Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language: Finished at Last

Academic books are a curious thing. They are essential to the careers of academics, who now need to write lots and lots of them to reach the dizzying heights of Assistant Lecturer (grade B) while their superiors reached the same level 30-odd years ago by having lunch with the Dean and offering to pay for the coffee. Students complain that the library doesn’t have enough of them, but publishers worry secretly that there are too many. For non-academics like me who might be tempted to take on an academic project as a sideline the only reward is the work itself. And what a lot of work it is. Siobhan and I finished off the proof reading and indexing of our co-edited book Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language last night. This final stage of the book has been a real slog. There has been too much other work to get through at the same time, so we’ve done the work in the evenings over the last few weeks. We’re exhausted.

But this is an important milestone for us. It marks the end of a project that we began in 2002, when we started looking for writers for the first book in the series, Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language. We’ve worked with some great people and it has been a real pleasure thinking about these ideas and their significance not only to the way linguists and philosophers think about the world, but the rest of us too. We think it’s been worth it. So now the proofs and the index for this book are done and will go off to the publisher on Monday. Relatively few people will read it; mostly students and academics working in the field. But I hope that those who do use these books together will find them helpful and enlightening. Our own copies of Key Thinkers are certainly starting to look well thumbed. We’ll probably see Key Ideas in paperback in January.

Book News: Key Ideas and Cain's

Siobhan and I have received the proofs for Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language, which is now scheduled for January 2009. I may regret saying this, but this book seems unlikely to be overtaken by current events.

Not so Cain’s: The Story of Liverpool in a Pint. The administrators of the Cain’s Beer Company will be keen to find a quick resolution to the company’s troubles, preferably in the form of a buyer who will keep the jobs and the brewing operation in Liverpool. As a result the publication date for Cain’s: The Story of Liverpool in a Pint is being pushed back to October so that I can pull together the events of the last couple of months and bring the book up to date before release. In many ways the story is much bigger than the current news agenda–it goes back 200 years for one thing–but I’m pleased to get the chance to do justice to what’s happened.

Catching Up, Moving On

Siobhan and I sent off the manuscript for Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language earlier this week after an intense month of re-reading, revision, collation and correction. We’ve done very little else since early January so there is a lot of catching up to do, but there are also exciting new projects to begin. It’s never easy moving on from one big project to the next but this morning I began work on the first of the entries for 100 American Crime Writers. I’m not going to be writing them in alphabetical order, but for the record I made a start this morning on ‘Paul Auster’.

Also coming up is the Literary Art of Murder conference in April, and my piece on ‘Crime and Detective Fiction for Young Readers’ for the Blackwell Companion to Crime Fiction.

In case anyone is interested I am going to be writing the 100 American Crime Writers book using a very slick piece of software for writers called Scrivener. I started using it part of the way through the Cain’s book, but it seems even better suited to this kind of work. I am more impressed with it every day. If you do your writing on a Mac it’s a bargain and if you have to buy a Mac in order to try it, it’s still a bargain.

Philosophy and Sport

As the Key Ideas book nears completion–we’re tidying up the manuscript in preparation for sending it off to the publisher–I have a piece on The Reader Online about philosophy and sport. Here’s a taster:

Philosophers do not have a strong reputation for being active types. In the popular imagination philosophers spend their time in armchairs, eschewing physical pursuits in favour of the life of the mind. Athletes on the other hand seem quite happy to enter the philosophical fray. After attacking a fan who tried to direct him in no uncertain terms off the field of play, Manchester United hero Eric Cantona confounded the sports media in 1995 with his statement that “When the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” No less puzzling was former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne’s statement on intentionality: “I never predict anything,” he once told an interviewer, “and I never will.”

Here’s the link again.

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Key Ideas Has a Cover

kijacket.jpgAs of today we have a cover image for Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language. I knew this was coming, but I had no idea it would be so soon. It matches up with the cover for Key Thinkers in Linguistics in the Philosophy of Language, which Siobhan and I published in 2005. This one will be available in November 2008. So, all we need now is the content …

Key Thinkers Review

The journal Forum for Modern Language Studies has a nice short review of my co-edited book Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language. This is encouraging at a time when work on its sibling volume, Key Ideas is underway. Here’s the review, which appears in Forum for Modern Language Studies 2007 43(1):102-103:

Key Thinkers in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language. Ed. Siobhan Chapman & Christopher Routledge. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. xii + 282 pp. £55 (hardback); £16.99 (paperback). ISBN 0–7486–1757–4/1758–2

Eighty key thinkers in linguistics and the philosophy of language are each presented concisely and clearly here in articles penned by some thirty distinguished international scholars. The articles aim to give an overview and a closer analysis of one or more aspects of the individual’s work, not necessarily repeating perhaps well-known facts but endeavouring to cast new light on relevant facets and bring out the development of ideas. The articles enthuse, promote further interest, and are particularly handy in this relatively small volume. Thinkers featured include Aristotle, Bakhtin, Benveniste, Boas, Chomsky, Descartes, Firth, Greenberg, Halliday, Hockett, Humboldt, Kristeva, Labov, Martinet, Marx, Milroy, Peirce, Piaget, Popper, Quine, Sapir, Saussure, Skinner, Strawson, Trubetzkoy, Whorf and Wittgenstein, and the whole is concluded by an Index, enabling cross-reference and further investigation. Each article has in addition a list of Primary Works and of suggested Further Reading. One might, needless to say, think of other thinkers who deserve inclusion – R. M. W. Dixon, to mention one –, but the essential value of this considerable volume remains secure.

Key Ideas Sample Entries Available

Now that the Cain’s book and Siobhan’s book about the influence of the Vienna Circle have gone off to their respective publishers we can concentrate on the Key Ideas project, which has been running alongside up to now. We have most of the entries in now and have begun the editing process. I have just added some sample entries from the project to give an idea of what we’re doing: Definite Descriptions by Siobhan Chapman and Linguistic Variable, by Dominic Watt. These are not yet finalised for publication in the book, but they should give an idea of the sort of thing we are aiming for. Here’s the link to the Sample Entries pages.

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Key Ideas Entries

Over the past week since the deadline passed we’ve been receiving a lot of entries for the Key Ideas book. I’d forgotten just how time consuming it is processing the entries as they come in, but it’s exciting to see the project start to take shape. And now that the Cain’s book is in its closing stages (from a writing point of view anyway) it’s good to have something to take its place. I expect to get down to starting the bulk of the editing next week.

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Key Ideas Project Starting

Work for the Key Ideas book is starting to get underway now. The deadline for contributors to submit entries is 29 June but we’ve already begun to receive submissions. It feels a bit strange to be starting on this project before the Cain’s book is finished, but in many ways it’s good to be looking ahead. By the end of June the two should run quite easily alongside each other, but for the time being Key Ideas has to take second place while I complete my first draft.

Given the pressure on time it’s probably not ideal that I’ve just “discovered” an American crime writer called Megan Abbott. I read her first novel Die A Little (2005) last week and went straight out and bought her second, The Song is You (2007). It’s on the table in the house right now and having it there is like putting a chocolate cake in front of a 4 year-old and saying “Don’t touch!”

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