WHY IS THIS A QUESTION?
Have you ever wondered why our language works the way it does? Why our words go in the order they do? Why our alphabet is arranged in ABC order? Why our letters even look the way they do? And for that matter, how our brain deals with all these apparently arbitrary lines, curves, dots, and dashes, and somehow manages to use them to make sense of our linguistic world?
Questions like these—and many more like them—are the subject of the latest book by language writer Paul Anthony Jones, Why Is This A Question?
Published in October 2022 by the excellent team at Elliott & Thompson, Why Is This A Question? explores 20 extraordinary ponderables from the world of language and linguistics. Beginning with some of the basics, like the surprisingly tricky problem of explaining precisely what words and languages actually are, the book continues on to some of the more curious features of English, like the order of our words and the history of our alphabet, before taking a deep dive into some of the most fascinating philosophical aspects of our language and its workings. How do we read? How do we speak? How do we understand? And what does moving our hands when we talk have to do with our aquatic ancestors?
Along the way, the book is peppered with remarkable tales and stories from the world of language—like the story of a Sumatran orangutan that learned a bizarrely human way of communicating, and the story of a short-lived language once used only by Basque fishermen in an isolated corner of Iceland. All told, Why Is This A Question? is an enthralling and captivating exploration of surely one of the most captivating subjects imaginable.
“The internet provides a huge field for word hunting ...
and Paul Anthony Jones is a maverick among word hunters.”