This handbook addresses words in all their multifarious aspects and brings together scholars from every relevant discipline to do so. The many subjects covered include word frequencies; sounds and sound symbolism; the structure of words; taboo words; lexical borrowing; words in dictionaries and thesauri; word origins and change; place and personal names; nicknames; taxonomies; word acquisition and bilingualism; words in the mind; word disorders; and word games, puns, and puzzles.
Words are the most basic of all linguistic units, the aspect of language of which everyone is likely to be most conscious. A ’new’ word that makes it into the OED is prime news; when baby says its first word its parents reckon it has started to speak; knowing a language is often taken to mean knowing its words; and languages are seen to be related by the similarities between their words. Up to the twentieth century linguistic description was mainly an account of words and all the current subdivisions of linguistics have something to say about them. A notable feature of human languages is the sheer vastness of their word inventories, and scholars and writers have sometimes deliberately increased the richness of their languages by coining or importing new items into their word-hoards. The book presents scholarship and research in a manner that meets the interests of students and professionals and satisfies the curiosity of the educated reader.