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Studies In Words Book Review Summary

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Studies In Words

Semantic change - etymology - philology - the history of words, or word-complexes, is often dealt with in a dictionary by an abbreviated form of 'it used to mean X, but now it means Y' explanation, and perhaps this is the most realistic way of handling the matter in a dictionary. Modern linguists have their own rigourous and abstract techniques. But in this intellectually demanding work C. S. Lewis, working at the height of his powers, takes the widest of perspectives, and retains depth of focus. He traces the changing meanings of several words, over the centuries and millennia, from their Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon roots to the modern day. The result is valuable exposition, with depth both in psychology and philosophy, and rich in literary source material. The words themselves are treated as living entities, evolving by expansion, contraction, and development of new forms. His chosen words are: 'nature', 'sad', 'wit', 'free', 'sense', 'simple', 'conscience and conscious', 'world', 'life', and 'I dare say'.

As Lewis says, 'The point of view is merely lexical and historical', and 'not an essay in higher linguistics', but this belies the many adventitious benefits that stem from his handling of the resources at his command. His purpose is to give us 'an aid to more accurate reading' and to throw light 'on ideas and sentiments'. I find that in so doing he imparts as much practical technique, knowledge, and enthusiasm for words as a whole year's worth of undergraduate linguistics. For instance, the subtlety of usage of a phrase like 'I dare say' and the potential for even complete reversal in meaning is illustrated through centuries of use from Malory, Dickens, W. S. Gilbert, E. Nesbit, Dorothy L. Sayers, debate in the House of Lords, John Bunyan, and Jane Austen. The result is not a mere catalogue of shades of meaning, but an analysis and satisfying literary work in its own right - and that's just one chapter. The index alone references about two hundred authors from Aeschylus and Augustine to Xenophon and Yeats. The twenty-three page introduction and final chapter ('At the fringe of language') together form a valuable essay on the practical use of language, and I commend them to anyone interested in sharpening their use of the spoken or written word.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose








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Chapter Analysis of Studies In Words

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Kind Of History

Time of history:    -   20th century    -   19th century    -   18th century    -   17th century    -   1000-1600 AD    -   Ancient Roman Era    -   Ancient Greek Era    -   0-1000 AD Nationality?    -   British History of words/phrases?    -   Yes

Subjects of this Historical Account

Ethnicity (if plays a major part)    -   European/White Is the portrayal sympathetic?    -   Sympathetic From a certain profession/group?    -   artists/entertainers Intelligence of subject of history:    -   Smart

Setting

Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Italy    -   Greece    -   England/UK Big City?    -   Yes City:    -   London

Writing Style

How much gore?    -   1 () How fast-paced is the book?    -   1 () Accounts of torture and death?    -   no torture/death Book makes you feel...    -   in awe How much focus on stories of individuals?    -   Focuses mostly on the people/nation level How much romance?    -   1 () Is book humorous?    -   Yes If humorous, kind of humor    -   puns Pictures/Illustrations?    -   None Length of book    -   201-250 pages How much emphasis on small details?    -   10 ()

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C. S. Lewis Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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