The original audience consisted of professional linguists and a number of the columns do assume some background in linguistics. These include comments by Spock (of the Enterprise) on an interview with Chomsky, attempts to trace the origins of the unaccusative hypothesis and the discovery that natural languages are not necessarily context-free, and complaints about linguistics' obsession with philosophical issues and the demise of formal linguistics.
Other columns, while they will have particular appeal to linguists, should be enjoyed by anyone involved with academia. These include discussions of the failings of scientific journals and a short story about three academics working on a book while at a conference. The majority of the columns will have quite general appeal. Among other topics, Pullum deals with the stupidities of libel law (a textbook censored because its examples were considered libelous), the foolishness of certain typographical conventions (punctuation inside quotes), the ubiquitous nonsense about the number of Eskimo words for snow, and the dangers of the English First movement in the United States.
Clever, amusing, irreverent, and often informative (at least to this non-linguist), Pullum's columns definitely deserve their appearance in book form. I recommend The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax to anyone with an interest in linguistics and a sense of humour.
- Related reviews:
- Geoffrey K. Pullum - A Student's Introduction to English Grammar
- books about linguistics
- more popular science
- books published by The University of Chicago Press