This book makes a good case for seeing linguistics as “the universal social science”, one that teaches us not just about language but about how we live and make sense of the world. When we learn how the world is made through words, we also learn to be sceptical of our current iteration of reality and more tolerant of other perspectives. If life can be differently worded, it can be differently lived.
One is tempted to say, well, it’s the Guardian, what else do you expect? The house style pretty much calls for some vestigial gestures in the direction of power to the people! revolution! and the progressive arc of history, even in a linguistics book review. When efforts to remold stubborn reality through politics, cultural diktats and technology have all fallen short, I suppose the incantatory power of language is an obvious alternative, one which just so happens to promise a starring role for bookish intellectuals, imagine that.