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Why Do We Quote?

Why Do We Quote book cover

Quoting is all around us. But do we really know what it means? How do people actually quote today, and how did our present systems come about? This book brings together a down-to-earth account of contemporary quoting with an examination of the comparative and historical background that lies behind it and the characteristic way that quoting links past and present, the far and the near. Drawing from anthropology, cultural history, folklore, cultural studies, sociolinguistics, literary studies and the ethnography of speaking, Ruth Finnegan’s fascinating study sets our present conventions into crosscultural and historical perspective. She traces the curious history of quotation marks, examines the long tradition of quotation collections with their remarkable recycling across the centuries, and explores the uses of quotation in literary, visual and oral traditions. The book tracks the changing defi nitions and control of quoting over the millennia and in doing so throws new light on ideas such as ‘imitation’, ‘allusion’, ‘authorship’, ‘originality’ and ‘plagiarism’. “Pulling from anthropology, cultural history, folklore, cultural studies, socio-linguistics, literary studies, and the ethnography of speaking, the book provides an absolutely fascinating look at why people in our society quote other and how we do it.

The book also serves as an excellent study into ideas like imitation, allusion, authorship, originality an plagiarism, and will make readers think deeply into our framework for why we think they way we do about quoting and our use of quotations…Her work is amazing [and] makes one feel as if you are reading a whodunit mystery…unique.”

Readers’ Favorite on Why Do We Quote?

Scholars in sociolinguistics, literature, and folklore will recognize the importance of the book for the fields. General readers will find it just plain interesting.


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