So this little book is about how English's distant and murky past has resulted in grammatical changes--from its original Germanic roots and relatives, the conquered Celts, and then the conquering Vikings. While many linguists and laymen focus on vocabulary adoptions from these historical incursions, McWhorter makes the case that the grammatical changes are more important for us today. They simplified the language and put it on a course of continual change--neither for the better or worse, and this is where the grammatical curmudgeons have a fit. McWhorter argues that change is inevitable, and not an apocalyptic decline of modern day grammatical manners and meaning.
The story is mildly, but not wildly, interesting. It can easily be read through in a couple of hours and provides a bit of enjoyment along the way.
For my next non-fiction project, I'm been rummaging around in paleolinguistics and paleohistory: I'll tell you just why in a future post. Suffice to say that my most recent reading has led me back to the delightful Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter. His unstated thesis is that English is a Creole language, with nothing pejorative intended in the phrase. What happened to English is that it was … more
Pros: Brief, presents new ideas in a relaxed but scholarly way Cons: Can be snide at times The Bottom Line: This book is excellent for those interested in how languages (English here) work and should spark a greater interest. For dry and arcane subjects (physics, quantum mechanics, sociology, economics, linguistics in this case) the only way a curious layman would consider reading a book on the subject is if it is engaging, … more
Creoles: not only in the tropics do they permeate English. Since Celtic times, and perhaps Proto-Germanic via the Phoenicians, our native language's warped like any other. "While the Vikings were mangling English, Welsh and Cornish people were seasoning it." (xxii) An authority on creolization, McWhorter brings to this little study lots of learning. As with "The Power of Babel" (also reviewed by me), he packs an irrepressible irreverence into a scholarly package. His gifts as a former professor … more
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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