The information was great, but the author wrote the entire book as if he was responding to a linguistic theory that he disagreed with, constantly referring to how his argument refutes the standard theories. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the standard theories and would have greatly appreciated if he had simply stated his own case convincingly instead. Frankly, the most frustrating part about it was how easy it would be to simply edited out the arguing parts. They were neither informative nor helpful and were thus, completely superfluous.
Anyone who has listened to Professor McWhorter's Teaching Company lectures knows that he is an excellent communicator who often has something worth communicating. Unfortunately, in this book he presents three or four ideas and spends hour after hour of your life repeating them to you. Apparently, if I was a professional linguist I would be bent over in paroxysms of rage at the heresies the author serves to us in this book. Since I am not, and everything sounds like common sense worked out over and over again, I was left counting the minutes until the end. Not recommended.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect: a bit of a background on why English is the kind of language it is. Not particularly surprising or novel, but it was interesting enough to pass the time. English seems to be different from its "related" languages and the author is quite, err, let's use the word "adamant" (rather than ranting) about the Celtic impact on English. Yes, he does admit that traditional scholars disagree and offers his own "evidence" but it isn't his disagreement with the establishment that got a little annoying but his repetitive "digs" on the subject.
I think it's very suitable for audio because he discusses nuances of language/pronunciation which I don't think would have been as noticeable in writing. He narrates it fairly well, but you can tell it's not his primary job. I think his pronunciation of foreign words was clear enough, and I have no idea if it was correct.
For a book aimed at a general audience, McWhorter belabors, seriously belabors the first point in the book to utter tedium. Besides that, his repeated incredulity at his thesis regarding the Celtic influence on English not being widely accepted by linguists detracts from the material. Yes, I understand they don't agree; you don't have to tell me 20 times. It got to the point I just couldn't listen any further.
I've listened to 1 hour 15 minutes of this audiobook. So far it's entirely about the useless "do" construction that English inherited from Celtic. This would be a interesting 5-minute topic but 75 minutes is too much.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
The author/narrator’s enthusiasm and humor are among the best parts of this book. The author describes some mildly off-beat theories about the evolution of the English language. I enjoyed hearing these ideas even if I was not completely convinced. There is also a bunch of interesting fun facts about English grammar. This book refreshingly focuses mostly on grammar while most other books in this genre emphasis etymology. The material gets a bit complicated for audio from time to time and the author does not always support his theories well enough to be compelling, but overall this was interesting and fun.
It seems to me the author mischaracterizes the mainstream linguists’ hesitation to accept his theories. McWhorter repeatedly points out that the alternative to his theories is to believe some language features appeared at random. When there is insufficient evidence to support a theory about a language feature, most mainstream linguists choose to believe the source of the feature is unknown (and thus may have arisen randomly).
This is a book for aspiring linguists. It's interesting to know how the English language got so weird, like why some words change vowels to change tense (sing and sang) and some words just have something added at the end (wait and waited). The author explains the influences of Germanic, Celtic, Welsh, and Latin languages. It was also fascinating to learn that while we feel English makes sense and seems "normal," it's actually quite the oddball compared to other European languages. Other languages have two or three genders: feminine, masculine, and neutral. It's common in other European languages to refer to inanimate objects as either male or female. The author also gives examples of words like "ask", "question", and "interrogate" coming from Proto-Germanic, French, and Latin influences, respectively. Proto-Germanic words are simple, brute. French is polite. Latin is commanding. Hence, why there are so many Latin terms for law and legal contracts. If you don't have a deep fascination for linguistics, it's a little hard getting through the parts that cover the evolution of sounds and words from period to period or how the word "daughter" is similar with examples given in German, Norse, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, and a dozen other languages.
I've bought numerous copies of this book in printed to give to friends who I knew shared my interests in history and language. I don't know how many of them loved it as much as I did, but having the opportunity to hear McWhorter himself read the text was too much for me to resist. I had originally found out about this Author through his Great Courses lectures on The Story of Human Language (which I'm delighted to see just became available on Audible) and have sought out more of his work since then. I can't claim to have read it all, but I like his no-nonsense approach to explaining ideas. He cites pop culture references, keeping his discussion casual, but at the same time he doesn't dumb it down in any sense. If you enjoy learning about language, history or just hearing a great story -- whether the ideas he brings together in this book bear scrutiny, is hard to say -- you should definitely give this one a listen.
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is a concise introduction to the evolution of the English language, and is a great choice for anyone who is interested in learning more about the history of English without making a huge investment of time. This book makes connections further back in history than other books and gives more focus to grammar rather than the more common emphasis on vocabulary. It gets a bit speculative about some influences, such as possible Phoenician influences, but those speculations make it more fun. It is a good companion piece to Melvyn Bragg's "The Adventure of English", also available from Audible. John McWhorter, the author, does an excellent job of narrating, and this audiobook is a great example of the value an author who is also a capable narrator can bring to narrating their own work. The passion they have for the topic comes through in their narration and it makes it fun to listen to them. Well done!
I would rank this book at the top of the list, considering I couldn't stop listening. I used to hate English because of the way it changed so radically from its earlier form. After listening to why it changed so much I have a new respect of our language.
History of Germanic languages.
Sometimes reading about grammar and linguistics can be boring but listening to it brings out the story so that it is extremely interesting. Grammar is history.
Footsteps of the English Language through 1000 years.
Not only does the Author tell us why English changed but where possibly the Proto-Germanic languages sprung from.