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.
The history of the English language is always a fun topic for me, and the author provides a new take on it, noting the less-well-known Swedish and the Irish contributions to English. In a lot of ways, it was a fun listen, and the reader was excellent, but it should be understood that the author is promoting his particular theories about English development, and you can't help wondering what the academic critics of the book might have had to say in response. Unless you are very interested in linguistics, you are not likely to try to find out how the academic arguments went after its publication.
I found this book to be quite entertaining and informative. This is not the type of book I usually listen to, but the topic intrigued me so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did. The author/narrator had a well fleshed out theory about the origins of the English language. All of his ideas were quite reasonable and believable. He is also an entertaining narrator. This could have been a dry somewhat boring topic, but his added humor and pleasant voice kept me listening.
Never listened to John McWhorter before, but I would again.
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'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.
I selected this book because the title seemed cool, but the book quickly fell into the weeds for me - far too much grammar detail. I suppose I was looking more for the historical aspect rather than the grammar details. Narrator was enthusiastic; the content was just too dry for me. If you are a linguist, you will probably love this one.
With little in my background for formal study in linguistics, this book was an enjoyable challenge for me. There were times when I thought I would have understood the discussion better if I had the text in hand but the author brought a lot of humor and animation to the subject.
While a bit Academica times and soamewhat hard to follow from time to time as an audiobook this was a very interesting and compelling set of theories and evidence for the evolution of the English language. I highly recommend it if you have any interest of what English really came Fromm
Engaging. Historical. Satisfying.
I bought this book for my Mother (a retired english teacher) because I thought she might enjoy it. I didn't intend to read it, but turned it on at the start of a long road trip and found myself thoroughly captivated. I'm not a linguist, but I do like history and explanations of how things evolve. Mr. McWhorter does a great job of explaining the evolution of grammar in a way that is both interesting and satisfying. I wish that I had read this book before trying to learn a second language. I'm going to try another of his books now.
The book describes the "untold" side of the evolution of English, which fascinates me as someone who grew up in the Caribbean (surrounded by a mix of Caribbean Standard English, dialect, American English and British English) and has lived on the West Coast of the USA and in Europe.
It focuses on grammar, and makes some provocative links and conclusions. The author is also the reader, which allows him to show his enthusiasm and passion for the material and convey his meaning in a way that I think would have been hard even anyone else to deliver. Listening to the pronunciation of the many foreign words and phrases provided a much more authentic experience than I would have had if I had opted for the print edition.
At times I found he was a bit repetitive in his presentation of the arguments against some more-accepted or conventional theories. I had already bought into his hypothesis, and didn't need more convincing, but in a couple cases, the discussion continued well after I was "sold".
Putting that aside, I enjoyed the book a great deal and learned a lot from it. I would recommend it for anyone interested in knowing more about where some of the unique features of English come from. (Hey, isn't that a preposition at the end of that sentence?) It also makes me question what the future might bring, with so many people learning English as a second language: does this have greater similarity to the Celts learning English and "stewing" elements into it, or to the Vikings agressive simplification of it? Or will it give rise to a different effect altogether?