Nothing. It is a dreadful book. The author/narrator is annoying from the start.
No. However, I have had a few bad experiences with academic authors pretending to have expertise completely out of their areas of study. Consequently, they lose credibility.
His tone was so emphatically patronizing. I don't how anyone could stand to be talked to in that condescending manner. I could not. I have a PhD in psycho-linguistics so the content was not unfamiliar. However, the tangents into esoteric details about the insignificant aspects of our language were boring.
This was not a novel.
I really tried to listen all the way through, clinging to the hope that it would get better. It did not. It got worse. Please don't waste the time.
The author begins by revealing a complete lack of knowledge of history when he writes about genocide. I'm amazed no one has confronted him about this. I let that go, hoping the linguistic information would be worth listening further. However, when he claims that the way he uses English is the "correct" way even when that way defies rules of grammar then we realize that he shows a lack of appreciation for well-spoken and written English.
Linguists generally describe the way language is used, but he goes too far. He prescribes how language ought to be used according to his own esoteric rules.
John McWhorter, an expert on creole language and a contributor on the fantastic linguistics for laypeople blog Language Log, clearly explains the influences Celtic and Old Norse had on the development of English in a way that's engaging, diverting, and easily accessible for people without previous knowledge of the science of linguistics, along the way dismantling many prevalent myths about English.
Very interesting look at the history of the English language through its syntax and usage. Renowned linguist McWhorter makes a case for Celtic influence on the development of English. I had to remember my grammar lessons from grade school (a long time ago!) to follow some of the book, but his explanations helped. This is a book that I could listen to a number of times.
McWhorter's narration is excellent and his pronunciation of other languages is first rate.
The story was good for people who enjoy the subtle details about English. Otherwise to a typical reader it was a bit nuanced and boring unless you truly have passion in the subject.
I quite appreciate audio books that are narrated by the author, and this one is no exception. In addition to getting the author's intonation as they wanted it, McWhorter also pronounces the German, Welsh, and other foreign words with ease, and much better than I ever could in my own head. Well worth the purchase.
I'll definitely be recommending this book to my friends. I don't usually write reviews, but this is one of the best books I've heard this year. I enjoy learning about alternative theories that challenge the established wisdom in a compelling way, and this book fits that bill perfectly. The only thing I didn't love about this book is that it was too short--I didn't want it to end!
The author is so passionate about his topic and seems to be having a blast, which makes for a great listen. He has a gift for explaining even pretty technical issues in his field in layman's terms, making them funny and memorable. It's like listening to your favorite uncle hold forth, if he just happens to be an eccentric linguistics professor with a great sense of humor who speaks multiple languages brilliantly.
For me one of the best parts of the book was the author's impressive facility at pronouncing phrases from a wide range of languages. I guess that shouldn't be surprising since he is a professional linguist. But this guy is pretty amazing. He not only does Old and Middle English, but ancient and modern versions of Celtic, Gaelic, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Hebrew, Afrikaans, Armenian, Akkadian, Yiddish, and many more. (Although I'm not a linguist, I've studied a handful of these languages, and all his accents sounded pitch-perfect to me.) There was only one point where I noticed that he used a "voice double" (I think for a Chinese phrase, if I recall correctly), and I really wondered why, lol, since up to that point he seemed to be able to do everything.
I almost didn't buy this book because I saw a review that said the author spent too much time attacking the standard interpretation, and that it got to be too much in the last part of the book. I'm thinking that reviewer must not have listened through to the end, because the last topic he discusses is more speculative, and he isn't combative about it at all. (In fact, he's downright polite, lol.)
Also, although the author is certainly passionate about his subject, his arguments throughout are quite logical, based on historical evidence and common sense. I was always learning something new and never found his presentation to be grating or repetitive.
I do think he could have cut short his discussion of a side topic--whether language forms the way we think. Not because that discussion wasn't interesting (it was fascinating)--but because it is covered in another book he wrote, and now I feel like I've heard the highlights and it might not be worth buying that book. Also, I just wanted to hear more about the topic of THIS book.
But overall, I really enjoyed this book from start to finish and am going to go buy another one of this author's books now. :)
The author seems to connect well with a non specialist audience. Some of the examples are hard to follow in audio format. Nonetheless he clarifies and makes interesting an obscure subject.
McWhorter is engaging, entertaining and enlightening. I love listening to his theories about language and am in awe of his scholarship. He has twice shaken my unrecognized assumptions about English and language in general. One, that there are rules of grammar that are immutable, and, two, that our language shapes our thinking. Wrong on both counts.
I loved his rant about the Celtic influences on English.
Himself. Or maybe when he imitated an Englishwoman.
A lusty linguist slap down
This is a scholarly work that was beyond my level. But, thought provoking. I have a new appreciation for linguist. It is not light reading. Keep the bed side lamp on.
the once and future language of civilized planet Earth... no really, 20 words??? OK Then