While I admit to being an analytical, I am definitely not a linguist; still, I loved this book. The author /narrator is superb. The route he takes is not straight or easy to follow, but having said that, it is a great journey, especially if you have ever tried to learn a language other than English. Want to smile, wrinkle your brow, tickle your brain? This is your book. In short, I personally loved listening to this book and I am not effusive by nature.
I've never read everyone else but the author tells us that all traditional thought is wrong and he is correct and it leaves me skeptical.
The Author/Narrator does a great job emoting on a subject about which he is clearly passionate. I lost interest early on though, when he began to beat dead horses.
Rather than a book full of anecdotes and tidbits of research data, the story became one which can be summarized as:
"A bunch of people who are (at best) stodgy academics or (at worst) just ignorant hacks think <<insert their hypothesis>>. If you read their books and scholarly articles it'd probably be over your head, so I'll put here in layperson's terms why they're wrong. Never mind the fact that they'll never read this and you'll never read their articles and books. Let me just drone on with example after humorous example why I'm right and they're just stupid.
Ok now for chapter 2: more of the same..."
Overall I learned some things and it was somewhat entertaining but I seriously considered getting my Audible credit back.
If you know in great detail all the t-crossing and i-dotting grammatical tenses and rules in English and other languages, and are fascinated by them then you'll probably love this book.
If you are looking for some cool stories about how English became what it is today, prepare to trudge through patiently and prepare to be underwhelmed by content and overwhelmed by tedium.
McWhorter presents a handful of interesting nuggets regarding the English language, but for me his discusses his ideas in such a sporadic way, running on too many tangents for my personal patience.
I appreciated his enthusiasm, as it's evident in both the strong writing style and his narration; I did not appreciate the lack of organized thought. At first, it reads like it will follow a logical or even natural progression; but, McWhorter hops around so much, I frequently found myself frustrated because I could no longer remember the original topic nor follow his train of thought.
It read like a stream of consciousness or a poorly presented lecture more than a written piece for laymen.
If you have even a passing interest in linguistics and the evolution of language, I would definitely recommend this. You can tell the author is really passionate about the subject and presents an interesting and well supported theory about the influences on the English language that don't seem to be widely held or taught, but his arguments seem sound from my outside-observer-with-a-passing-interest perspective. I found this book interesting and accessible, and I didn't need any prior knowledge to understand what he talking about. I think this book will have something for people knowledgeable on the subject as well as for people exploring a new topic.
I am not sure if the audible version of this book is better or worse than the printed version. I found it valuable to hear the pronunciation of the words referenced but found myself missing the opportunity to flip back and forth to compare examples.
Great book for anyone that has ever wondered about the many exceptions and strange parts of the English language - or any language for that matter. The author explains many common elements with the cultural and historical background to make sense of it. Very interesting read, wish there were more like this.
The Celtic impact
This story attempts to trace connections to root languages for some of the more unique features of English grammar and word usage. It points out features of the language that most native speakers rarely consider, particularly "meaningless do", and "ing". Overall I enjoyed how the story explored the English language as a work in progress, rather than the state of perfection which is often taught in grammar school.
Over the course of the story, the author is very fluid in describing what linguists understand about the ways languages interact with and around each other. It was interesting to hear how languages that coexist with a significant number of native speakers tend to be stable, although flavored with grammar from each side.
A fun story, if you can have fun retracing the steps of a language going back two or three generations. If you're looking for a book on conventional usage, details on word roots, or don't have any interest in grammar - this isn't the book for you.
This was well narrated but it was still hard for me to stay focused at times. Comes off more as a university level class which isn't surprising since the author is also a professor.