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?
New, Different approach
The English language
This book had to be read by the author. An excellent job.
If I had the time
I read along with the Kindle book which helped on many of the foreign words.
There were parts that were really interesting, but I struggled to follow throughout. The author also uses a lot of analogies that are difficult to keep up with at times. Worth it overall, but be ready to trail off occasionally of you're not already sharp on linguistic history.
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.