Audible has helped me expand my appreciation for history, science and the arts. The Great Courses series are illuminating. More please!!
This is a wonderful tour thru the roots of our present day English language. At times a bit erudite for this science major but generally quite interesting and very well delivered. The fact that I am considering a second listen conveys my interest in this fascinating topic.
I've read a few books on the history and development of English. In a way, Mr. McWhorter diagnosed how most of those were written, as 'travelogues' in search of where the words in English came from. But not really information about how or why.
This book 'fixes' that. The author wasn't afraid to state directly his thesis as to how and why English became what English became. I won't include spoilers but some of his suppositions are certainly surprising.
But he laid out much information of which I was unaware. I've studied Latin, German and Spanish, but am not fluent in any. However I understand the ideas of verb conjugation across cases, noun endings and word ordering to appreciate how odd English really is. And now I better appreciate WHY I had the issues I did in studying these non-native (to me) languages.
I'd actually recommend this book to anyone who plans to study non-English languages. It might give you some warning of pitfalls.
Highly recommend! This guy is clever, smart, a great storyteller and possessed of a huge amount of arcane knowledge. Apparently, he also has a passing familiarity with the inner workings of about 30 languages. Amazing stuff.
As you may already know, English is unlike most of the other Germanic languages. It has a lot of influences from Old Norse which happened during the Viking raids and the invasion of the Normans. Add to this the constant influence of the other languages in British Isles, and you get a language that is a melding of many.
This book is about the linguistic roots of English.
An interesting idea well put. If you have an interest in how our language works and why then good info in here to feed your thinking.
I found myself fully engaged in what could have been a very dull dissertation. So glad the author read his own work. He charming and very knowledgeable and passionate about his subject.
Celts, Vikings, Romans and the French. Maybe Semitic and Phoenician. And it may all tie together. Listen to the story of the magnificent language called English.
The book is narrated by the author who tosses in some funny asides during the reading.
It does a good job of offering an explanation for some of the more peculiar eccentricities of our language, such as "meaningless do" and the -ing suffixes.
I found the work gripping; it's short, which meant that I wound up listening to the whole thing in one day. John McWhorter makes a compelling case for the influences of Celtic on English. He reads his own work, which on one hand means that he knows the words he's reading and gets the emphasis and pronunciation right, but he does make the rookie mistake of laughing at his own jokes, which is a bit off-putting. Fortunately, that's mostly at the beginning of the book.
What a delightful book! Since I finished listening to it, I've found myself thinking a lot about how interesting English actually is from a grammatical perspective and not just a lexical one.
Let me confess that I'm not coming at this as a newbie. I am fluent in French, German and Dutch in addition to English (my mother tongue) and I've studied Spanish and Scottish Gaelic. I even did reasonably well in a Junior Honors History of English class when I studied abroad in Scotland (many years ago.) I've read a lot of the classic materials on the history of English. I've even taught students the official line: the power of English lies in its ability to absorb words so easily.
McWhorter blasts through a lot of those myths with wit and charm. He does a pretty good job of pronouncing things in the European languages I speak. ( I can't speak for Danish, etc. He does hand off to a Mandarin speaker once. Probably a good move.) He has a lot to teach those of us who've been handed a story of English that, well, doesn't quite add up.
It's a short book, so I won't share here any of what I learned. You've got to hear his arguments and his evidence, then judge for yourself. I assure you, this will not be a rehash of things you already know.