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Michael

Los Angeles, CA, United States | Member Since 2009

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  • Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By John McWhorter
    • Narrated By John McWhorter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1249)
    Performance
    (967)
    Story
    (965)

    A survey of the quirks and quandaries of the English language, focusing on our strange and wonderful grammar. Why do we say "I am reading a catalog" instead of "I read a catalog"? Why do we say "do" at all? Is the way we speak a reflection of our cultural values? Delving into these provocative topics and more, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue distills hundreds of years of fascinating lore into one lively history.

    Cookie says: "Oh the joy!"
    "Great for casual linguists"
    Overall

    For those with only a passing interest in the history of English, I recommend "The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language". It's a more casual overview of the English language that focuses more on history and vocabulary (a very good listen).

    That being said, "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue" is a great listen for those interested in the origins and evolution of the English language told not only through history and vocabulary but also through grammar and linguistics.

    Don't freak out, the treatment of grammar is fairly straightforward and mostly limited to examples of case endings or nouns having genders. This will be familiar to anyone who has studied a Romance or Germanic language. (Basically, the Vikings helped kill off our case endings)

    Etymologies tend to be fairly straightforward too, e.g. the author provides examples of how sounds from Indo-European words (e.g. "peter" (can't do the correct symbols) tend to change in fairly predictable ways in various languages, cf. Latin "pater" or French "pere") to Old Norse "fadir", or Germanic "vater" (pronounced "fah-ter").

    That's about as scary/difficult as the etymologies get.

    There is also a big chunk of a chapter dedicated to unique English peculiarities like our use of the (mostly) meaningless word "do" (e.g. "this doesn't work" instead of "this not work") and our use of "ing" to convey a present state of doing something, rather than just the present active indicative ("I'm typing" instead of "I type") (The Celts are responsible!)

    The author also addresses how and why written English was different from spoken English, the theory that language shapes the way we think (he mostly disagrees), and the Semitic influences on the proto-Germanic language.

    35 of 35 people found this review helpful

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