There is something about the English language. Belonging to the Proto-Germanic language group, English has a structure that is oddly, weirdly different from other Germanic languages. In Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English, John McWhorter has achieved nothing less than a new understanding of the historic formation of the English language in McWhorter’s words “a revised conception of what English is and why”. The linguist and public intellectual McWhorter accomplished this scholarly feat outside the tight restrictor box of academic publications. He did it with a popular book and thoroughly convincing arguments framed in richly entertaining, informal colloquial language.
The audiobook production of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue takes McWhorter’s transformation of scholarship to a new level. The book is about the spoken word and how and why the English language’s structure that is the syntax, and which linguists term the “grammar” changed through time. McWhorter tells the story the way it should be told: in spoken English by a master of the subject of how the languages under study sounded. The author has a remarkable, animated narrative voice and his delivery has an engaging and captivating personal touch. He is a great teacher with a world-class set of pipes, who clearly has developed a special relationship with studio microphones.
McWhorter’s intent is “to fill in a chapter of The History of English that has not been presented to the lay public, partly because it is a chapter even scholars of English’s development have rarely engaged at length”. The changes of English under study are from spoken Old English before 787 C.E. and the Viking invasions and the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the Middle English of Chaucer’s time. (With Chaucer we are a hop, skip, and a jump away from the English we easily recognize today.) The influences that altered the language, in McWhorter’s new formulation, include how, beginning in 787 C.E., the Viking invaders “beat up the English language in the same way that we beat up foreign languages in class rooms”, and thus shed some of the English grammar, and the native British Celtic Welsh and Cornish “mixed their native grammars with English grammar”. After the Norman Invasion, French was the language of a relatively small ruling class and was thus the written language. But with the Hundreds Years’ War between England and France, English again became the ruling language, and the changes that had been created in spoken English found their way into written Middle English.
Listening to McWhorter articulate his points with his extraordinarily expressive, polemically powerful voice, and cutting through and continually upending the scrabble board of flabby etymological presumptions of the established view it is like nothing you’ve ever heard. The audio edition of this groundbreaking work, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue – an otherwise scholarly study twice transformed into a popular book and then into the audiobook that gives such impressive expressive voice to the changes of the English language is a milestone in audiobook production. David Chasey
Covering such turning points as the little-known Celtic and Welsh influences on English, the impact of the Viking raids and the Norman Conquest, and the Germanic invasions that started it all during the fifth century A.D., John McWhorter narrates this colorful evolution with vigor.
Drawing on revolutionary genetic and linguistic research, as well as a cache of remarkable trivia about the origins of English words and syntax patterns, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue ultimately demonstrates the arbitrary, maddening nature of English - and its ironic simplicity due to its role as a streamlined lingua franca during the early formation of Britain. This is the book that language aficionados worldwide have been waiting for. (And no, it's not a sin to end a sentence with a preposition.)
©2008 John McWhorter; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"McWhorter's iconoclastic impulses and refreshing enthusiasm makes this worth a look for anyone with a love for the language." (Publishers Weekly)
"McWhorter’s energetic, brash delivery of his own spirited and iconoclastic text will appeal to everyone who appreciates the range and caliber of today’s audio production. In some ways, audio is superior to printed text in portraying tone, attitude, values, and in this case, a discussion whose theme is the sound and grammar of words." (AudioFile)
A great deal as Deal of the Day. Very detailed
Unbelievable linguist .
Do not feel bad now about using a dangling preposition
Yes. this is the best book on the subject of the history of English since "Structural history of the English Language".
This is a book on linguistics.
This is an irrelevant question. This not a fiction book.
Ask questions relevant to the book.
I am an English teacher in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am an avid reader and love horror, romance, and literary fiction the best.
I am very interested in linguistics but this book did not interest me as much as I had hoped. The book was fairly interesting about how English transformed over the years. But it also felt like the author had problems with other linguistic academics. I appreciate that professors need to put forward new ideas but sometimes this book felt like it diminished other writers.
On the other hand, I am completely in awe of McWhorter’s talent for pronunciation which is a skill that I sorely lack.
Repetitive, interesting, long
The story was interesting as to how English became the language it is today. The story is persuasive for me as a lay person. I really enjoyed the argument against language rules.
Mother, Wife, Cultural Anthropologist, always a scholar and lover of books!
I wish this author had been my professor as this writing is linguistic anthropology at its finest.
I like happy endings and realism that is realistic rather than gritty.
Perhaps my title is hyperbole--maybe Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue is just the Usual Suspects of HEL texts....
I am endlessly fascinated with the history of our language, even though I've heard it scores of times (including in college and grad school courses). If it's a history of English, I will buy it, read it, check it out, listen to it, watch it, etc. McWhorter's text is easily in my top 5 HEL's of all time. His theory on the origins and uses of "do" are, to me, as exciting as the first time you get the twist in The Sixth Sense, and then the second time you watch the movie and see all the foreshadowing... McWhorter's ideas work that way for me. He presents his ideas in an excellent, engaging fashion, and now I can look back and see those ideas playing out in our beloved English.
The book is well-written, engaging, and accessible. I love it!
yes. The Celtics giving up the "do."
Well done, avoids accepting the mainstream views and is well thought out. Makes one remember that scholars views are not always supported by facts.
Great information, well researched and easy to follow.
His examples to support his points are clear and easy to understand, especially in audiobook format.
I always like it when an author is willing to perform his own book. In this case, with all of the different language examples, it really helped to have it pronounced by someone who understands the point the author (himself) was trying to make.
You do not need to be a linguist to enjoy this book, but some general knowledge about language, geography and European culture will help.
I usually avoid books read by the author. Prof McWhorter performs as if he's speaking to you directly. Very engaging and really interesting information.
Less of an arguing, mocking tone on the part of the author both in the writing and in his narration. Who does he think he is arguing with or showing-up, and why should anyone care?
Certainly nothing by John McWhorter
John's reading and writing style are both off-putting
This story doesn't really have characters... but I'd cut John's ego.
The author/ narrator sounds less like a scholar and more like a cage fighter talking smack before a fight.
"Brilliant and insightful"
This book was a great listen just as it was a great read the first time, it has thought me a lot about the English language as a whole and I would recommend it to anyone
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