Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct.
"You'll Never Look at Languages the Same Way Again"
Conventional wisdom suggests English is going to the dogs, that bad grammar, slang, and illogical constructions signal a decline in standards of usage - to say nothing of the corruption wrought by email and text messages. But English is a complicated, marvelous language. Far from being a language in decline, English is the product of surprisingly varied linguistic forces, some of which have only recently come to light. And these forces continue to push English in exciting new directions.
"This course will turn you into a linguistics fan!"
Words on the Move opens our eyes to the surprising backstories to the words and expressions we use every day. Did you know that silly once meant "blessed"? Or that ought was the original past tense of owe? Or that the suffix -ly in adverbs is actually a remnant of the word like? And have you ever wondered why some people from New Orleans sound as if they come from Brooklyn?
"Funny and insightful. Some material reused."
Linguistics, the study of language, has a reputation for being complex and inaccessible. But here's a secret: There's a lot that's quirky and intriguing about how human language works-and much of it is downright fun to learn about. But with so many potential avenues of exploration, it can often seem daunting to try to understand it. Where does one even start?
"A genious Miscelany of linguistic topics"
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.
"Great for casual linguists"
This short, opinionated audiobook addresses the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which argues that the language we speak shapes the way we perceive the world. Linguist John McWhorter argues that while this idea is mesmerizing, it is plainly wrong. It is language that reflects culture and worldview, not the other way around.
"I really love listening to language--and McWhorter"
His audience liked the applause lines, as they always do. But it’s hard to resist laughing at Trumpian syntax. I am given to indulging in it with a finger of bourbon after long days. My favorite so far is this insight from a South Carolina rally in 2015:
"How to Listen to Trump Every Day for Years" is from the January 22, 2017 Opinion section of The New York Times. It was written by John Mcwhorter and narrated by Barbara Benjamin-Creel.
Understanding language change and how languages differ helps us see that what is often labeled "wrong" about people's speech is, in fact, a misanalysis.
Starting with Celtic contributions to English vocabulary, explore the borrowings from Old Norse, French, and Latin. These have enriched English with a wealth of synonyms, allowing speakers to choose between alternatives such as the Anglo-Saxon hide versus the Latinate conceal.
There have been many attempts to create languages for use by the whole world. The most successful is Esperanto. Sign languages for the deaf are also artificial languages, though ones fully equipped with grammar, nuance, and dialects.
Trace the evidence that English derives from a language that was incompletely learned by invaders of northern Europe more than 2,000 years ago. Where were these people from? An analysis of sound changes in their language, Proto-Germanic, leads to an intriguing hypothesis.