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Publisher's Summary

Think about this: How would you address a group of two or more people? Would you say "you", "you all", "yous", "you lot", "y'all", "you guys", "you'uns", "yinz", or something else? Would that change depending on whom you were talking to or where you were? Your answers can provide revealing insights into who you are, where you grew up or live now, and your social, economic, and educational background.

Welcome to the enthralling world of linguistics. If you've ever been curious about how words like awesomesauce ever came to be, let alone made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, or if you've wondered why you say "firefly" and someone else calls the same insect a "lightning bug", English in America is for you.

There's an incredibly rich and colorful history behind American English. A profoundly diverse assortment of cultures has influenced our vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar, and the language continues to grow and shift. Dialect variations are widespread and actually increasing, and the new words, accents, and sentence structures both reflect and shape changes in our culture and society. Investigating these dialects is the domain of sociolinguistics, the study of the intricate interrelation between language variation and cultural, interpersonal, and personal identity.

Over 24 lectures, you'll encounter a wide range of ethnic and social groups that have shaped the course of the development of American English over the centuries: English speakers from all over the British Isles; speakers of West African languages; immigrants from Western and Eastern Europe; speakers of languages from Asia; and Spanish speakers from all over the world. In considering the contributions of these groups, you'll also gain deep insights into the perceptions - and misperceptions - about language and dialect variation. As you'll discover, American English is an umbrella term for many different EnglishES, reflecting who we have always been as a nation.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Overall
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Exceptionally interesting course!

This is one of the very best courses to which I have listened (and I have listened to perhaps 30 so far). The presentation style was exceptionally clear and the information was pitched perfectly for me - not so simple that it was boring for someone who had some knowledge of linguistics already - but not so advanced that only a fellow academic in the topic could understand.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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More like a book than lectures

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Probably not. It did have some very interesting parts, but I agree with another reviewer that it got too political. Even though I don't necessarily disagree with most of her political views, I didn't decide to listen to the lectures because I wanted a political commentary on language - I was just interested in the development of American English.

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Natalie Schilling’s performances?

No. I usually love Great Courses, but this was more like a book than lectures. The professor probably knows her stuff, but neither the content nor her delivery were very inspiring.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Less interesting than I'd hoped

I've been bingeing on linguistics books for the past year, and I listened to this one right after a John McWhorter one. Big mistake. McWhorter is one of the most gifted speakers in the field. Dr. Schilling, while not exactly bad, is not nearly as dynamic. It's closer to listening to an audiobook, in that it always sounds like she's reading. In fact, a few times I was struck by a mental image of her as a student standing in front of a class reading from a paper.

The topic is interesting, although I have to say that I wasn't as engaged as I have been for most other linguistics books, perhaps because I already knew a lot of the material from other sources. If you haven't read or heard any histories of English before, or if you have no background in linguistics, this might be more interesting for you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John S.
  • Seattle, WA United States
  • 10-14-16

Started out well

but I grew less interested as the author introduced her own politics into the story. More ... conservative readers would likely find that a complete turn-off; for me it was more of an annoyance. When she's sticking to linguistics, her presentation skills are good.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Liberal bias shows up halfway through

In the beginning I thought it was quite good and then she had to default about how bad Americans are by trying to keep a homogeneous language. She had to get her digs in. I hope most of the great courses don't show this kind of attitude. The last few chapters were typical liberal blather

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learned good basics

I am an English teacher in a rural US high school with a lot of students who will not go on to college and need reasons to pass English classes to graduate. being able to give students fun and interesting reasons why our language is the way it is will positively affect my teaching. I do wish more time were spent on midland states and not so much emphasis on the southern dialects

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Great Stuff, Political Nonsense, More Great Stuff

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Natalie Schilling?

Yes.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

An entertaining overview of the arrival and development of the English language in America, with lots of insight into how the various dialects developed.

Any additional comments?

Schilling veers into nonsense land for several sections with what turns out to be a bit of a diatribe on supposed majority prejudices against nonstandard dialects of minorities. It is a bit rich after her required linguist's assertion (without much proof here, although it is prima facie obvious to anyone who has ever thought about language) that all dialects are equal in complexity and depth. If this is true, then it follows that no dialects are better than others, even if they are used by supposedly oppressed groups. It would seem Dr. Schilling believes some dialects are more equal than others when the assertion suits a identity-based political agenda. But these sections of political opinion can be skipped when they become irksome. The majority of the lecture series is both entertaining, thought-provoking, and informative. Schilling has a delightful delivery, as well. It is certainly worthwhile, good stuff in the main, and recommended.

7 of 16 people found this review helpful

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enthralling

Very interesting topic, the professor is easy to understand and has fun with the listener.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A truly great course for newbies and experts alike!

A really insightful and entertaining course! Prof. Schilling presents a nuanced perspective on language in the US that is accessible to all.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful