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Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language

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Summary: This amusing and informative book surveys the history of the English language and all its vagaries and perplexities of word origins, spellings, and pronunciations and why it has become so successful as a world language. Then again, he seems to think that Pennsylvania Dutch is a form of pidgin English, so perhaps that’s unsurprising! We’ve seen how, even in its earliest stages, English was highly flexible in accepting new words from Norse and Norman French. The process also works the other way around—English words themselves have been readily adopted by other languages, often with only slight modifications to fit the native tongue. The Japanese, in particular, are adept at adapting English words into their notoriously difficult and inaccessible language. These are known as wasei-eigo, or “Japanese-made-English.” Thus, smart became sumato, rush hour became rushawa, idol became aidoru, and so on. Quirks of English

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, Used - AbeBooks The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, Used - AbeBooks

Ever feel a book rambles on, giving anecdotes that aren't useful? Often get frustrated by an author who doesn't get to the point? Mother Tongue is a series of essays on the origins of human language, with plenty of interesting scientific insights, then to the messy origins of English amid the various waves of invasions of the original Celtic peoples of Britain by Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Normans, Scandinavians (Vikings), and so forth, to its growing status as a global language. I enjoyed this part of the book the most, learning a lot about the origins of the language that was especially useful now that I live in England myself. I also didn't know that Latin evolved into French, Spanish, and Italian among other languages, to my embarrassment. Given the many travels we've had through Europe in the past two years, a lot of the early origins of the Celtic peoples in Europe and the migrations of various peoples across the continent and to the British isles during the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages is really fascinating stuff. The story of English began when Germanic peoples known as the Angles and Saxons, hailing from what is now Northern Germany, began migrating to and conquering the Roman province of Britannia in the mid-5th century CE. These Angles and Saxons brought their Germanic language to their new home, where it morphed over time into the language we now call Old English. Some of our most fundamental words today come from Old English, particularly words related to family— man, wife, child, brother, and sister, to name a few. Old English was a rich literary language as well, leaving behind a trove of letters, charters, religious works, and legal texts. Old English works like Beowulf and Caedmon’s Hymn are the starting points of English literature.We’ve explored the origins of English, its evolution over time, and its emergence as a dominant language of global business and politics. But English is also a language of literature and oratory, capable of eloquently expressing the most powerful human emotions and desires. It possesses a number of unique properties, quirks, and complexities that set it apart from other tongues. What, then, are some of the language’s unique traits that make it so rich and evocative? It was first published in 1990 and it has not aged well. Some statistics are well out of date, Bryson using a figure of 56 million for the population of Britain, with 60 million more accurate at the time I write, for example. The political position has moved on, too. Sorry Mr Bryson, but as a historical linguist of English myself, I cannot take this book seriously. There are simply too many mistakes that have no place in a well-researched book. The subject matter is not that hard, so I can only guess "The Mother Tongue" was written in such a hurry that you only consulted one or two sources, where it should have been five or six. The history of English is not something you learn from reading one textbook; there is a lot of ongoing research and debate. And most of your sources are a decade or two out of date, even for 1991. Get your facts straight and publish a revised edition is the best advice I can give you.

Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way

More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to...'

The complexities of the English language are such that even native speakers cannot always communicate effectively, as almost every American learns on his first day in Britain.” Knowing that "The Mother Tongue" was published in 1990, I had fun imagining what additions Bryson would have added to the text today, knowing how many new words have been adopted since the Internet took over our world. Overall, this was a pleasant read and is a nice complement to other books that have been written about the English language. Recommended.

Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language by Bill

At a conference of sociologists in America in 1977, love was defined as “the cognitive-affective state characterized by intrusive and obsessive fantasizing concerning reciprocity of amorant feelings by the object of the amorance.” There are a few major evolutionary points in the development of the English language, and the first came when two Germanic tribes – the Angles and the Saxons – migrated to Britain. Not to be outdone, the United States has its own roster of names that bedevil non-natives. Like in England, many of these names are products of conquests of indigenous peoples. Thus did Missikamaa become Michigan and šhíyena become Cheyenne. Similar processes unfolded with place-names that had their origins in French, Dutch, and Spanish names. The United States also has colorful names in abundance, from Screamer, Alabama to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

So, Bill Bryson + cheap equals insta-buy for me, apparently. Too bad even Bill Bryson couldn't make this terribly entertaining. Bryson's book on the English language is a compendium of linguistic trivia interspersed with the author's biased and misinformed musings on the history and features of the language. Published in 1990, the book was written before Internet changed the way the world communicates and hence a lot of the content regarding the spread of languages is hopelessly outdated by now. For these reasons, English speakers should never be reduced to complacency by the seeming triumph of their language. Things can always change, and the supremacy of English may one day be supplanted by a rival claimant.

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