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A survey of the English language's usage mysteries considers the ways in which English developed and how it may reflect cultural values, in a reference that covers such topics as Celtic and Welsh influences, the origins of specific syntax patterns, and the role of language in forming early Britain. 25,000 first printing.
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John McWhorter is the author of The Power of Babel and numerous other acclaimed books, most recently All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop CanÂ’t Save Black America (Gotham Books, 2008). A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to The New Republic, he has taught linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and has been widely profiled in the media.From Publishers Weekly:
This evolutionary history of the English language from author and editor McWhorter (The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language) isn't an easy read, but those fascinated by words and grammar will find it informative, provocative and even invigorating. McWhorter's history takes on some old mysteries and widely-believed theories, mounting a solid argument for the Celtic influence on English language that literary research has for years dismissed; he also patiently explains such drastic changes as the shift from Old English to Middle English (the differences between written and spoken language explain a lot). Those who have learned English as a second language will recognize McWhorter's assertion that "English really is easy(-ish) at first and hard later"; for that, he says, we can "blame... the Danish and Scandinavian" influence. McWhorter further proves his bona fides with deft analogies, like a comparison between the evolution of English and popping a wheelie on a bicycle; he also debunks, handily, the popular notion that "a language's grammar and the way its words pattern reflect aspects of its speakers' culture and the way they think." McWhorter's iconoclastic impulses and refreshing enthusiasm makes this worth a look for anyone with a love for the language.
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