Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review - What Language Is by John McWhorter

TITLE:    What Language Is
AUTHOR:    John McWhorter
INFO:    Hardcover, Non-Fiction, 228 pages
PUBLISHED:   Gotham Books, 2011
SOURCE:   Received from Publisher for Review and Blog Tour

FROM GOODREADS:  New York Times bestselling author and renowned linguist, John McWhorter, explores the complicated and fascinating world of languages. From Standard English to Black English; obscure tongues only spoken by a few thousand people in the world to the big ones like Mandarin - What Language Is celebrates the history and curiosities of languages around the world and smashes our assumptions about "correct" grammar.

An eye-opening tour for all language lovers, What Language Is offers a fascinating new perspective on the way humans communicate. From vanishing languages spoken by a few hundred people to major tongues like Chinese, with copious revelations about the hodgepodge nature of English, John McWhorter shows readers how to see and hear languages as a linguist does. Packed with Big Ideas about language alongside wonderful trivia, What Language Is explains how languages across the globe (the Queen's English and Surinam creoles alike) originate, evolve, multiply, and divide. Raising provocative questions about what qualifies as a language (so-called slang does have structured grammar), McWhorter also takes readers on a marvelous journey through time and place-from Persian to the languages of Sri Lanka- to deliver a feast of facts about the wonders of human linguistic expression.

MY TAKE:    John McWhorter has brought us an original and upbeat look at language.  The full title tells it all:  What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be).  I knew this book would be interesting, I just didn't realize it would also be fun. 

With tidbits such as the fact that the written word is only about 5500 years old versus the 150000 years of the spoken word; we are taken on a wild linguistical journey from Ancient Greece and beyond.  The study of language has the propensity to be a dry subject but with McWhorter guiding us it becomes fascinating and a bit clearer in some aspects.  I learned much about this fabulous tool we use to communicate.

I really liked the style of writing.  The author doesn't "write down" to his audience or even "dummy it up" for us.  He makes linguistics available and approachable to the average reader.  His love of language definitely shines through in this delightful book and gives us much to ponder. 

Out of 5 JEWELS, I give it:

Get your copy at The Book Depository

Be sure to visit the other blogs on this fun and enlightening tour.
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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.

1 comment:

  1. I know I'd love this book!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.


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