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Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language

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He surveys the history of language, the world's language families and where English is situated in the Indo-European stream, and all the other offshoots, some which are no longer living languages. He recounts the triumph of Anglo-Saxon language over Celtic (even though many of England's place names preserve their Celtic roots), the impact of the Norman invasion (of 10,000 words, approximately 3/4ths are still in use including much of the language of nobility (duke, baron prince) and much language of jurisprudence (justice, jury, prison among others). He explores the different ways words are created, sometimes by doing nothing! His discussion of pronunciation and particularly the shifts in vowel sounds was fascinating, For example house was once pronounced hoose. You weren't born in a barn but barn in a born. Indeed, despite the massive waves of immigration during the 19th century, American speech patterns did not diverge over time; instead, they converged. The movement of people within the US created a linguistic melting pot of intermingling, which homogenized speech patterns. As time went on, people faced social pressures to conform to “normal” American speech, especially the children of immigrants, who faced even stronger pressure to shed the accents and idioms of their parents. Then again, he seems to think that Pennsylvania Dutch is a form of pidgin English, so perhaps that’s unsurprising!

The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way

Once he’d noticed these similarities, Jones began comparing other languages to Sanskrit, and he found more and more evidence for a budding theory: that a wide variety of classical languages – Persian, Latin, Celtic, Sanskrit, Greek – had their roots in a parent language. For much of the history of the language, however, words defied standard spelling, with even Shakespeare offering a bewildering array of different and inconsistent spellings for the same words throughout his works. The first steps toward standardization only began with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century and the gradual spread of written works (and thus, literacy) throughout England.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. Some elements of otherwise obscure English dialects have gone mainstream, largely due to the legacy of the British Empire. The common American word peek, as in “to take a peek,” was once confined to a small corner of East Anglia (most other English people would say peep or squint), but because migrants from this region settled in the New World, the word got an unlikely new lease on life. Likewise, the ubiquitous American yeah was, until the mid-20th century, an obscure local word used only in certain regions of southeast England. Divergence Between British and American English

Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that [PDF] [EPUB] The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that

Also, Irish and Welsh orthography is far more internally consistent than is that of English—but Bryson only allows the features of English to be virtues.) So how many grains of salt would I need to swallow the declaration that immediately followed? An unhealthy amount, I’m sure. Then he got into some languages I have a smattering of myself – French and German—and I began questioning. Some of it just sounded wrong, like the quote from an article that says most speakers of other languages aren’t aware there is such a thing as a thesaurus.

We don't normally say "labor", we call it labour. The sole exception is in the name of the Australian Labor Party, which adopted that spelling in the 19th century. We’ve seen how the English language, in its development and evolution over time, proved to be remarkably flexible and adaptable to innovations and influences from other languages. These characteristics gave English a versatility that would later be a major asset as it spread to nearly all corners of the globe. In this chapter, we’ll explore how variable and fluid English can be—in ways that can sometimes lead to real confusion. Complications of Versatility

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