What Language Is

And What It Isn?t and What It Could Be

By John McWhorter
(Gotham, Hardcover, 9781592406258, 240pp.)

Publication Date: August 4, 2011

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the August 2011 Indie Next List
“This is a light-hearted investigation into how linguists view language. From languages that change tone for different tenses to languages that do not have any regular verbs, this is an entertaining foray into what language is and what it is not. I look forward to reading more from this talented linguist.”
-- Fran Wilson, Colorado State University Bookstore, Fort Collins, CO


Description

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.




About the Author

John McWhorter is the author of the bestseller Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, and four other books. He is associate professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and a contributing editor to The City Journal and The New Republic. He has been profiled in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and has appeared on Dateline NBC, Politically Incorrect, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.




NPR
Thursday, Aug 4, 2011

Humans have been speaking thousands of years longer than they have been writing. Yet many assume the written word is superior to the way we speak. In What Language Is: And What It Isn't And What It Could Be, John McWhorter argues that most of our assumptions about language are wrong. More at NPR.org

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