If you’re a native English speaker and you’ve ever had to take a foreign language class, you’ve probably scratched your head a couple of times while pouring over tables of verb conjugations and asked–my goodness, why is English so weird? It’s a Germanic language…..that acts nothing like German. It has Romantic influences and yet…looks nothing like a Romance language. John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue tells the tale of English and its unorthodox history from Proto Indo-European to Anglisc (with a bit of Cornish and Welsh) to the Vikings, to the wonderfully mixed language we speak today. This is no boring grammar book, though. McWhorter’s history of English is interesting and engaging. I especially found the chapter on how Celtic languages changed Old English to be fascinating. Ever since visiting Scotland this summer, I have taken a special interest in how Celtic language and culture has survived, despite the Celtic people being marginalized and enslaved. I also really enjoyed the image of Germanic languages being like different species of deer–but English being like a dolphin (they’re still both mammals….but so very different). If you are looking for a great non-fiction read about English (that is actually fun to read), look no further!
Tag Archives: linguistics