By John McWhorter
A survey of the quirks and quandaries of the English language, concentrating on our unusual and lovely grammar Why can we say “I am examining a catalog” rather than “I learn a catalog”? Why will we say “do” in any respect? Is the way in which we communicate a mirrored image of our cultural values? Delving into those provocative themes and extra, Our significant Bastard Language distills thousands of years of attention-grabbing lore into one full of life historical past. masking such turning issues because the little-known Celtic and Welsh impacts on English, the impression of the Viking raids and the Norman Conquest, and the Germanic invasions that all started all of it in the course of the 5th century advert, John McWhorter narrates this colourful evolution with vigour. Drawing on innovative genetic and linguistic study in addition to a cache of exceptional minutiae concerning the origins of English phrases and syntax styles, Our fabulous Bastard Tongue eventually demonstrates the arbitrary, maddening nature of English— and its ironic simplicity as a result of its position as a streamlined lingua franca throughout the early formation of england. this is often the booklet that language aficionados all over the world were looking ahead to (and no, it’s no longer a sin to finish a sentence with a preposition).
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Additional info for Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English
In English, -ing leads a double life. In one guise, it makes a verb into a gerund, which means that it makes the verb into a noun. One sings, and one may enjoy that which is known as singing, a noun: Singing is fun. ” Then, -ing has a second identity, when it is used in the progressive construction: Mary is singing. ” Singing in Mary is singing is just a verb, specifically what is called the present participle form of a verb. Our -ing is two things. The important point is the fact that in English, as we have seen, this progressive Mary is singing construction is our present tense.
Meaningless do is not a long tongue—it’s a tongue used as a leg. Some readers will think perhaps of a language like Japanese, where quite often a verbal concept is expressed as “doing” a noun, such as travel being rendered as to do travel; here is Taroo travels: Taroo ga ryokoo o suru. Taroo travel does Persian is like this, too, so much that it has only a few hundred verbs per se—to speak Persian is to be accustomed to “doing a waking up” instead of awakening someone, and so on. But in both of these cases, do has literal meaning: one is “doing,” performing, the noun.
Only to English speakers does the sentence sound like something someone with brain damage would say. This shows that something was different about how Old English evolved. English’s Germanic relatives are like assorted varieties of deer—antelopes, springboks, kudu, and so on—antlered, fleet-footed, big-brown-eyed variations on a theme. English is some dolphin swooping around underwater, all but hairless, echolocating and holding its breath. Dolphins are mammals like deer: they give birth to live young and are warm-blooded.