Language Interrupted by John H. McWhorter
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Language Interrupted
By John H. McWhorter

Language Interrupted

Signs of Non-Native Acquisition in Standard Language Grammars

By (author) See other recent books by John H. McWhorter
Format: Hardback

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Language Interrupted by John H. McWhorter

Book Description

Foreigners often say that English language is "easy." A language like Spanish is challenging in its variety of verb endings (the verb speak is conjugated hablo, hablas, hablamos), and gender for nouns, whereas English is more straight forward (I speak, you speak, we speak). But linguists generally swat down claims that certain languages are "easier" than others, since it is assumed all languages are complex to the same degree. For example, they will point to English's use of the word "do" -- Do you know French? This usage is counter-intuitive and difficult for non-native speakers. Linguist John McWhorter agrees that all languages are complex, but questions whether or not they are all equally complex. The topic of complexity has become a hot issue in recent years, particularly in creole studies, historical linguistics, and language contact. As McWhorter describes, when languages came into contact over the years (when French speakers ruled the English for a few centuries, or the vikings invaded England), a large number of speakers are forced to learn a new language quickly, and this came up with a simplified version, a pidgin. When this ultimately turns into a "real" language, a creole, the result is still simpler and less complex than a "non-interrupted" language that has been around for a long time. McWhorter makes the case that this kind of simplification happens in degrees, and criticizes linguists who are reluctant to say that, for example, English is simply simpler than Spanish for socio-historical reasons. He analyzes how various languages that seem simple but are not creoles, actually are simpler than they would be if they had not been broken down by large numbers of adult learners. In addition to English, he looks at Mandarin Chinese, Persian, Malay, and some Arabic varieties. His work will interest not just experts in creole studies and historical linguistics, but the wider community interested in language complexity.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195309805
ISBN-10: 0195309804
Format: Hardback
(243mm x 164mm x 25mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 21-Jun-2007
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Books By Author John H. McWhorter

Language Hoax by John H. McWhorter Language Hoax, Paperback (June 2016)

A provocative argument against the idea that we view the world through the lens of the language we speak.

Doing Our Own Thing by John H. McWhorter Doing Our Own Thing, Paperback (November 2005)

Once languages become written, they change. This work argues that the 1960's rejection of cultural traits associated with the Establishment, as well as a democratic celebration of what anyone can do over what requires training or talent, has led to our culture being impoverished, both intellectually and artistically, a culture that hates itself.

Defining Creole by John H. McWhorter Defining Creole, Paperback (December 2004)

Gathers published articles on creole languages and their origins by John H McWhorter, a scholar in the field. This book defends his hypothesis that creole languages are synchronically distinguishable from older grammars, addressing the intersection between creole genesis and language change.

Word on the Street by John H. McWhorter Word on the Street, Paperback (January 2001)

A barbed rebuttal to the conservative view that popular culture is destroying the English language.

» View all books by John H. McWhorter

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Recent books by John H. McWhorter close
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