McWhorter has written a comprehensible, entrancing overview of how language has developed, changed, morphed and been reinvented millions of times in hMcWhorter has written a comprehensible, entrancing overview of how language has developed, changed, morphed and been reinvented millions of times in human history.
Thanks to MrWhorter, I now know that what I speak and write isn't just English. I speak a dialect of Sydney English circa 2000.
What McWhorter achieves here is a fascinating journey through many, many languages (or regional dialects as McWhorter would have it) that span across the globe and time.
McWhorter is funny. Despite being a book aiming to impart knowledge, McWhorter's personality, flare and passion for the subject comes across very strongly.
Mostly the book is accessible to the layman. Occasionally McWhorter would get ahead of himself and assume a knowledge base of his audience that this little reader didn't have. But for the most part, he translates his knowledge very well across the medium of the written word.
Which, may I add, he seems to dislike. It is the only thing I would challenge him (since I'm not educated enough in linguistics to argue effectively on anything else). He views reading and writing as a barrier to language's natural development. With the introduction of the written word, McWhorter claims, English, Chinese, Japanese etc have been developing far more slowly than what they would if they were "wild" and that they've changed to reflect their written versions more than their spoken versions.
Whilst I certainly understand a linguist's frustration with this - I think literacy is a valid progression to language. Sure, it is a new and (compared to the long history of spoken language) untried version of language but no less valid than any other dialect of English.
Which reminds me that McWhorter's arguments mean that I can no longer deny the friend requests of people who rite liek dis cos thier kool.