JP Schmidt's Reviews > Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter
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's review
Jul 07, 2010

Well written in a jokey style. Written for the layman, but much of what he presents is familiar to someone who know some linguistics. McWhorter, a prof at Berkeley, put forth his theory that English, despite having very few Celtic words other than place names in its lexicon, was strongly influenced by a Celtic substratum. A small group of Anglo-Saxon invaders foisted there language on a much larger Celtic-speaking population who altered the orginial language. The evidence for this comes in the oddities of the English use of "do" which is unique in Indo-European languages outside of Celtic. Same with the use of -ing forms. The are lots of interesting asides to many other phenomena having to do with contact between languages. English is unusual among Indo-European languages in having so few inflections. This is probably to do with fact that Anglo-Saxon speakers and Norse could understand each other except for the inflections. So they dropped them. McWhorter has a more exotic theory that proto-Germanic was influenced by Phoenician to be so exceptional among Indo-European languages. Quick read.

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message 1: by Converse (new)

Converse I've always thought those Celts had a lot to answer for. I believe that the author is the same fellow who has put together a couple courses on linguistic topics that are sold on DVD by the teaching company.

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