Starting with the well-known model of relationships among languages as a family tree, McWhorter (linguistics, Berkeley) fleshes out and refines this model as he narrates development of language. He explores five main ways that languages change, such as sound change and the transformation of words into pieces of grammar. McWhorter further illuminates and compares concepts of dialect, pidgin, and Creole to demonstrate the changing nature of language. Through the discussion, he replaces the family-tree model of language relations with the more sophisticated images of a bush and a net. Numerous examples support each point, including cartoons illustrating German dialects. Indeed, the sheer weight of all the examples and detailed discussion could discourage an initially curious reader. While McWhorter reaches out to general readers by avoiding jargon and using an informal tone, brevity is needed to reach the maximum audience. Steven Fisher offers a narrative language history in History of Language (Reaktion, 1999), but while Fisher presents a slightly briefer account, it is also far more technical, with an emphasis on evolutionary theory. Not an essential purchase, McWhorter's work is recommended only for public libraries with large language collections. Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This book is not for those uncomfortable with change. McWhorter's main goal is to convey to laypeople what linguists know about the inexorable changeability of languages. He compares our popular understanding of language to Monopoly instructions--static and written as though "from on high." But whereas Parkers Brothers is not likely to revise the rules of its game, language is as transitory as a cloud formation. From this analogy, aided by parallels with natural evolution, McWhorter shows us how the world's many dialects arose from a single Ur-tongue. He emphasizes the idea that "dialect is all there is." What we call a "standard language" is in fact a dialect that has been anointed by people in power and by cultural circumstances. All this becomes a tad academic in places, but McWhorter's use of analogies, anecdotes, and popular culture keeps the discussion lively. A worthy contribution to our understanding of the defining feature of human life. Philip Herbst
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Have you noticed how prevalent the word "got" has become? As in "I've got a cold" (instead of "I have a cold") or "What's he got that I don't? Read morePublished on Dec 20 2003 by Andrew Rasanen
This is a very good natured book. As a child McWhorter tried to learn Hebrew. Seeing a chart at the back of a dictionary, he thought it was absolutely necessary to translate... Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2003 by Mary E. Sibley
If you are interested in languages, then this book is definitely worth your time. As a language aficionado myself, I was most satisfied with the following aspects of The Power of... Read morePublished on Nov. 23 2003 by Edward P. Trimnell
This book is a mix of interesting "did you know" facts, mind-numbing forays into pidgin and creole languages, and evolutionist rubbish, with a LOT of private... Read morePublished on Oct. 23 2003
McWhorter creates an easy to understand intoduction to linguistics with power of Babel. He provides informaction about how language has been created through time and language has... Read morePublished on Oct. 9 2003 by Neel Aroon
The Power of Babel is fresh, direct and entertaining. It asks you to think about language the way we think about life: it's dynamic, always different, and ever-evolving. Read morePublished on June 2 2003 by Marc Cenedella
There was a passing reference to "the Puliyanese of South India", which I sought to get more details about (being from South India myself) from the author,... Read morePublished on April 5 2003 by sanjay 123
For those of you who have been interested in language and yet turned off by linguistics, this is a wonderful book. Read morePublished on March 11 2003
After hearing Prof. McW on NPR, I picked up his book, not having read his previous work dealing with "Black" English. Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2003 by John L Murphy