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The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got…
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The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way (1990 original; edició 1990)

de Bill Bryson (Autor)

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Títol:The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way
Autors:Bill Bryson (Autor)
Informació:William Morrow Paperbacks (2001), Edition: Reissue, 272 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca

Informació de l'obra

The Mother Tongue de Bill Bryson (1990)

Afegit fa poc perTonyDib, biblioteca privada, Commons-Library, meecho, xlthlx, ecb06c, misfish, nab6215
  1. 30
    The Adventure of English: The Life Story of a Remarkable Language de Melvyn Bragg (John_Vaughan)
  2. 20
    A History of the English Language de Albert C. Baugh (Mrs.Stansbury)
    Mrs.Stansbury: This is an academic version of 'Mother Tongue' this one covers about 85% of the same material but in much greater detail and depth. The maps and charts are fantastic.
  3. 21
    The Story of Language de Mario Pei (jsoos)
    jsoos: A more general treatment, not limited to English
  4. 00
    Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme--And Other Oddities of the English Language de Arika Okrent (Othemts)
  5. 00
    The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories de Merriam-Webster (VivienneR)
  6. 01
    The Cambridge encyclopedia of language de David Crystal (kevinashley)
    kevinashley: Crystal's work is more scholarly in tone but he's an equally accessible writer - and more comprehensive and accurate. If English, rather than language in general, is your particular interest you may find his books on English more interesting (I haven't read those.)… (més)
  7. 03
    Talk to the Hand de Lynne Truss (mikeg2)
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Anglès (136)  Alemany (1)  Neerlandès (1)  Suec (1)  Danès (1)  Totes les llengües (140)
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"The Mother Tongue" wasn't an easy read. It went through the arcane and the absurd. I love words and how they change. I recommend this book if you enjoy Bill Bryson's books and you are a logophile. ( )
  nab6215 | Jan 18, 2022 |
The language that we speak is akin to breathing. What I mean to say is you really don't thinking about breathing in or breathing out. You just do it. Same with talking. Most of us don't think often or long enough about the words we use. Even less of us think about where those words came from in the first place. Language is a powerful tool, used for good, evil or even just plain fun. Think about how lawyers can twist an innocent person's words into an admission of guilt. Crossword puzzles are counting on you to think of the wrong use or meaning of a word when you are trying to fill in the squares. Jokes are often based on word play: either funny or groan-worthy puns. Words matter. When words are strung together to form sentences, they mean even more. Bryson's Mother Tongue is nothing short of a run-on sentence about language facts. Page after page after page of witticisms about words. An onslaught of linguistic trivia. That is not to say I did not enjoy Mother Tongue. I found it fascinating to learn that Robert Lowth simply didn't care for the pairing of "you" and "was" and demanded it be changed to "you were." Explanation for some grammatical rules "they are because they are" is the equivalent of a parent saying "because I said so." I enjoyed learning that the word asparagus comes from the combined words sparrow and grass and that al fresco in Italian does not mean being outside, but rather, in prison. It reminded me of runner and anthropologist Dr. Tommy 'Rivs' Puzey. He taught me that you have to be careful how you pronounce Machu Picchu. The wrong emphasis could mean something completely different. Just make sure you pronounce the second 'c' in Picchu. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Dec 28, 2021 |
Where to begin? The Mother Tongue is a book which is not merely not good: it is maddeningly terrible, riddled with factual errors and utterly lacking in self-awareness. I don’t expect Bill Bryson to be clairvoyant, of course, and a book written in 1991 about the history of language can be forgiven for having predicted neither the rise of the internet nor the scientific breakthroughs that proved that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. But even setting issues like that aside, there are so many mistakes here, both in Bryson’s discussion of the English language itself and in his characterisation of the other languages he uses as comparatives.

Bryson repeatedly shows that he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about when it comes to the English language. Take this for instance:

“A rich vocabulary carries with it a concomitant danger of verbosity, as evidenced by our peculiar affection for redundant phrases, expressions that say the same thing twice: beck and call, law and order, assault and battery, null and void…”

Except that none of these are examples of redundancy? A beck is a gesture and a call is verbal; a law is a codified rule and order is a lack of chaos, and so on. What we’ve got is a use of related ideas in order to create a broader overlapping concept. He generally shows a confused understanding of a lot of grammatical concepts/parts of speech, and is inconsistent in his conception of the relationship of spelling to spoken language.

Then again, he seems to think that Pennsylvania Dutch is a form of pidgin English, so perhaps that’s unsurprising!

To focus on the languages I know best out of those he discusses—Irish, Hiberno-English, and French—is to make me sigh heavily. His discussion of Irish and Hiberno-English was full of mistakes and condescension. He claims that Irish people pronounce the word “girl” as “gull” (I said “girl” to myself in a variety of Irish accents as I made a cup of tea just now to see if I could figure out where he was coming from, and nope), says that the phonetic rendering of “Taoiseach” in English is “tea-sack”, and more. Has Bryson ever spoken to an Irish person?

He repeatedly dings Irish (and even more so Welsh) for having spellings that are bizarre, strange, overly convoluted, etc, when what he should mean is that the Irish language attaches sound values to the Latin alphabet that are different from those used by English.

(And the clue is right there in the term ‘Latin alphabet’ that it wasn’t originally crafted for use by English speakers, either.)

(Also, Irish and Welsh orthography is far more internally consistent than is that of English—but Bryson only allows the features of English to be virtues.)

The final bit of assholery is that he excuses British imperialism in Ireland and its policies both direct and indirect aimed at the destruction of the Irish language on the basis that, well, it’s given him more English-language literature to enjoy.

“We naturally lament the decline of these languages, but it's not an altogether undiluted tragedy. Consider the loss to English literature, if Joyce, Shaw, Swift, Yeats, Wilde, and Ireland's other literary masters have written in what inescapably a fringe language, their work will be as little known to us as those poets in Iceland or Norway, and that would be a tragedy indeed. No country has given the word incomparable literature per head of population than Ireland, and for that reason alone we might be excused to a small, "selfish" celebration that English was the language of her greatest writers.”

Let me draw upon all of my Irishness here, Bill, to point out first the fact that translators exist; second, that Irish writers are not writing for you; and third, fuck you, you scuttering gobshite.

Bryson’s clearly lived in England long enough to have imbibed the British combativeness towards the French. He’s sneery enough towards the Académie Française to make me eyeroll even though I think the Académie is full of jackasses, and makes bizarre pronouncements about the French language that a quick look at the dictionary would have proved wrong. (The French don’t have the breadth of vocabulary to distinguish between “man” and “gentleman”, the way English speakers do, proclaims Bryson. “Homme” and “gentilhomme”? They can’t distinguish between “mind” and “brain”! Uh, “esprit” and “cerveau”?)

And then there’s the racism. His use of “we” oscillates throughout, from encompassing British people, to American people, to a kind of Anglo-American hybrid, but there’s always the underlying assumption that the English speaker who will pick this book up will be one of the two, and almost certainly white. He refers to Spanish as an “immigrant” language to the U.S. in comparison to English, when there have been Spanish speakers in what is now the U.S. for longer than there have been English speakers, I’m pretty sure. Then there’s a strong undercurrent throughout of racialising language, making it reflect something both innate and straight-jacketing about those who speak non-English languages—“Orientals”, for example, are “inscrutable” who just can’t do honest business like those straight-talkin’ Anglo-Saxons. Then there’s absolute bullshit like this discussion of Australia:

“When the first inhabitants of the continent arrived in Botany Bay in 1788 they found a world teeming with flora, fauna, and geographical features such as they had never seen. “It is probably not too much to say,” wrote Otto Jespersen, “that there never was an instance in history when so many new names were needed.” Among the new words the Australians devised, many of them borrowed from the aborigines, were…”

That’s some magic trick, to have a land which is both entirely uninhabited when the white folks show up but which also has indigenous people living there to just offer up words for colonisers to “borrow”!

Awful. Awful. I’m now retrospectively mad, five years later, that I once attended a talk by this man. Avoid.

The audiobook narrator was also bad. Not only did he clearly do little by way of preparatory work for discussion of the non-English words (I think I replayed his attempt at the Irish word “geimhreadh” 3 or 4 times because it was that bizarre), but also did things like repeatedly pronounce “short-lived” with the same I in “lived” as in “live music.” ( )
  siriaeve | Nov 28, 2021 |
Very interesting. Well researched but not overly academic. Classic Bryson ( )
  dualmon | Nov 17, 2021 |
Suffers a bit for being very badly dated already only 20 years later

A post script updating this to the era of ubiquitous translation services and the internet/mobile devices effect on simplified English and smoothing linguistic divides would be sorely welcome ( )
  Adam_Gugliciello | Oct 26, 2021 |
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Bill Brysonautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Munoz, ClaudioAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to.
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It appears that there is no canonical title, but two distinct titles. If the canoncial title field is left blank, LibraryThing will continue to use the democratic method for populating everyone’s ‘your books’ listing (and maybe elsewhere) with the most commonly used title on LibraryThing. On 20 Jan 2014 Bill Bryson’s home page showed two distinct editions, the UK edition and the US edition, with two distinct titles. It appears that the US edition was published first but not verified.

US edition - The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way – 1 June 1990 (??)

UK edition - Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language – 1 Oct 1990 (??)

A 1991 UK edition was titled Mother Tongue: The English Language
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