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LINGUIST List 18.3801

Wed Dec 19 2007

Books: Sociolinguistics/Typology: McWhorter

Editor for this issue: Hannah Morales <hannahlinguistlist.org>


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Directory
        1.    Elyse Turr, Language Interrupted: McWhorter


Message 1: Language Interrupted: McWhorter
Date: 17-Dec-2007
From: Elyse Turr <elyse.turroup.com>
Subject: Language Interrupted: McWhorter
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Title: Language Interrupted
Subtitle: Signs of Non-Native Acquistion in Standard Grammars
Published: 2007
Publisher: Oxford University Press
                http://www.oup.com/us

Author: John McWhorter
Hardback: ISBN: 9780195309805 Pages: 304 Price: U.S. $ 74.00
Abstract:

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.

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
                            Typology

Written In: English (eng )

See this book announcement on our website:
http://linguistlist.org/get-book.html?BookID=33079


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