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Title: Language Interrupted
Subtitle: Signs of Non-Native Acquistion in Standard Grammars
Written By: John H McWhorter
Description:

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.

Publication Year: 2007
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Typology
Issue: All announcements sent out by The LINGUIST List are emailed to our subscribers and archived with the Library of Congress.
Click here to see the original emailed issue.

Versions:
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0195309804
ISBN-13: 9780195309805
Pages: 304
Prices: U.S. $ 74.00