A fantastic book! I have not come across anyone, not even Steven Pinker, who does such a good job of showing you how exciting
linguistics can be. His bold and unconventional history of the English language was full of ideas I'd never seen before, but which made excellent sense. And, before I get into the review proper, a contrite apology to Jordan. She gave it to me six months ago as a birthday present, and somehow I didn't open it until last week. Well, Jordan, thank you, and I'll try to be more alert next time!
So, the book. I'm a linguist of sorts myself, though a rather different kind to McWhorter: his work has centered around the things that happen to grammar when different languages come into contact with each other, while I use grammar as a way to construct speech-enabled software. But, as you'll see a bit later, the fact that we both give a central place to grammar means that our research directions have more to do with each other than you might first think. In Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue
, McWhorter looks at the history of the English language from his unusual viewpoint. The language has clearly changed a lot since it came into existence; why did it evolve the way it did? McWhorter's answer is that the big changes happened when speakers of different languages started mingling together. He focuses on three changes of this kind. The rest of this review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations