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Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America's…

by Elizabeth Little

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745263,282 (3.82)6
Documents the author's travels throughout the country, where she witnesses firsthand the nation's many cultures and languages and what they say about who we are individually, socially and politically.

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Showing 5 of 5
A sort of travelogue mixed with amateur linguistic investigations. As someone who has way too many bits and pieces of French, Hebrew, etc. floating about in my head, I understand the fascination with languages, and I really appreciated learning more about the various communities in the U.S., particularly how assimilation, prejudice and educational policies have made it harder for various languages to survive. I must admit to having trouble deciphering the paragraphs of linguistic jargon, and her reviews of various cities seem gratuitous and even snarky to the point of being rude. Though her comments about Twilight *are* pretty funny. ( )
  bostonian71 | Jul 27, 2015 |
A really fun book about speech patterns and the ways local folks talk in the US. If you are interested in language, give this a try.
  GypsyJon | Jun 24, 2012 |
I love travel narratives. I’m not happy if I haven’t read a good travel narrative at least once a month.

I am also fascinated with languages. I’ve been trying to learn Spanish for fifteen years now, I spent six months learning French before a trip to Paris, and I plan to learn Italian next summer.

This book, then, is a perfect book for me, a travel narrative of a woman who seeks out languages spoken around the United States. Author Elizabeth Little heads off to the American West to seek out Native American languages, goes to Louisiana to look for French and Creole, goes to North Dakota to experience the language spoken by her family - Norwegian, and ventures into the American Southwest to see how Spanish is spoken.

Very good travel narrative. I must admit that Little lost me every time she started speaking linguistics (the etymology of words was especially mind-boggling), but the truth is that the book is more travel narrative than a linguistics narrative. Thank goodness! ( )
  debnance | Jun 18, 2012 |
This fascinating book is a philologically inspired virtual road trip. Author and linguaphile Elizabeth Little traveled 25,000 miles through 46 states in a quest to investigate the history, resiliency and syntactic quirks of languages still spoken in the US. She’s out to have fun, whenever possible timing her visits to take advantage of opportunities to celebrate with the locals, but there’s also a serious side to language politics and the book ended up having more substance than she originally expected.

Among Little’s interests is discovering what it takes for a non-dominant language to survive, and the book begins, naturally enough, with chapters on the states of Montana, Arizona and Washington where Native American languages are still being spoken with varying degrees of fluency. Later chapters cover some of the languages brought over by immigrants and the communities that may or may not care about keeping those languages alive, leading Little to encounter and describe a Basque festival in Nevada, a Norwegian fair in North Dakota, a smelly plague of some grasshopper-like insect in Idaho, zealous fans of Twilight in Oregon, and a Haitian vodou botanica in Miami.

With a more sociological slant than in books written by language professionals Little explores how language choices relate to status, economic privilege, literacy and cultural identity. Her descriptions and the many tangents she goes off on are as witty and irresistible as Bill Bryson’s and, while not a linguist, her insights on language and creoles are just about as intriguing and paradigm-rearranging as John McWhorter’s. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Mar 7, 2012 |
Elizabeth Little's Trip of the Tongue is an often-amusing travelogue through the languages of the continental U.S., as well as an important argument in favor of linguistic diversity and all that it brings to the nation's culture.

At first I was somewhat frustrated by this book, thinking that Little focused a bit too much on her travels and her desire to go out drinking and not enough on the languages she was profiling. But as the book continued, I got more comfortable with her style, and I ended up quite enjoying the ride.

From Basque in Nevada to Norwegian in North Dakota to Navajo in Arizona and Creole in New Orleans, Little profiles languages from all regions of America, meeting speakers and linguists, experiencing the culture around the language, and delving into the mechanics of the languges themselves.

Finally, though, Little examines the history of American languages through the lens of prejudice and privilege which has led to the loss of many languages already, and likely the extinction of many more before many more decades have passed. The delightful romp turns into something of a paean to linguistic diversity, and this is a much more interesting book for it. ( )
  JBD1 | Feb 19, 2012 |
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