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What is English?: And Why Should We Care? by…

What is English?: And Why Should We Care?

by Tim William Machan

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Perhaps it is inevitable; indeed, it may even be correct, that a contemporary book upon the English language should be written from an American perspective. It would be hard to argue that we Brits are still the dominant end of any relationship, special or otherwise. It does help me to be more objective about this tome: I can divest myself of most of the patriotic fervour that would have hung over my views.

The book argues that all the English speaking peoples of the world have the right to the same respect - one regional variation is no better, or worse than another and, since America took the English language and amended it to her own needs, it would be foolish for the author to suggest otherwise. It is, however, noticeable that the book concentrates on the evolution of English with a very heavy US slant. Its birth and development until the Americas were colonised is dealt with in pretty short shrift and, the post US period is given greater prominence and, to my way of thinking, the other usurpers of our British tongue, have a tougher ride than our Transatlantic cousins. There is also an, in my opinion, over long and somewhat confused history of the Second World War told from the perspective of language: as with any such specific argument, the point becomes overly stretched.

Despite these niggles, this is a worthwhile read. If one were to agree with everything in any book, then it would be a waste of time reading same: it is often in the areas that one most rejects whilst reading, that the greatest advance in one's understanding may develop. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Nov 6, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199601259, Hardcover)

What is English? Can we be as certain as we usually are when we say something is not English? To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

Finding an account that fits the constantly changing varieties of English is, Tim Machan finds, anything but simple. But he rises to the challenge, grappling with its elusive essence through episodes in its history. He looks at the ambitions of Caxton, the preoccupations of Johnson, and the eloquence of Churchill, tussles with the jargons of contemporary business, and pursues his object from rural America to James Cook's Australia. He examines creoles, pidgins, and dialects, and takes apart competing histories showing their assumptions and prejudices. Finally he reveals the stable category English, resting paradoxically within its constantly mutating forms and varieties.

This is a book for everyone interested in English and the role of language in society and culture.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:29 -0400)

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