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The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got…

The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way (original 1990; edition 1990)

by Bill Bryson

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6,200122981 (3.87)201
Title:The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (1990), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (1990)

  1. 30
    The Adventure of English: 500AD to 2000 : The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg (John_Vaughan)
  2. 20
    A History of the English Language by Albert C. Baugh (Mrs.Stansbury)
    Mrs.Stansbury: This is an academic version of 'Mother Tongue' this one covers about 85% of the same material but in much greater detail and depth. The maps and charts are fantastic.
  3. 21
    The Story of Language by Mario Pei (jsoos)
    jsoos: A more general treatment, not limited to English
  4. 00
    The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories by Merriam-Webster (VivienneR)
  5. 01
    The Cambridge encyclopedia of language by David Crystal (kevinashley)
    kevinashley: Crystal's work is more scholarly in tone but he's an equally accessible writer - and more comprehensive and accurate. If English, rather than language in general, is your particular interest you may find his books on English more interesting (I haven't read those.)… (more)
  6. 02
    Talk to the Hand : The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life (or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door) by Lynne Truss (mikeg2)

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» See also 201 mentions

English (118)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
"I wasn't sure whether this was the book I read many years ago…and made a point of forgetting. Indeed it was. If you have a passing interest in linguistics then this book might be for you--it will make good bathroom reading. But if you want real information about the evolution of the English language you'll need to seek elsewhere. In fact the first chapter will give you all of the results of historical analysis that Bryson has garnared from his readings--presented in a simplified manner for people who don't particularly feel the need to study the subject in depth. Who this book is NOT for: anyone who wants more than a list of ""verbal oddities of the English language"". If you want an explanation of how the rules of English orthography and grammar have changed over the years, the whys and wherefores of these changes along with the heroes and villains in the process, you'll have to read the ""sources"" that inspired Bryson to produce this comic book version of ""language history"". It's not that the changes in word structure and meaning aren't interesting, but they definitely are not the ALL of our language. Forgive me if i'm offended, but for Bryson to say that no one knows the derivation of ""sound bite""--among other phrases--implies to me that he either didn't bother to research the phrase or ignored/forgot what he read.

Again, if you want a ""Cliff Notes"" version of the evolution of the English language--along with some verbal tidbits to entertain you for a few moments while you're waiting for the phone to ring--then you'll enjoy this book. Other than that, I found very little substantive in it." ( )
  majackson | Nov 10, 2018 |
Yep, more [a:Bill Bryson|7|Bill Bryson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1189096502p2/7.jpg]. Why not? I was in the mood.

Sadly, this book is already rather out of date. The field of linguistics is constantly changing from day to day, let alone around twenty years down the line. Has it really been that long? Wow.

Anyway, this is a good introductory text to the subject. It fails to go in depth into the subject of linguistics in general, but it's nice if you just want to dip a few toes in. Entertaining to read, filled with irreverence and rather more amusing stories than I expected, this is a quick easy read. Well, easy apart from the Welsh sections.

I did learn a fair bit from the text, more of it made me think, but it could do without the final chapter these days. It made me miss some of my anthropology textbooks of yore, and makes me want to link to stories about Star Wars having Navajo subtitles in an effort to revive the language. It also made my fingers itch to update the text on how Irish is making a bit of a comeback thanks to some new programs... It may die as a first language outside of Galway and Donegal, but as a second language it's really quite popular outside of Ireland.

Quite a fun book. Gotta love [a:Bill Bryson|7|Bill Bryson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1189096502p2/7.jpg]. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
A lengthy discussion of the evolution of the English language. It was published back in 1990, which actually worked in its favor because it meant a refreshing lack of discussion of chat speak and emojis. There were a lot of really interesting little bits, like how we know how words used to be pronounced through common misspellings. Definitely recommended for lovers of language - particularly our own. ( )
  melydia | May 12, 2018 |
I read this on-and-off when in between other books. It was my first Bryson. I really enjoyed it. I find the subject matter very interesting. I loved Bryson's writing style. He injected just the right amount of humor and kept it from being dry and boring, which could have easily happened. The only negative was that it was written so long ago and many of the facts and figures are horribly outdated. I would have loved to gotten an update on many things mentioned. This book has definitely whet my appetite for incorporating more nonfiction into my regular reading. ( )
  Aseleener | Mar 24, 2018 |
I actually read this book several years ago and found it an interesting introduction relating to the English language. English really is the mother of all mongrel languages and this book presents that information in a funny light.

I remember when I was 20, taking a course at university on early English language. It was pretty much like German. The only thing I can remember (at the age of 38) was the sentence, 'min betst fréond wæs sámhál giesterdæg' or...my best friend was sick yesterday.

I have studied several languages at school level (not very well, mind), and truly English must be the hardest to learn. It is astounding that English had become the lingua franca of our day. Surely the simple phonetics and tenses of Japanese are easier!! I would despise learning English...there, their and they're? how awful! I'd give up!

After reading this book I consider myself very lucky for speaking English as a first language. It is, however, a fascinating read regarding the history of the language.
( )
  KatiaMDavis | Dec 19, 2017 |
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More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to.
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It appears that there is no canonical title, but two distinct titles. If the canoncial title field is left blank, LibraryThing will continue to use the democratic method for populating everyone’s ‘your books’ listing (and maybe elsewhere) with the most commonly used title on LibraryThing. On 20 Jan 2014 Bill Bryson’s home page showed two distinct editions, the UK edition and the US edition, with two distinct titles. It appears that the US edition was published first but not verified.

US edition - The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way – 1 June 1990 (??)

UK edition - Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language – 1 Oct 1990 (??)

A 1991 UK edition was titled Mother Tongue: The English Language
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380715430, Paperback)

Who would have thought that a book about English would be so entertaining? Certainly not this grammar-allergic reviewer, but The Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson--a zealot--is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodize about "the colorless murmur of the schwa" with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every sentence, that carries the book.

Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and this inevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about a subject, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well as tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: "This product will self-destruct in Mother Earth."), Bryson frequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and always shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:29 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Covers the history of language from its beginnings to the explosion of English as a global language in the twentieth century.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141037466, 0141040084

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