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Mother Tongue

The Story of the English Language

By

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd

3.8
(100)

Language:English | Number of Pages: 288 | Format: Paperback

Isbn-10: 0141040084 | Isbn-13: 9780141040080 | Publish date: 

Also available as: Hardcover , Others

Category: Education & Teaching , Foreign Language Study , Humor

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Book Description
'More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to...' Only Bill Bryson could make a book about the English language so entertaining. With his boundless enthusiasm and restless eye for the absurd, this is his astonishing tour of English. From its mongrel origins to its status as the world's most-spoken tongue; its apparent simplicity to its deceptive complexity; its vibrant swearing to its uncertain spelling and pronunciation, Bryson covers all this as well as the many curious eccentricities that make it as maddening to learn as it is flexible to use. Bill Bryson's classic "Mother Tongue" is a highly readable and hilarious tale of how English came to be the world's language.
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  • 4

    Lettura interessante. Un viaggio nella lingua inglese, dalle origini ad oggi, analizzando etimologie, modi di dire, dialetti etc. Il tutto raccontato alla maniera di Bill Bryson e quindi in modo scorrevole e condito con humor q.b.

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  • 2

    Inaccurate and outdated

    I had enjoyed "Made in America" so much that I had great expectations for "Mother Tongue" as well... I was really disappointed instead. So many inaccuracies about Italian and other languages I know raise doubts about the accuracy of the rest. The book was published about two decades ago, and in s ...continue

    I had enjoyed "Made in America" so much that I had great expectations for "Mother Tongue" as well... I was really disappointed instead. So many inaccuracies about Italian and other languages I know raise doubts about the accuracy of the rest. The book was published about two decades ago, and in some parts it feels so terribly outdated - it would be very interesting to compare the last chapter's data on Hispanic presence in the US with this year's census!

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  • 5

    Questo autore, brillantissimo sia quando scrive di viaggi ch edi altro, fa in questo libro un excursus sulla storia e sulle atranezze della lingua inglese, che oltre ad essere divertente, e' anche molto piu' istruttivo di qualsiasi corso di inglese.
    Naturalmente e' destinato a chi con la lingua h ...continue

    Questo autore, brillantissimo sia quando scrive di viaggi ch edi altro, fa in questo libro un excursus sulla storia e sulle atranezze della lingua inglese, che oltre ad essere divertente, e' anche molto piu' istruttivo di qualsiasi corso di inglese. Naturalmente e' destinato a chi con la lingua ha gia' una buona dimestichezza. segnalo anche "Troublesome words dello stesso autore", sempre per l'utilita' pratica di chi deve scrivere in inglese per lavoro oper altri motivi.

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  • 2

    So, this is the story of English... and written by Bill Bryson... THE Bill Bryson!


    Once upon a time, England was home of some civilized Celtic people who adopt Roman culture. But when Rome fell apart, the barbaric Angie and Saxon tribes manageded to cross the sea and conquered Celtic peopl ...continue

    So, this is the story of English... and written by Bill Bryson... THE Bill Bryson!

    Once upon a time, England was home of some civilized Celtic people who adopt Roman culture. But when Rome fell apart, the barbaric Angie and Saxon tribes manageded to cross the sea and conquered Celtic people and replace their language. So the German part of English is mainly Saxon... a language of peasant and ordinary people.

    Then, it came Viking people, brought Norse part of language.

    And then, came another race of Viking people, but they setteled down in France. They even had a provice name called Normandy in France. So, these French-speaking Normandy people brought French to England as well. For a few hundred years, French is the elegant language in court and palace. English is the langauge of peasant... I don't believe that with such a tight connection, English and French could be such an enemy of each other for so many years, lasting to even nowadays.

    Well, one of the reason could be, the Normandy people's French is a Southern dialet, very different from the Paris French. And after so many years in England, Normandy's French was inteligible for French people...

    So, this make English having so many synonmies since it mixes the vocabulary of different language origins.

    I like Bill Bryson, he is a good writter. But I have to say, his chapter on spelling is absurb.

    He spent two pages to descrip Chinese, which are mostly wrong. I have to double check the date of publication. I thought Bill Bryson is contemporary enough not to make this kind of mistakes... Well, this book was published in 1990. Oh, I don't believe that American can be so ignorant even nowadays... despite the fact that there are millions of Chinese in USA.

    First of all, what is radical??? Bill mentioned 212 radicals that make Chinese characters... come on! I suppose he means the dictionary "busho". But, Chinese characters are like drawing. Of course there are a lot more than 212 basic structures la! Also, the Chinese writting of small is wrong... I cannot tell what it is if I don't read the English explanation. And, Chinese typewriters are NOT enormous! Gee, Bill is quoting something pre-computer where each character has to be pick up individually that was used in newspaper in the old time. Nowadays, I can type Chinese using English Windows or Mac. And Chinese typing is NOT slow. The Chinese input method I use can type a Chinese word using 6 keystroke at most. I can easily type more than 20 Chinese word a minute, and I am not a quick typist at all. What is totally wrong is: There is no Chinese word with two women and it does not mean quarrel. And three women in Chinese means rape, not gossip. China has adopted Romanized Pinyin system to dennote the pronounciation. So, if a Chinese wants to use alphabet for filing, he is quite free to use it. So, the office won't collapse if the Chinese secretary dies! And, who cares about Scrabble? Is it a lost that you cannot play Scrabble in Chinese... haha... I think Scrabble was invented to force poor English kids to do spelling.

    I don't believe Bill can make so many mistakes in two pages. Make me doubtful about the accuracy of his discription of languages other than English.

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  • 3

    Entertaining Stories About Language

    Entertaining book on English and languages in general. Bryson is his characteristic self: amusing and informed.


    I marked this book down one star because I had the feeling that Bryson's facts were a bit dubious. I have since googled this and it seems there are many people who think the book ...continue

    Entertaining book on English and languages in general. Bryson is his characteristic self: amusing and informed.

    I marked this book down one star because I had the feeling that Bryson's facts were a bit dubious. I have since googled this and it seems there are many people who think the book is a little flimsy on the facts. He apparently relies too easily on folk etymology (ordinary people's opinion about the origin of words) which is very entertaining but not correct from a linguistic or factual sense.

    I found the chapter dealing with languages like Chinese one of the most fascinating only to learn that some native speakers thought Bryson's "facts" about Chinese to be very inaccurate!

    Still, a very entertaining book (four stars!) but beware that Bryson is no linguist and while very amusing and enjoyable, his stories about language need to be taken with a large dose of scepticism! The book is, however, a very fun starting point for anyone exploring language as an exciting subject.

    Perhaps the most important aspect of this book for me was how it did shed light on the constant development and change in English. Rules of grammar today were not there yesterday, and yesterday's rules are often discarded. No-one who reads a book like this can ever again be confident that there is one and only one "correct" usage or spelling in English - language changes constantly and we sometimes need to relax on the "correctness" of things in case we miss out on the creative opportunities presented by bending the rules a little. Or a lot. Much of what is English today started out as slang, a mistake, or pure invention (as in the case of Shakespeare who invented more words out of thin air than anyone!).

    Highly recommended for its entertainment value.

    The paperback binding of this edition is nothing special, the paper average pulp quality, though not prone to cracking the glued spine if due care is taken.

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  • 3

    Bryson è Bryson.
    Il suo forte, si sa, sono i libri di viaggio, ma, talvolta, non disdegna digressioni su temi enciclopedici, come in questo caso, al limite della pedanteria.
    Si parla della lingua inglese (motivo per cui credo non si sia nemmeno provato a tradurlo in italiano).
    Le ...continue

    Bryson è Bryson.
    Il suo forte, si sa, sono i libri di viaggio, ma, talvolta, non disdegna digressioni su temi enciclopedici, come in questo caso, al limite della pedanteria.
    Si parla della lingua inglese (motivo per cui credo non si sia nemmeno provato a tradurlo in italiano).
    Le sue origini, le sue stranezze, la ricchezza del suo vocabolario, la trasformazione delle parole nel tempo, l'ibridizzazione con le altre lingue e le immancabili diatribe sull'inglesità o meno dell lingua parlata negli Stati Uniti.

    Mi hanno colpito, tuttavia, due cose:
    a) il fatto che tutte le cose appena elencate Bill le esalta come bizzarrie tipiche della lingua inglese e soltanto di essa, quando chiunque parli e e conosca una lingua ricca e complessa come l'italiano o abbia studiato una lingua, ad esempio il greco antico, per conoscerla a fini culturali e non per parlarla all'aeroporto, sa che il nostro sta scoprendo l'acqua calda;
    b) i sistematici errori compiuti dal nostro quando, perso dalla necessità di confronti con le altre lingue, tira in ballo l'italiano. Non ne becca una. Rimane quindi il dubbio che se prende cantonate analoghe quando divaga in altre lingue, circa metà del libro è da buttare.

    Lettura interessante, quindi, e a tratti anche illuminante, perché all'inglese io mi sono accostato con approccio utilitaristico e non culturale, ma che lascia comunque l'amaro in bocca di un libro scritto da uno (un po') ignorante, per un pubblico DECISAMENTE ignorante.

    Vi lascio con una chicca: lo sapevate che, secondo lui, la misteriosa parola schiacchenze in italiano, vuol dire "fare conoscenza" ed è un imbarbarimento dell'inglese "to shake hands"...
    Barbara sarà tua sorella...

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  • 3

    Good, but not great

    I really enjoyed this book, an entertaining and humous look at the origins of the English language, its various dialects and the roles other languages have played in giving it such a diverse selection of words and spelilings. The reasons why ough has so many different ways of being pronounced, an ...continue

    I really enjoyed this book, an entertaining and humous look at the origins of the English language, its various dialects and the roles other languages have played in giving it such a diverse selection of words and spelilings. The reasons why ough has so many different ways of being pronounced, and the reasons behind much of the illogical aspects of English.

    Despite the good points I was a little disapointed in this book.
    It seemed very dated, which in itself is not something I can really criticise it for, after all I doubt even Bryson can tell the future. Maybe it is just that I enjoyed his other books so much that this was a bit of a let down. And of course he says in the book that he doesn't see any future for the Irish language past the start of the next century, so that was four years ago. And afaik Irish seemd to be going from strenth to strength. Of course it is still a minority language, but irish names are now hugely popular, not just among the D4-ers. Irish is becoming more and more part of eeryday life, just take a look at today fm's gift grub sketches; Radio Roy as gaeilge is a fav of mine, but even the quiz with Coilín Farrell is amusing.

    Níl alán gaeilge agam, agus tá mo litriú úfaiseach (mar a dúirt Bosco), ach tá suim agam san teanga.
    Not only does he say it is a dying language, but he describes it as gaelic (irish), but the only examples of gaelic he seems to use in the book are Scottish, which although similar is different.

    But that is not really why I wasn't too impressed with this book. It is the inaccuracies such as describing an English accent! Now there is as much an English accent as there is an Irish one, that is there isn't one. The accent he was talking about, was, I think the BBC or upperclass accent. But the majority of British people do not speak like that, even those without a strong regional accent are more likely to have a slight hint of their area and not the "english accent."

    So I did enjoy the book, it has Bryson's usual humour but I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be

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