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A 4 page book review that discusses John McWhorter's fascinating text, which is provocatively entitled Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, and presents readers with the history of the development of the English language, which includes an intimate look at the grammatical idiosyncrasies that are intertwined with English's history. In so doing, McWhorter debunks popular misconceptions, as well as scholarly theories that he feels do not adequately explain the history behind language use. Bibliography lists 3 sources.
4 pages (~225 words per page)
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history. In so doing, McWhorter debunks popular misconceptions, as well as scholarly theories that he feels do not adequately explain the history behind language use. McWhorter begins his discussion
of Englishs history by arguing against misconceptions, which are: the belief that a grammar can reveal as much or more about a language as its vocabulary; a rejection of the
idea that there is a correct version of any language; and a refutation of the premise that written English in the middle ages reflected the English that was being spoken
on the street (Minervini). Additionally, McWhorter argues again those in the academic world who argue that English is "somehow a thoroughbred, pure language, having evolved independently of its Germanic
relatives" (Minervini). McWhorters argument against this stance is very persuasive. For example, he points out the similarities between English and the Celtic languages of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Specifically,
McWhorter relates these Celtic languages, such as Welch, to the use of the helping verb "do" (Orme 72). McWhorter refers to this characteristics of English as the "meaningless do" (McWhorter
2). He definitively shows that while "do" as a helping verb is not evident in Germanic or Romance languages, it is very much a feature of the Celtic languages.
Another feature that is unique to English is the way in which English uses the that "-ing thing" (McWhorter 2). In English, the present tense is "expressed not with a
bare verb, but with the progressive -ing" (McWhorter 3). The verb by itself has an entirely different meaning, which linguists term "habitual" (McWhorter 3). To illustrate this point, McWhorter gives
the example of writing an email to your mother. If asked what you are going, the reader, as an English-speaker, will respond, "Im writing," not "I write," which is the