978-0-685-03598-6 / 9780685035986

The Miracle of Language


Publisher:Fawcett Books



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About the book:

This book is about the English language, it's nature, history & development (including urban legends of etymologies), & how it is taught. The author makes a good case that English, like Chinese, is a distributive language (word positioning determines meaning) vs. Latin et al which are inflective languages (word endings, such as cases, determine meaning). p. 152: "Any careful examination of the so-called parts of speech will reveal that they mean very little...They do not reveal the functioning of Modern English. The grammar of an inflected language, Latin, has been forced upon a distributed language, English, which has been wrenched in an attempt to make it fit the alien grammar." Therefore, it is absurd to judge English by Latin standards & educators should modify their methods of teaching English to reflect this. Educators should admit that p. 219: "Words mean what they mean by common consent, so a given spelling, pronunciation, or construction is "right" or "wrong" depending upon its currency" & p. 218: "Adjectives often cannot be distinguished from adverbs & that words like up, out, off & by are frequently not prepositions but some part of the verb or complement." Furthermore, he argues that English has by far the most words, the greatest flexibility & precision, & virtually the only books of synonyms reflecting this-- p. 54: "Most speakers of other languages are not aware that such books exist." Furthermore, p. 236: "A movement from inflection as a grammatical device toward distribution seems to be a movement toward a modern world" & p. 238: "English has by all odds the best prospect of becoming a world language." He points out that historically, languages follow financial success vs. political success; daily usage (e.g. Anglo-Saxon) triumphs over political conquest (Norman French). As he perceptively notes: p. 17: "If language is intimately related to being human, then when we study language we are, to a remarkable degree.

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