Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

Topics: English language, Dialect, Germanic languages Pages: 10 (3805 words) Published: August 28, 2013
April Wendy Pearce
Historia de la lengua Inglesa

¨Mother tongue¨ By Bill Bryson. (The story of the English Language) Chapter One: The worlds Language.
This first chapter concentrates on describing the position of the English language nowadays, comparing it anecdotally to others: French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Gaelic (Scottish), Italians and Welsh among many others to introduce the complexity of languages. It is commonly known now that English is the most wide-spoken language, it has been picked as an ¨international¨ language; It is the preferred language for business transactions, education, travel as well as the words that are adopted in to other languages from English. The richness of its vocabulary is on one hand a positive thing, as in English you can give many different shades and distinguish because there are so many synonyms but on the other hand this creates a complex vocabulary and the need for thesauruses that other languages don´t have. This vocabulary, as with many languages vocabulary, is sometimes conditions by the countries need, Bryson gives many examples, one example is that Eskimos have words for fifty types of snow. This shows how practical reasons can change a language just as much as history itself. English has certain flexibility. This has good things, as it has easy word ordering but is also deceivingly complex, not so many pronouns, it is free of gender, lot´s of synonyms and it is a more concise yet in some circles, English tends to use more ¨waffle and jargon¨ (Page 9) this and the rules of grammar end up perplexing non-native people trying to learn it. Bryson tries to explain that all languages have positive sides and negative sides this deceptive complexity affects English yet it has thrived. He gives numerous examples of how English is misused all over the world he partially blames the translating process.

Chapter Two: The Dawn of Language.

The second chapter starts with the beginning of humanity and the question of where does English come from, and it begins considering the dawn of language as something that happened all over the world at approximately the same time, as Bryson puts it: almost as if an alarm clock went off inside the homo sapiens-sapiens this ideas is backed by the amount of similarities between languages that were thousands of miles away and had had no contact. Bryson starts with the Neanderthal’s who started were quite unique, then came the Homo Sapiens- Sapiens of Cro-Magnon and finishes with the fall of Rome. It seems that all languages derive from an initial one. English comes from the Germanic family; which was divided in to North Germanic, West Germanic and East Germanic. From the north came all the Scandinavian languages; from the west Germanic came English, German and Dutch and the East Germanic gave us Gothic and Vandalic, both have slowly died out. Lithuanian is the language that has changed the least of all the Indo-European languages; they can even understand simple Sanskrit.

Chapter Three: Global language.

Languages all have the same purpose; to communicate they do this in very different ways, through gender. The differences can be due to culture; speech conventions, plural or no plural... All languages are born and they live and die out or change. When languages are formed they can be called Creoles, nowadays there are about 2.700, in most countries there are two native languages and countless dialects. This number is only an approximation as languages die out and new pidgins and creoles are born. Bryson says that ¨the tendency is to absorption and amalgamation¨ (page 28). All languages change, (except written Icelandic) English has changed dramatically but thankfully has survived. The only language that is steadily increasing is Scottish Celtic, while many others are dying out, for example Irish Celtic. There are many factors that influence this process, some blame the governments that have enforced one language over another,...
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