The word on the street: fact and fable about American English

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Plenum Trade, 1998 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 294 pages
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In The Word on the Street, John McWhorter reveals our American English in all its variety, beauty, and expressiveness. Debunking the myth of a "pure" standard English, he considers the speech patterns and accents of many regions and ethnic groups in the U.S. and demonstrates how language evolves. He takes up the tricky question of gender-neutral pronouns. He dares to ask, "Should we translate Shakespeare?" Focusing on whether how our children speak determines how they learn, he presents the controversial Ebonics debate in light of his research on dialects and creoles. The Word on the Street frees us to truly speak our minds. It is John McWhorter's answer to William Safire, transformed here into everybody's Aunt Lucy, who insists on correcting our grammar and making us feel slightly embarrassed about our everyday use of the language. ("To whom," she will insist, and "don't split your infinitives!") He reminds us that we'd better accept the fact that language is always changing - not only slang, but sound, syntax, and words' meanings - and get on with the business of communicating effectively with one another.

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The word on the street: fact and fable about American English

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In the first section of this enlightening book, McWhorter (linguistics, Berkeley) examines language as "a system that is at all times on its way to changing into a different one." Not only are new ... Read full review

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Contents

Introduction
1
Lava Lamps and Language
7
The Linguistic Melting Pot
35
Copyright

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About the author (1998)

John McWhorter is Associate Professor of Linguistics at University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Word on the Street: Fact and Fable About American English and two books about Pidgin and Creole languages.