I finished Bill Bryson’s book about the English language, Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way, a couple of days ago. It was at times an entertaining read, and I think anyone who is interested in the English language or teaches English might want to read it. I found the chapter on the development of English from Old English to Modern English particularly interesting. Bryson’s wry observations about the strangeness of English are peppered throughout the book. However, he does rely a bit on the same few scholars (Otto Jesperson and Mario Pei come up a lot), and I felt that the book became less interesting as it went on to the point that I had to force myself to finish it (I’d gone too far to go back).
The biggest problem I had with the book, however, is that it is now dated in the age of the Internet. The book was published in the early 1990s. Since the book was published, English has become even more essential for world business as it has become the language of most of the Internet. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but feel it needs to have a new edition with Bryson’s analysis of the Internet’s impact on the development of English. Without such an analysis, it doesn’t feel complete.
2 thoughts on “The Mother Tongue”
I love language, too, so I also picked up Bryson's Made in America, which is about the evolution of American English. It was published in 1994, so while there is some mention of computer hardware, there's nothing about the internet. It was a fascinating read, though.
I read the book years ago, Dana, and was impressed:
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