The Metamorphosis of English: Versions of Other Languages


Beginning with the motley crew of invaders who mingled with the Gaelic, Norse, Latin, and French speakers to produce a small nation of empire-builders who would carry their language to the far corners of the globe, the story of the birth and migration of the English language is well known to us through the popular works of Robert McNeil, Robert McCrum, and Bill Bryson. Swiderski expands and extends our understanding of the "predatory" aspects of the language as he shows how English acquires and is transformed by the myriad other languages with which it comes into contact. Swiderski's examples begin with major world languages, especially Spanish and Chinese, and then go on to look at the less considered connections with remote and extinct languages. Through Swiderski's lens, English takes on the look of an agglutinative museum of linguistic artifacts in danger of having no describable identity or common fabric. Each speaker's variety of English is as individual as his or her genetic makeup; it is both so universal and so dissimilar that "English" as we know it may be endangered as a separate language.


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