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Home » Books » Arts & Photography » Language Arts » Linguistics

The Mother Tongue

By Bill Bryson

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Format: Paperback, 272 pages
Published In: United States, 01 October 2001
With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson--the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent--brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can't), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world's largest growth industries.


"Complex and maddeningly illogical though it is, English is spoken by more than 300 million people around the world...Its story has been told before, but seldom as deftly or as memorably...An enthralling excursion...A motherlode of delectable trivia."--Burt Hochburg, "The New York Times Book Review""Diverting and richly anecdotal...Bryson is an unalloyed fan who relishes the language's versatility, verb hoard and vast vocabulary."--Robert Taylor, "Boston Globe""Vastly informative and vastly entertaining...A scholarly and fascinating book."--Fred S. Holley, "Los Angeles Times"

EAN: 9780380715435
ISBN: 0380715430
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Dimensions: 20.22 x 13.51 x 1.65 centimetres (0.20 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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2 review(s)
All Reviews
Sue on
This is one of those books you have to have in your own bookshelf! It was lent to me and I could not put it down - it's brilliant and funny.
The language is easy to read, even though it is all about how crazy and unorganised the English language is. I laughed and had lots of ooohh and aahhh moments as I read this man's experience of trying to teach others our mother tongue.
I found it has improved my ability to impart language skills onto students, through a new awareness of how silly some of the words we use are.
An excellent reference book, and excellent light read, and unlimited humour. Thoroughly recommend this book to everyone!
Colin on
This is one of the most entertaining and informative books on the English language I have ever read – it is certainly the funniest. Bill Bryson is a smooth, highly readable writer and his exploration of the English language – looking at its history, the use of words (even the development of swear words if you’re interested in that), borrowings from other languages – is utterly fascinating. If you are not normally the sort of person interested in language in this way, then this is the book to read. Highly entertaining, and very funny in many places. One of my favourite books.

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