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Publisher's Summary

Linguistics, the study of language, has a reputation for being complex and inaccessible. But here's a secret: There's a lot that's quirky and intriguing about how human language works-and much of it is downright fun to learn about. But with so many potential avenues of exploration, it can often seem daunting to try to understand it. Where does one even start?
In these twenty-four 15-minute lectures by one of the best-known popularizes of language, you'll discover a delightful way to get accessible, bite-sized introductions to language. Using the English alphabet as a unique, offbeat way to approach the subject, Professor McWhorter has crafted a hopscotch tour of some of the field's major topics, hot-button issues, and more.
You'll learn why it can actually be OK to use slang like "LOL." Why English speakers don't use words like "thou" and "thee" anymore. What makes "mama" and "papa" a child's first words-in many languages. How popular rhymes like "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe") actually derive from the words for numbers in an early relative of Welsh. Why "like" is here to stay in common American speech. And much more.
These and other fascinating topics are all delivered in Professor McWhorter's light-hearted yet informative teaching style, which makes this series essential for anyone looking for a welcoming window into the quirks, curiosities, and intricacies of how language works. Filled with humor, whimsy, and no shortage of insights, it's a fast-paced tour of the same territory linguists tread each and every day.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2012 The Great Courses (P)2012 The Teaching Company, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jacobus on 05-06-14

A genious Miscelany of linguistic topics

Prof. John McWhorter, linguist and English lecturer at the University of Columbia fires off like a rocket bringing linguistics to the listener through 24 short 15 minute mini-lectures from A-Z. He uses the alphabet to introduce the listener to some interesting facts about the mishmash of languages spoken in the world.

He starts the course at an enormous pace and peppers you with a lot of information. Initially I thought that I would opt out due to the pace against which he presents. I managed to stuck in there and was not disappointed. He knows a lot about languages.

From a South African perspective just the following: Xhosa is not pronounced Chosa as if it should start with a fricative, but with a clicking sound like that of the clicking languages that he describes. His pronunciation of the language called Afrikaans was also lacking. Despite that, he brings tremendous insight into languages and their structures. Highlights are "H for Hobbits" and "R for R-lessness"

If you want a fun-filled and highly informative course, this one is for you.

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Carole T. on 01-22-15


Now this is something fun and different from the venerable "Great Courses." I love them, but they tend to be considerably longer and more scholarly than "Language A to Z".

Not that Professor McWhorter doesn't know his stuff. He is a speaker who helps put the "great" in these courses! I've listened to more than one of his audios and really respect his knowledge and teaching ability.

Whether or not you are interested in linguistics, I would recommend listening to this course. It goes by in a minute (every lecture is only 15 of them!), and there's lots of pop culture references and interesting revelations about the origins of some of our strangest sayings.

This is a great highway listen - and an enjoyable way to learn something in 15 minutes!

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Anand Manu on 01-17-17

Great easy to understand intro into the subject

this is a great way to start to learn and become more interesred in lingusitics.
the narator is fun, interesting and makes the talks fun and engaging.

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