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The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between British and American English
Contributor(s): Murphy, Lynne

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ISBN: 0143131109     ISBN-13: 9780143131106
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
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Binding Type: Paperback
Published: April 2018

Annotation: "An American linguist teaching in England explores the sibling rivalry between British and American English. "If Shakespeare were alive today, he'd sound like an American." "English accents are the sexiest." "Americans have ruined the English language." "Technology means everyone will have to speak the same English." Such claims about the English language are often repeated but rarely examined. Professor Lynne Murphy is on the linguistic front line. In The Prodigal Tongue she explores the fiction and reality of the special relationship between British and American English. By examining the causes and symptoms of American Verbal Inferiority Complex and its flipside, British Verbal Superiority Complex, Murphy unravels the prejudices, stereotypes and insecurities that shape our attitudes to our own language. With great humo(u)r and new insights, Lynne Murphy looks at the social, political and linguistic forces that have driven American and British English in different directions: how Americans got from centre to center, why British accents are growing away from American ones, and what different things we mean when we say estate, frown, or middle class. Is anyone winning this war of the words? Will Yanks and Brits ever really understand each other?"--
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
English language; Social aspects; United States.
English language; Social aspects; Great Britain.
English language; Variation; United States.
BISAC Categories:
- Language Arts & Disciplines | Reference
Dewey: 427/.9
LCCN: 2017057417
Academic/Grade Level: General Adult
Book type: Non-Fiction
Physical Information: 8.50" H x 5.50" W x 0.75" (0.65 lbs) 360 pages
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): Lynne Murphy is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Sussex. Born and raised in New York State, she studied Linguistics at the Universities of Massachusetts and Illinois, before starting her academic career in South Africa and Texas. Since 2000, she has lived in Brighton, England, where she has acquired an English husband, an English daughter, and an alter ego: Lynneguist, author of the award-winning blog Separated by a Common Language.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2018 January #5)

Murphy, an American linguistics professor, longtime U.K. resident, and creator of the Separated by a Common Language blog, continues her investigation of the unique relationship between British and American English in this thoughtful, funny, and approachable book. Murphy frames the divide in terms of illness: the British are pathologically afflicted by "Amerilexicosis" (obsessive vitriol toward Americanisms in British English), while Americans neurotically suffer from "AVIC" (American verbal inferiority complex). Murphy uses the drama of these opposing anxieties to draw attention to grammatical minutiae and spelling differences and to explain esoteric linguistic concepts such as prototypes in terms of how bacon doesn't refer to the same thing in the U.S. and the U.K. because "the set of properties that makes something supremely bacon-y" is different in each place. She also shares surprising factual tidbits—Oxford University Press's British and American dictionary databases only overlap in 78% of their definitions—and revealing cultural divergences—saying ate as et is considered standard pronunciation in the U.K. but is often thought of as a trait of backwoods accents in the U.S. The book's momentum comes from Murphy's witty presentation, but its real power comes from its commitment to inquiry and its profound belief that "communication involves a million little acts of faith." Agent: Daniel Conway, DHH Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.
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