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Language A to Z Lecture

Language A to Z

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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

What Members Say

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Performance


There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

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  • Jacobus
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    6/05/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • C. Telfair
    Shepherdstown, WV, United States
    22/01/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gobsmacked!"

    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!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • John S.
    Seattle, WA United States
    24/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well worth a credit"

    Yes, the author does get carried away with his own schtick at times; however, he's usually informative and funny enough to easily carry what could be dry subject matter if handled differently.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Carolyn
    Shoreline, WA, United States
    14/06/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A wild ride"
    Would you listen to Language A to Z again? Why?

    I may well listen to parts of this again it was one of the most entertaining courses I have listened to. This professor seems brilliant and almost hypomanic, with funny asides and facilitating insights into the nature and meaning of language.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Language A to Z?

    I loved the part where he speculates about the change in complexity of language on the island of Flores. He makes you hope it's is because of the hobbits, but he offers a less exciting and probably more realistic explanation as well. I also liked hearing him pronounce and talk about the click languages. The origin of the loss of Rs on the east coast and England was also interesting.


    Have you listened to any of Professor John McWhorter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have never heard this professor before.


    If you could give Language A to Z a new subtitle, what would it be?

    A manic romp through the wonderful world of language.


    Any additional comments?

    Thank you again audible for including the Great Courses.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Ted Smith
    Salt Lake City
    4/05/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thoroughly Enjoyable"
    Would you listen to Language A to Z again? Why?

    Absolutely. This isn't serious linguistics, but more a picaresque trip through some great linguistic stories (which teach some linguistics).

    Professor McWhorter is a compelling lecturer and natural storyteller. And he knows linguistics.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Danny Kopping
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    13/05/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Masterful McWhorter"
    Where does Language A to Z rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Very high - fascinating listening, perfect for in-car or in-bed listening. Short, digestible chapters


    What did you like best about this story?

    McWhorter's presentation skills are superb. He is witty, insightful and informative


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Alan
    Sunrise, FL, United States
    21/06/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What a great listen."

    Professor McWhorter is FANTASTIC to listen to. I would give him 7 stars for performance but Audible only allows a maximum of 5 stars. The delivery and style are exhilarating. Just the right blend of wit adds to this wonderful listen. Don.t take my word for it, listen to the sample.

    Where I fault the series is that way too much information is presented here for the introductory course. I did manage to totally enjoy this listen even though I felt at times over my head.

    I totally recommend this audiobook.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Angela
    Knoxville, TN, USA
    13/06/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A lecture series as entertainment"

    This is an interesting topic read by a skilled lecturer. No bad stuff happens in it - you won't cry, although you might laugh - and you can forget about politics and global warming and warfare for awhile - and just learn about something that evolves naturally - language. Each lecture is 15 minutes long, so there are no great demands on your time if you can only listen in bits and pieces. Well worth the credit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • G
    5/05/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic Listen!"
    Would you listen to Language A to Z again? Why?

    Yes, it was an informative and fun listen.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The sections are compact and you know which letter is coming next!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    IA, USA
    3/05/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Trival Pursuit: Language Edition. Loved it!"

    A quick introduction to the evolution of languages. Fun and fascinating. Definitely going to pick up some more McWhorter. He was a great lecturer/narrator, and the information was almost as much fun as he was.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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