The Story of English: Including When It Wasn't English at All

John McWhorter

Contrary to the common conception, the most interesting thing about English then and now is that it was worse then than it is now. English began as a language quite unrecognizable as anything we would consider our own language, and evolved into an Old English that seems more like German to us. It then became the language we are familiar with because of encounters with first, the people who lived in Britain before English speakers got there, and second, Viking invaders. The transformation of English has continued through the emergence of creole languages like Jamaican patois and Gullah, as well as Black English.

John McWhorter received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. He is currently teaching in the English Department at Columbia University. His research interests include creole languages, language contact, and language change. He is the author of several books, including Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English and The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language.