NONFICTION

The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English

Penguin. Apr. 2018. 368p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780143131106. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781524704889. LANG
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OrangeReviewStarIn this delightful and highly readable and informative book, American-born, UK-based linguist Murphy (linguistics, Univ. of Sussex) outlines the tug and pull, jealousies, and rivalries of the English language on both sides of the pond. Is American English corrupting the "King's English" or is America "saving" the language and enhancing it? Murphy's analysis of how "fall" came into American usage as an alternative to the French "autumn" is one of many detailed examples of the symbiotic relationship between American and British English. Filled with wit and amusing asides, this well-researched, well-documented text often shows that American English is actually preserving its British cousins' linguistic origins. The difference between the "Queen's English," "Proper" English, and "Received" English is contrasted to "Standard American English." Murphy's analyses are well argued and often very amusing; her investigation of British vs. American pronunciations are particularly insightful.
VERDICT Highly recommended both to students of linguistics and general readers interested in language and culture.

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