The United States of English: The American Language from Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century

Highbridge Audio. Sept. 2023. 11:09 hrs. ISBN 9781696612005. $19.99. LANG
Linguist Ostler (Splendiferous Speech: How Early Americans Pioneered Their Own Brand of English) explores the development of American English and its numerous dialects, explaining how evolving changes in vocabulary and pronunciation left their mark on American English as it is spoken today. With a velvety voice, narrator Christa Lewis makes this audiobook essential, as she demonstrates various contemporary and archaic regional dialects. Ostler systematically approaches the twists and turns American speech took as it encountered different people and settings. Listeners will discover how immigration and isolation helped create some more recognizable accents, such as the Southern drawl and the nasal New England variety of speech, and how slang words and ethnolects develop to help members identify as part of a group. Listeners have a distinct advantage over print readers, as Lewis’s demonstrations pull the words out of the text and make the correct pronunciations clear.
VERDICT Ostler’s linguistic history is enlightening and fun, and Lewis’s smooth tone is a delight to hear. Sure to be a favorite among logophiles, this is a great recommendation for those who enjoyed E.J. White’s You Talkin’ to Me?? or Henry Hitchings’s The Secret Life of Words.
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