Monday, July 27, 2009

The Prodigal Tongue

Mark Abley's book The Prodigal Tongue : dispatches from the future of English is just out in paperback. It's a lively, wide-ranging and readable account of the constant flux that is contemporary English. He writes that the future has always been cloudy; it always will be. It's best approached, I believe, by looking keenly and closely at what's happening now in the world, without prejudices or preconceptions ... we'll discover that people with little political or economic power can exert economic influence on language ... we'll find a tension between the informal and formal registers of language - between the top-down and bottom-up forces that lead to verbal change.

The subsequent chapter sub-titles summarise the areas that Abley then goes on to analyse:-
  • How words are created and organized
  • Asian English
  • Global English
  • Language in Japan
  • Languages in Los Angeles
  • Black English and Hip-Hop
  • Language in Cyberspace (which quotes the text version of Pride and Prejudice - 5Sistrs WntngHsbnds. NwMeninTwn-Bingly&Darcy. Fit&Loadd.BigSis Jane Fals 4B,2ndSisLiz H8s D Coz Hes Proud. Slimy Soljr Wikam Sys DHs Shady Past.Trns Out Hes Actuly ARlyNysGuy &RlyFancysLiz. She Decyds She Lyks Him.Evry1 Gts Maryd.)
  • Words and the Fictional Future
  • Keeping Language Real
There's also a thorough bibliography, and a long list of useful websites, including the following as a sample:-
Mark Abley's previous book on language was Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages. His website is here, and columns on language from the Montreal Gazette here.

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