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Though we're known as a nation of English speakers, the linguistic map of the United States is hardly monochromatic. While much ado has been made about the role that Spanish may play in our national future, it would be a gross misrepresentation to label America a bilingual country. On the contrary, our languages are as varied as our origins. There is Basque in Nevada, Arabic in Detroit, Gullah in South Carolina. We speak European, Asian, and American Indian languages; we speak creoles, jargons, and pidgins. As a ...
Though we're known as a nation of English speakers, the linguistic map of the United States is hardly monochromatic. While much ado has been made about the role that Spanish may play in our national future, it would be a gross misrepresentation to label America a bilingual country. On the contrary, our languages are as varied as our origins. There is Basque in Nevada, Arabic in Detroit, Gullah in South Carolina. We speak European, Asian, and American Indian languages; we speak creoles, jargons, and pidgins. As a resident of Queens-among the most ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse places on the planet-Elizabeth Little first began to wonder how this host of tongues had shaped the American experience. It was only a matter of time before she decided to take her questions on the road.
In Trip of the Tongue, Little explores our nation's many cultures and languages in search of what they say about who we are individually, socially, and politically. This book is both a celebration of American multiculturalism and a reflection on what we value, what we fight for, and what we allow ourselves to forget. Elizabeth Little is a witty and endearing tour guide for this memorable and original trip.
"Fascinating…Little’s obvious enthusiasm drives the prose and keeps the information fresh and relevant. Arguing that language heritage is about more than the use of definite articles, Little delivers a revealing lesson in history, culture, prejudice, and privilege." -Booklist
"An entertaining and enlightening book from a brainy, foul-mouthed and very funny tour guide." – Kirkus Review
"An enchanting journey across the landscape of American language and culture, including everything from Navajo to Norwegian." – Publishers Weekly
Posted November 17, 2014
I like this book becus it has dumb facts abuot the trolles and it's funny to i can tell you one of the facts abuot the trolles thay can grow trees on ther feet and ther heds to thts way i think you shuod read this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 11, 2014
A "celebration of American multiculturalism," Trip of the Tongue was a fascinating read. Part memoir, part travel book, and a historical and linguistic adventure all rolled in one, Elizabeth Little explores some of the (very numerous!) languages that make up the United States.
Little devotes chapters to several Native American languages, French and Louisiana Creole, Gullah (how did I live in Charleston, South Carolina for six years without learning about Gullah?!), Basque, Norwegian, Haitian Creole, and Spanish, while starting off and concluding with English. As she says in the introduction, "the most interesting story English has to tell . . . is the fact that English is spoken at all."
One complaint I have specific to the ebook version. Even with publisher defaults turned on, whenever Little included charts/images, the font was very, very tiny. I couldn't zoom in, and changing the font size only affected the text around it. Though not terribly frequent, this was content I wanted to read, and there were enough instances to make me wish I'd purchased a print copy.
Little's tone would sometimes shift suddenly between slightly formal and very casual. This is where the memoir feel comes in. It was a bit odd to be reading about history and linguistics (such as the above example) and then come across a phrase like "it was hotter than Satan's sweaty ball sack." Don't get me wrong - I totally laughed. I was just caught off guard. After I got used to these shifts, I was kind of thankful for the breaks the lighter sections gave me.
Trip of the Tongue shows the impact slavery, colonialism, prejudice, and privilege have on language. It also looks into the reasons languages die off, as well as what some communities are doing to prevent that.
If you are half as fascinated with language as I am, you'll love this book!