A Mouthful of Air: Language, Languages-- Especially English

Anthony Burgess, Author
Anthony Burgess, Author William Morrow & Company $25 (416p) ISBN 978-0-688-11935-5
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Paperback - 978-0-688-13789-2
Hardcover - 368 pages - 978-0-09-922401-3
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Burgess, who invented a teenspeak for the gangs in his novel A Clockwork Orange, infects readers with his love of words in a delightful, wittily urbane romp through the world's languages, in particular ``volatile and hospitable'' English. This is several books in one: a painless primer on linguistics; a survey of tongues from Albanian to Welsh (spoken by King Arthur, a Romanized Celt); the story of alphabets and of language's evolution from prehistoric Indo-European to words like quark ; an exploration of how English became rich and flexible as Old English was transformed into what is spoken and written today. Chapters cover slang and taboo words, great dictionary makers, poetry, the Bible, film dubbing, how Shakespeare spoke his lines. Burgess also offers tips for learning foreign languages and suggestions for secondary-school English teachers. A Mouthful incorporates much of Language Made Plain , published some 30 years ago, but it contains a wealth of new material. (Aug.)
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