Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Trip of the Tongue

Author: Elizabeth Little

Title: Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages
Description: Little is a language buff who decided to tour the country to find out about non-English languages and their survival. She visits Gullah-speakers, Native Americans, Haitian creole speakers in Miami, and more.   
Writing style: There’s a lot going on here: the book is part travelogue, part ethnography, and part linguistic tome. Little is very educated about languages, so sometimes she gets a little too technical in discussing parts of speech, but overall, it’s very readable and entertaining.
Audience: I’d recommend it mostly to people who are interested in language, but it’s also a good travel narrative.
Major ideas: Little was mostly wondering about language loss: how many people are left that speak a non-English language as their primary language (or at least are bilingual in the home)? She learns that in certain conditions (let’s say Miami), it’s questionable whether language loss is even happening. And is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Wrap-up: I really liked this book; the variety of languages that still exists in the U.S. is pretty amazing and interesting. I hope that enough native speakers (and language acquirers) will remain that these languages don’t die out. 4/5*

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