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Mark Abley

The prodigal tongue

English is becoming more and more global, but does this mean that it will drift away from what its current speakers would recognise? Will the way language is used on the Internet have more of an effect? In The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches From The Future of English Mark Abley looks at such issues.

The book starts with a discussion of the coining of new words and how they get into dictionaries. It then examines the way English is used in different parts of Asia such as India and Singapore. This is followed by chapters on English in Japan, and how Spanish is affecting the language of Los Angeles. There's a look at Black English and how its presence in popular music has introduced new words into the language. The later chapters look at the language of technology, and at some of the ways English of the future has been portrayed in fiction.

So it's an interesting enough read, but it seems to me that this book is really two books, one about the global use of English and the other on language change brought about by technology. I would have preferred a book on one of these topics which could have given a deeper analysis on what the likely effect on the future of the language would be.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 272 pages  
ISBN: 0618571221
Salesrank: 2973357
Weight:1.2 lbs
Published: 2008 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Amazon price $4.89
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 272 pages  
ISBN: 0099484463
Salesrank: 1448754
Weight:0.44 lbs
Published: 2009 Arrow
Amazon price £8.99
Marketplace:New from £3.45:Used from £0.52
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 272 pages  
ISBN: 0679313664
Salesrank: 1291921
Weight:0.65 lbs
Published: 2009 Vintage Canada
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 22.13:Used from CDN$ 8.57
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Product Description
An exhilarating exploration of how the world's languages are likely to transform and be transformed by their speakers

Mark Abley, author of Spoken Here, takes the reader on a global journey like no other—from Singapore to Tokyo, from Oxford to Los Angeles, through the Internet and back in time. As much a travel book as a tour of words at play, The Prodigal Tongue goes beyond grammar and vocabulary to discover how language is irrevocably changing the people of the world in far-reaching ways.
On his travels, Abley encounters bloggers, translators, novelists, therapists, dictionary makers, hip-hop performers, and Web-savvy teens. He talks to a married couple who corresponded passionately online before they met in “meatspace.” And he listens to teenagers, puzzling out the words they coin in chat rooms and virtual worlds.
Everywhere he goes, he asks what the future is likely to hold for the ways we communicate. Abley balances a traditional concern for honesty and accuracy in language with a less traditional delight in the sheer creative energy of new words and expressions.
Provocative, perceptive, and often hilarious, this is a book for everyone who cherishes the words we use.