Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A CONVERSATION WITH/John McWhorter; How Language Came To Be, and Change

(The New York Times) ―On a warm recent afternoon, the conservative author and social critic Dr. John H. McWhorter, 36, was sitting in a New York sushi parlor, discussing his other profession: linguistics professor at the University of California at Berkeley with an expertise in language change and evolution.
Dr. McWhorter had come to New York from his home base in Oakland, Calif., to attend a meeting at the Manhattan Institute and to put the final touches on his sixth book, a meditation on the natural history of language. The work, ''The Power of Babel,'' is to be issued in January.
''Languages have been a passion since I was a small child,'' he said. ''I used to teach them to myself as a hobby. I speak three and a bit of Japanese, and can read seven.''
In graduate school at Stanford, Dr. McWhorter became fascinated with the evolution of languages, particularly with the Creole tongues, because he wondered how a phenomenon like Haitian Creole ''could start out as Latin'' and ''become something so different in structure.''
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