may not have answered the questions on the cover, but very thought-provoking,
This review is from: What is English?: And Why Should We Care? (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There are plenty of books on the market about modern global English, so why should you get this one? If you are looking for easy answers and generalisations, this is not your book. Tim William Machan is an academic who has worked on medieval English and I think Icelandic, so it was never going to be Bill Bryson.
HOWEVER, I loved how well he depicts the past and current state of English. In the first chapter, for example, he explains the way in which English acts as a 'gatekeeper language' for many schools, universities and jobs in a way I'd never really considered. He quotes from adverts and websites which made me think he must be a very entertaining lecturer.
And when he goes back in time, to consider English in the South Seas, thinking about eighteenth century missionaries trying to teach the 'natives' the English tongue, I found his discussion of the issues involved, from a modern perspective, really enlightening and entertaining. Additionally, I found the sections compelling when Machan was informed by his own research - when he discussed grammar changes in the Middle Ages (not something I'd normally describe as 'gripping').
it is not a straightforward history - the chapters are thematic, and so it won't satisfy anyone looking for an overall guide. It is also not a 'popular' book, as it considers the topics from an academic standpoint and with a rigour and vocabulary which might put off some readers.
And in fact, I'm not even sure that at the end, I felt he'd answered the questions 'What is English" OR why I should care. But i came away with so many interesting thoughts and insights that I feel it was entirely worth reading. I can see that many readers will be frustrated by the author's lack of answers or conclusions, but I very much enjoyed the ride.