Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson, Large Print Edition 2007 by BBC Audiobooks by arrangement with Penguin Books Ltd , ISBN 9781405614726

An entertaining and valuable book on the subject of English. Below see some comments or corrections.


11, line 23, Wirtschaftstreuhandgesellschaft, note the "f"
16, para 3, current thinking 27 years on is that sapiens and neanderthalis did interbreed
31, lines13-14, how would long passages of modern Italian be identical to ancient Latin, when Italian has no case endings, and Latin has no articles?
32, line 8, "not to reflect meaning", rather than "not to reflect syntax"
43, lines 17-20. A number of languages use Roman letters but with sound values defined for that language. Even Chinese can be shown that way in the pinyin system. Welsh is no different. Why try and pronounce it with English phonetic rules, such as they are?
54, line 29, should show the phonetic alphabet sign combining "a" and "e" for the vowel in the Old English word for "bath"
58, line 6, "they, them, their" are basic elements of sentences or phrases rather than syntax.
72, line 2, "nickname" reflects the opposite process to that of the other examples in italics
73, lines 7-8, a substantive is another entity used as a noun, so why would Shakespeare be described as using a noun as a substantive?
77, line 28, re "ert", text doesn't give the negative first ie. "inert" in the list in lines 23-4.
81, line 24, orthographical (writing down a language) rather than orthological (study of correct use of words).
90, line 28, "bravado" isn't cowardice so much as boastful courage
98, line 19, the Welsh is not hard if you use the pronunciation rules for Welsh. We don't use English rules of pronunciation for French.
98, line 24, "l" pronounced as we do is standard part of Mandarin Chinese.
100, line 25, Beijing dialect (putonghua) is not monosyllabic. The words are composed of syllables, eg. gonggongqiche, (omni)bus. It also has 37 syllable endings, of which only a minority end in "n"or "ng"
113, lines 7-9, the "er" sound is quite similar to French "eu", German and Scandinavian versions of "o" marked with either two dots or a diagonal line or a following "e".
132, line 26, "bombora" is simply a reef, often one that creates a sudden upwelling of water
133, lines 17-18, "labor" without the "u" is only used in the title of the Australian Labor Party.
139, para 2, many but not all Chinese characters (hanzi) are made up of two parts, a radical, and a phonetic part which can in many cases give a clue to pronunciation.
139, line 29, The characters (kanji) were adopted from traditional Chinese characters. Katakana and hiragana are syllabaries, not alphabets. Many kanji have a monosyllabic pronunciation based on the source Chinese dialect when they were adopted, and a Japanese pronunciation which can have one or several syllables. Hiragana serves to write the inflections which are common in Japanese but don't occur in Chinese. The kanji convey the meaning not the hiragana. Hiragana above a character simply explain pronunciation.
141, lines 19-23, modern Chinese can't necessarily easily read 2500 year old Chinese literature, partly because the meaning embedded in the character may have changed just as it has changed with many English words
145, lines 9-10, English can use one diacritical mark, the two dots over a second vowel of two in succession to show that two vowels are to be sounded separately.
165, last line and 166, line1, substitute "if" for "on condition that" and "married'' is the better choice.
180-185, some the figures for vocabulary levels are very questionable. Seashore and Eckersen's estimate of 150,000 for a student dates from 1940. The 1978 publication The Language Teaching Controversy by KC Diller giving a figure of 250,000 also seems remarkable.
188, lines 12-14, "singly" meaning "on their own" makes good sense
225, line 18, Guoyu, not Guoyo
263, foot, exaggerates by giving title not just name of country in the foreign language column
289, line 29, sarariman, rather than salaryman

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