What is English? Can we be as certain as we usually are when we say
something is not English? To find some answers Tim Machan explores
the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures
among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is
fascinating and important, for definitions of English have
influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the
identities of those who live in them. Finding an account that fits
the constantly changing varieties of English is, Tim Machan finds,
anything but simple. But he rises to the challenge, grappling with
its elusive essence through episodes in its history. He looks at
the ambitions of Caxton, the preoccupations of Johnson, and the
eloquence of Churchill, tussles with the jargons of contemporary
business, and pursues his object from rural America to James Cook's
Australia. He examines creoles, pidgins, and dialects, and takes
apart competing histories showing their assumptions and prejudices.
Finally he reveals the stable category English, resting
paradoxically within its constantly mutating forms and varieties.
This is a book for everyone interested in English and the role of
language in society and culture.