“McWhorter is a gifted young linguist who seeks to understand the change in our verbal habits rather than just bemoan it, and his analysis is insightful, richly documented and, yes, eloquently written.”—Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate and The Language Instinct
In Doing Our Own Thing, critically acclaimed linguist and cultural critic John McWhorter traces the precipitous decline of language in contemporary America, arguing persuasively that casual everyday speech has conquered the formal in all arenas, from oratory to poetry to everyday journalism—and has even had dire consequences for our musical culture. McWhorter argues that the swift and startling change in written and oral communication emanated from the countercultural revolution of the 1960s and its ideology that established forms and formality were autocratic and artificial. While acknowledging that the evolution of language is, in and of itself, inevitable and often benign, he warns that the near-total loss of formal expression in America is unprecedented in modern history and has reached a crisis point in our culture such that our very ability to convey ideas and arguments effectively is gravely threatened.
By turns compelling and harrowing, passionate and judicious, Doing Our Own Thing is required reading for all concerned about the state of our language—and the future of intellectual life in America.