The Prodigal Tongue

by Abley, Mark

An exhilarating exploration of how the world's languages are likely to transform and be transformed by their speakersMark Abley, author of Spoken Here, takes the reader on a global journey like no other—from Singapore to Tokyo, from Oxford to Los Angeles, through the Internet and back in time. As much a travel book as a tour of words at play, The Prodigal Tongue goes beyond grammar and vocabulary to discover how language is irrevocably changing the people of the world in far-reaching ways. On his travels, Abley encounters bloggers, translators, novelists, therapists, dictionary makers, hip-hop performers, and Web-savvy teens. He talks to a married couple who corresponded passionately online before they met in “meatspace.” And he listens to teenagers, puzzling out the words they coin in chat rooms and virtual worlds. Everywhere he goes, he asks what the future is likely to hold for the ways we communicate. Abley balances a traditional concern for honesty and accuracy in language with a less traditional delight in the sheer creative energy of new words and expressions. Provocative, perceptive, and often hilarious, this is a book for everyone who cherishes the words we use.

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