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The English is Coming!: How One Language is Sweeping the World    by Leslie Dunton-Downer order for
English is Coming!
by Leslie Dunton-Downer
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In her Introduction to The English is Coming!: How One Language is Sweeping the World, Leslie Dunton-Downer talks about growing up with a fascination with words and explains how languages give us magic glasses that allow us to 'experience the world in a different way.'

Now she tells us that Global English 'has attracted hundreds of millions of new speakers and is slated in coming decades to become the common language of hundreds of millions more.' Already claiming 'more nonnative speakers than native speakers', 'English is poised to be significantly transformed over the next few generations.' Dunton-Downer goes on to dig into the histories of 'thirty English words and phrases' - from Robot to O.K. - that have found a 'place in worldwide conversation.'

Reading The English is Coming, I learned that Shampoo originated in a Hindi word for kneading; that Blog ('one of many computer-related words that have gone viral in Global English') comes from Web Log and Web from the Indo-European word for weave; that bank comes (by way of Italy) from the Germanic word for bench; and that fun probably came from an earlier verb meaning to hoax, its use exploding in California.

Dunton-Downer also looks at new words cascading into English and at the potential for importation of words from Mandarin Chinese (Korean gosu is already being used in gaming to denote an expert player). And she considers the possibility of other changes to the language (like the dropping of articles and/or vowels) influenced by an increasing influence of nonnative (and even robotic) speakers.

The author concludes her fascinating study of Global English (past, present and future) with 'the possibility that English will soon, and yet again, be significantly transformed - this time, to fulfill the unknowable needs of a community of speakers who have already begun to reshape the language into their English.' If you're interested in the interrelationship and evolution of language and culture, don't miss this one!

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