I like Elizabeth Little have a love of languages. In Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages , the author travels around the United States investigating different languages. We all know about Spanish and perhaps we also know about little eddies of different languages in different parts of the country but this book takes us on a deeper tour. This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of languages in United States, instead it is a tourist’s view of language. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about Native American language. Although sad, it was interesting, and she illustrates how different the languages and the cultures were when European settlers interacted with Natives. She also talks about Basque in American culture, one language that is unique in the world because linguists still can’t find where exactly it fits in the language family tree. In America, its influence is small but surprising.
This book reminded me a great deal of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. Both books layer ideas on the landscape of the United States. Elizabeth Little adds the layer of language and people, while Sarah Vowell lays history on the landscape. Then both books add a layer personal experience and self depreciating humor on top. Both books are very fun to read and full of interesting facts.
Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages Elizabeth Little, 2012 Bloomsbury