A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, Especially English

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9780091774158: A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, Especially English

W.B. Yeats wrote of a poem that he "made it out of a mouthful of air". All language, argues the author, is made this way. Although we tend to think of literature as scratching of signs on paper, the essence of language from which it derives is primarily so much air, a mouthful at a time - an oral rather than a visual medium. Burgess goes on to present a broad survey of the history, development and cross-fertilization of languages - with all its quirks and delights. He discusses whistled languages, translation and dialect, and linguistic peculiarities, such as the Abkhaz language which has only two vowels. He recounts literary anecdotes, including the time he conversed in Old English with Jorge Luis Borges. Burgess is well-known as a novelist, reviewer and lecturer. In his "A Clockwork Orange", he actually invented a new language.

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