I recently had to do a trip up to New Jersey and back (5 hours each way), and so my husband popped something in the CD drive to amuse me. It was a series on lectures from the Teaching Company called Myths, Lies and Half-Truths of Language Usage, taught by Prof. John McWhorter of Stanford University.
Although the title doesn’t convey this, it is really a history of the English language. For us writers, this is a gold-mine of information.
Did you know, for example, that English doesn’t have a present tense? People don’t say “I build” unless they are foreign-born. Instead they say “I am building”, a tense that Prof. McWhorter refers to as the “obsessive progressive”. Where in the world does that come from?
In a word, Welsh.
That’s right, before most everyone was speaking English in England, they were actually speaking Old Welsh, and the grammar has left some marks on the English language.
I highly recommend these lectures. If interested, please go to: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=2212