John McWhorter ’81
Linguist, Author, Professor
The mysteries of language first tantalized John McWhorter when he was four years old, and his fascination never wavered.
John’s research focuses on the formation of creole languages—and how grammar changes through a combination of social and historical factors. He is a vocal critic of the notion that “language channels thought” and has joined scholars who contend that English was influenced by the Celtic languages.
An author of 20 books on language and race relations, including The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, John was nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction, for his book Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America.
The New Yorker review of his most recent book, Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths about America’s Lingua Franca, suggests that John “demonstrates the ‘legitimacy’ of Black English by uncovering its complexity and sophistication, as well as the still unfolding journey that has led to its creation. … [His] intelligent breeziness is the source of the book’s considerable charm.”
As part of a team of professors and experts selected by The Great Courses, an educational resource available to lifelong learners worldwide, John crafts customized and entertaining courses that are both comprehensive and fascinating.
“Simon’s Rock influenced my career path in that the student-teacher ratio was such that you could get a really warm, genuine kind of support.”
John served on the Simon’s Rock Board of Overseers and delivered the 2009 Simon’s Rock commencement speech.
Simon’s Rock is college now for motivated younger students ready to realize their intellectual and creative potential.