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Did you know that Amer­i­can Eng­lish (not British Eng­lish) is one of the very few lan­guages that has no dialects? No mat­ter where you are from in this big coun­try, you can eas­i­ly under­stand the speech of any­one else. That’s true, even with hav­ing dif­fer­ent region­al accents or eth­nic dif­fer­ences such as Black English.

That’s one of the many fas­ci­nat­ing things one learns from read­ing Ilan Sta­vans’ anthol­o­gy of writ­ings in Amer­i­can Eng­lish, span­ning 450 years of our his­to­ry as a nation. We talk with Sta­vans about The People’s Tongue: Amer­i­cans and the Eng­lish Language.