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The English language is now accepted as the global lingua franca of the modern age, spoken or written in by over a quarter of the human race. But how did it evolve? How did a language spoken originally by a few thousand Anglo-Saxons become one used by more than 1,500 million? What developments can be seen as we move from Beowulf to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens and theThe English language is now accepted as the global lingua franca of the modern age, spoken or written in by over a quarter of the human race. But how did it evolve? How did a language spoken originally by a few thousand Anglo-Saxons become one used by more than 1,500 million? What developments can be seen as we move from Beowulf to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens and the present day? A host of fascinating questions are answered in The Stories of English, a groundbreaking history of the language by David Crystal, the world-renowned writer and commentator on English. Many books have been written about English, but they have all focused on a single variety: the educated, printed language called “standard” English. David Crystal turns the history of English on its head and instead provides a startlingly original view of where the richness, creativity and diversity of the language truly lies—in the accents and dialects of nonstandard English users all over the world. Whatever their regional, social or ethnic background, each group has a story worth telling, whether it is in Scotland or Somerset, South Africa or Singapore. Interweaved within this central chronological story are accounts of uses of dialect around the world as well as in literary classics from The Canterbury Tales to The Lord of the Rings. For the first time, regional speech and writing is placed center stage, giving a sense of the social realities behind the development of English. This significant shift in perspective enables the reader to understand for the first time the importance of everyday, previously marginalized, voices in our language and provides an argument too for the way English should be taught in the future....

Title : The Stories of English
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ISBN : 9781585677191
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 584 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Stories of English Reviews

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac
    2018-11-22 06:36

    As the title suggests, this is the story of the development of the English language from Old English to modern Standard English, both spoken and written. At the start three points are made: most English speakers do not speak standard; a significant number of English authors do not write in standard; and a large number of computer users do not use standard. The book includes charts and maps as well as smaller sections to detail points discussed, and translates all archaic styles. The word English appeared before the country name of England by over a century. The narrative poem, Beowulf, actually shows evidence of all four Old English dialects, and the surviving text was written 250 years after first being composed, so it cannot be stated equivocally where it derives. What mainly sets Old English apart is its poetical language style. It had at least 50 words for "sea". The human body was a "bone house", eyes were "head gems". The best way to explain the Old English style is Yoda's speech pattern, putting the object first in the sentence. Also, many place names and features of landscape are derived from Old English. Around the time of the Norman conquest we enter the period of Middle English, a more familiar, comfortable form of English. This is the era of Chaucer, Christmas carols, and the legends of King Arthur. Middle English introduces genres, prefixes and suffixes, short and long vowel sounds in spelling.Standard English began making the rounds in the fifteenth century, with the majority of spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and capitalization rules cemented by the eighteenth century. When all of the views, regions, and users are taken into account, one realizes this was no simple feat. The influence of the various translations of the Bible are discussed as part of the Early Modern period. Early Modern, and I still have half the book to go. Shakespeare, obviously is also mentioned with great import. The difficulty lies in actually pinpointing the beginning and end dates of this transitional period. It's typically presumed to run from the 15th to 18th century.Here's an experiment: take a 1% selection of pages throughout a college size English dictionary. Identify the words actively used and the words known but not used. The results are one's active and passive vocabularies.This book is a MUST for anyone who considers himself a Shakespeare fan or who may need research for a Shakespeare term paper. He is riddled throughout the modern English section. Such an impact he had, but not in the way one thinks.There is even a chapter on Middle Earth!

  • Kim
    2018-11-13 03:58

    The book is comprehensive, I will give Crystal that. My gripe is that this book seemed to want to be a book on language which is accessible to all readers, including those with no background in historical linguistics, so it began with a less-than-academic tone. But it quickly became clear that either Crystal possesses no other voice than that of the academic, or that he simply cannot resist adding even minor, niggling little details to pad every chapter. The narrative continued to slip into intentional casual voice and diction at times, and the effect was jarring as it was immediately followed by dry, academic voice. Also...typos? Grammar errors? I do my best to not intentionally look for these things, but I found a few. I know from experience that even the best copy editor can't catch everything, but one would think that a book on language and grammar would...be a bit more aggressively examined.So.If you want a scholarly book, this is a good one (though the non-linear format might just make you crazy and will certainly make it less accessible for future reference than something clearly written as a textbook would). It is not a theory book, but a good repository of examples and illustrations. If you want a less technical introduction to the history of the English language, this books is not it. Stick with Inventing English by Seth Lerer.

  • Fiona
    2018-12-01 08:45

    I'll return to this book one day as I've only read the first 7 chapters. Those on the development of Old English and the transition from there into Middle English are fascinating but I tired after that. Still, mission accomplished. I'm reading some of the Canterbury Tales before a trip to Canterbury in a few weeks and wanted to understand the language better. Crystal has given me some insight into Chaucer's use of dialect as well as the developing language in his time, both of which are very helpful. It's Spring Bank Holiday weekend however and I want to treat myself to a lighter read so back on the bookshelf with this one to be resumed anon. {I enjoy Crystal's books on language as they're so accessible. This one became quite bogged down in detail by Chapter 7 though. It's as if he couldn't decide whether he was writing for amateur linguists or academics. As an amateur, there's just so much labouring of a point I can take!}

  • Jeff
    2018-11-24 04:45

    This book is the most comprehensive history of the English language you can find that is accessible to the non-linguist. It will help you understand why English spelling is such a disaster, how different dialects of English came to be different from each other, and why language change is not as evil as people might think. Reading this book will make you a better person.

  • Fred
    2018-11-24 01:00

    A god boc abutan þe cyriclic of þe angelcynnes.

  • Dan
    2018-12-10 06:51

    David Crystal's book is a succinct history of the English language, including the evolution of the spoken and written word, with a special focus on the large variety of dialects spoken today. Almost everything in the book was new to me, and I enjoyed the details on words from other languages, word variation over time, and the notes on pronunciation, usage, and grammar. Crystal's main thesis, that English never had a consistent style and tone, and that any attempts to force everyone into one would be detrimental, was strongly made. There was a lot of supporting history around that, and I especially found it fascinating to learn how the different regional variants shifted and influenced the core language over time. One of my favorite chapters focused on the words introduced by Shakespeare—turns out, introducing words was very common practice at the time, and often many authors would include different variants in their works (just one example: "discordant" was also written as "discordous", "discordy", "discordic", "discordful", and many other ways before settling down.) A half-dozen other literary individuals were discussed as well, having introduced dozens—or hundreds—of words into English themselves. What a time to be alive!While I can't say I'm a huge fan of his relentless attacks on the prescriptive attitude of forcing everyone into exact spelling, usage, and pronunciation rules, I can sympathize with the underlying points. For many years now, English has been spoken more frequently by people who learned it as a second language than by those who learned it as their first. As much as it may make natural language processing a definite challenge, it's important to be open and accepting of those variants, as they add richness, character, and local cultural heritage to the language. I really enjoyed the section discussing uniquely South African words—a couple of which I've learned!Crystal's book definitely has an agenda, but don't let that stop you from picking it up. One of my favorite etymology/language books yet, filled with plenty of individual detail without obscuring the big picture. It's also nice to have a British perspective on the language, as most of my prior books had a distinctly American slant to them. Definitely recommended to English language fans!

  • Jon Stout
    2018-12-07 05:37

    When I read The History of Spanish, I wished I could find a similar history of English. The Stories of English pretty much fills the bill. It was enormously entertaining, offering countless examples of the evolution of words and of the adaptation of words from all over the world. My first reaction was surprise. While I had previously thought of English as having a venerable tradition going back to antiquity, I came to realize that English is a hodgepodge of different influences, starting with Celtic, Latin, Angle, Saxon, Norse, Danish, even before the Norman Invasion in 1066, and then many more influences afterward. The hodgepodge of English was contrasted with the formality of French, which had a direct line to Latin. So if I want to be proud of English, it will be because of its variety, rather than because of its purity.The book was written from a British point of view, offering a more exhaustive discussion of British dialects, including Scots and Irish, than of American dialects. Although the book discussed seven world-wide varieties of English, such as Indian English and Caribbean English, it gave only a few pages to each, while there was vastly more space devoted to the regional dialects of England.The thrust of the book was to approach English descriptively, and to inveigh against the “prescriptivist” approach, the idea that there is a single Standard English, which “ought” to be spoken and which is superior to local dialects. The author says that there is a spectrum with Standard English at one end, and varieties of non-standard English, of varying degrees of formality, spread out along the range. The author makes the point that non-standard dialects are worthy of respect and are essential for the vitality and local identity of the language, while the Standard version is necessary for “supra-regional” use to guarantee the intelligibility of the language throughout its domain.The author pleads for tolerance and a non-judgmental attitude toward English dialects, but as long as Standard English is taught in schools, as it must be, I fear there will always be pedants and purists who think there is only one right way to speak English.

  • Sammy
    2018-11-16 04:44

    "The Stories of English" is a necessary, dense, well-researched volume by an expert who clearly has a true passion for the language and its variations. However, it has some clear advantages and some very clear flaws.Crystal's mandate is clever and clear: provide a history of the evolution of the English language, with a particular eye to studying "non-standard English" in all its varieties. Changes to the language - be they merely regional slang, or international pidgin dialects - are too often forgotten, due to the fact that they rarely appear in surviving print documents, and Crystal wants to lift a light on the subject. We begin with a thorough examination of the growth of Early English, brought together by French, Latin, Anglo, Danish, and so on. Using extensive contemporary texts, Crystal analyses the development of the language, asking such questions as: why do some "loan words" overtake others?; why do some variations remain?; who has the right to decide which language is 'correct'?; and so on, and so forth. Gradually, he moves through Middle English, and into the Modern aspects of the language. Along the way, Crystal continues to provide lengthy excerpts from documents, and finds examples of how the 'non-standard' parts of the language arose, remained, and were treated by those on the 'right side' of English.There are two particularly notable strengths to the book. The first is Crystal's true passion, which allows him to introduce a variety of texts from centuries ago, and make us feel intrigued by them. The second is his desire to expose the fallacies of those who believe English has exact rules, and should remain within its confines. From the earliest surviving texts, he finds examples of whiners - whether it be those who believe no French or Latin words should be included, or those who are terrified of ending sentences with prepositions - and explains where these mistaken beliefs came from. Crystal doesn't write everything off (he understands, after all, where they come from), but strives to show that strictness for strictness' sake is ridiculous.However, the book is far from perfect. First of all, despite the claims in the blurb, Crystal's style is often dry and academic. Fair enough, this was never going to be "Gone with the Wind". But particularly in the early chapters, when the subject is six-hundred-year old manuscripts, and the variations of individual letters, it would've been promising to have a slightly more witty tour guide. And, while the first two-thirds of the story are comprehensive, the final third largely covers UK-specific English. There is one fascinating if dry chapter on the development of English throughout the world, but it's quite limited. Again, I understand the need for this, and it actually helps support Crystal's argument that much non-standard English, both on a historical and on a global standpoint, is under-researched, but - to a non-UK reader - things did become a bit specific toward the end.Crystal has one other adorable but infuriating quirk. He's inclined to make witty - or at least clever - jokes and puns without prior explanation. On several occasions, however, the explanation is so obscure that he's forced to provide an endnote to his explanation of his own witticism. In these cases, he really could've done with just setting up the joke in the main body of the text, as I'd imagine most readers would have had to utilise these endnotes often!All in all, I'm glad to have read this book. I picked up a lot of fascinating new information, and many of the excerpts were utterly astounding in what they exposed about the lives of our ancestors. At the same time, it never quite found the perfect balance between "popular science" and academia.

  • Cat.
    2018-12-09 02:46

    Whew! Nearly 600 pages of history of how we talk! Sounds like heaven to me! And it was pretty interesting, although I've discovered that I'm much more interested in Old English than Middle or last century English. Modern dialects interest me too. I should have just skipped the middle of this book, since I got bogged down and ended up flipping guiltily through 4 chapters anyway!This is really detailed. If you haven't got a clue who Bede was or why he matters (which, after last summer thank God, I do), it may behoove you to find out. No mental picture of the shape of English history would be problematic too, as would a lack of recognition of writings such as Morte D'Arthur and Sir Gawain, and anything by Chaucer. The surprising thing about the more modern information was how non-prescriptive Crystal is. I supposed that shouldn't surprise me: people in the field tend to be a little calmer about changes in language than people like Safire and his ilk who want rules kept because "it's always been done that way." Except, of course, it hasn't: viz. Shakespeare, Austen, Chaucer, Swift....My only real problem with the book, besides it's length (and I'm not actually complaining--it's a long subject!) is that Crystal sort of promises to talk about the language outside of England, yet his longest section on American English is about the word "y'all." Now, I like that word, and use it a lot (and I think he's got it backwards and is missing several points in his discussion of it, but never mind), but that's hardly the only Americanism to spend 5 pages on! [And yes, I know I ended a sentence with a preposition; he says it's ok. Besides, I'm in good company...see list above...]. As for dialects outside of England and America, we barely know they exist: Australia? India? Africa? Mentioned, but briefly. Maybe I need to read a book on the language that was written in each geographical area. I don't know how to get the sense of the language's differences if you don't actually 'speak' South African or New Zealander.Cavil as I may though, I'd still buy this if I wanted a good resource on what was going on in the English language in, say, 1580, relative to something I was reading from before or after that era. It's completely accessible and has lots and lots of charts and examples to help outsiders along.

  • Andrew Fish
    2018-11-19 01:49

    English is not one language, but many and is destined to stay that way. From the divergent dialects which emerged from the Anglo-Saxon migrants of the fifth and sixth century, to the adapted variants of English which proliferate in countries subsequently colonized by the British, there have always been multiple strands to the language.At the same time, there have long been those who insist that English should be standardized, simplified - tamed. Crystal's book is an exploration of these opposing forces across time.It's a less easy read than his History of English in 100 Words, partially because the divergent threads tend to lead the narratives in different directions, partially because some of the extended examples are hard to follow for someone of my era and education. But that serves to make the point - which Crystal does - that Standard English does matter. It matters that there is a form of the language that everyone can understand. What Crystal insists, however, is that it should neither be the only accepted form of English, nor should it be arbitrary or preserved in aspic. To frivolously split infinitives is not a sin that prevents comprehension, but dat spek dat use at house may not be appropriate in a formal context.As a writer, I am broadly in agreement with Crystal's view of the language and the importance of both standard and dialect forms. I do, however, take issue with his view that English education is better than it has ever been: we are often told that our young are falling behind in literacy and I suspect this is not so much an inability to write, more a failure to see the importance of using the right style at the right time. Gangster slang or playground language doesn't look good on a CV.That said, it's an interesting read and I may well have learned a few new tricks for writing dialogue. Non-writers may find it harder going, but it's worth the effort.

  • Einde
    2018-11-24 06:39

    As a teacher of English I have a professional interest in the history of the language. This book falls that criteria and is full of interesting titbits. While it may be a little too detailed for the casual lay reader, it left me wanting more. I would have lived a bit more Information on the development of the rather idiosyncratic orthography of English, but other than that a very satisfying read. I particularly like his critique of "prescriptivism"!

  • Malini Sridharan
    2018-11-11 02:54

    I love this book and will be reading it again. The little boxed asides were fascinating, and the narrative was easy to follow-- I feel like I really grasp the timeline of the development of English for the first time.While the last couple of chapters on more recent history were not as interesting to me, I definitely agreed with most of what Crystal had to say about the future of standard English.

  • Michelle
    2018-11-22 06:58

    I'm interested in the subject, but in a more casual way than this book. It is like a college text book, very scholarly, but not something you read for fun. I just skimmed the first several chapters and that was enough.

  • Crystal
    2018-11-23 06:40

    Bits were interesting, but much it was extremely tedious. Much of the section on Old English was confusing for someone who doesn't have a great deal of knowledge about the history of Great Britain.

  • Sorrento
    2018-11-30 05:53

    This book has opened my eyes to the development of the English language in all its forms which is still going on. David Crystal starts his story by firmly debunking the linear evolutionary narrative of English from Saxon times to reach the pinnacle of modern standard English. We discover the origins of Old English with its mix of Saxon and Norse and that there were different dialects of Old English throughout the country. David Crystal then takes us on a thoroughly well researched journey through time as he charts the influences on the development of English. Influences such as the work of the early authors (e.g. Bede, Chaucer) the work of the scribes, the Norman invasion, printing, the translation of the Bible, the work of Samuel Johnson and his dictionary. We learn that English has always been written and spoken in different ways and that it had and still has a diversity of spelling and grammar. However, such professions such as the law needed precision and consistency to avoid misunderstanding so Crystal explains the development of modern Standard English which fulfils this purpose. Crystal then disparages the efforts of those who would have us speak and write all the time within the straight jacket of standard English. He celebrates the wonderful diversity of the way that English is spoken and written in different parts of the country and throughout the world and charts how authors such as romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge, Robbie Burns and Walter Scot brought the speech of ordinary people back to our attention. The Stories of English is an historical and social narrative of the development of a language which began on a small island and that has now spread throughout the world. The book concludes with a brief exploration of the effect that modern communication systems such as the internet and mobile phone texting are having on the English language.It took me quite some time to read this book as the font size is quite small and there is so much information packed into it. However, I enjoyed it immensely and it is one of those books that has changed my views and given me a new understanding.

  • ocell de foc
    2018-11-17 04:33

    Among all the books related to historical linguistics, this is perhaps one of the most complete ones and quite easy to understand - by this I mean that you don't really need to be a linguist or have knowledge of linguistics in order to follow it-. This one has the particularity of being written almost as a story but without losing its scholar nature. 5* for David Crystal. Thanks for making linguistics more open to the public.

  • Judi
    2018-11-19 03:41

    Fascinating -back stories and explanations why we speak the English we speak...

  • Kaylin Worthington
    2018-11-25 01:31

    Really interesting for those who love linguistics and how language came to be!

  • Ilya
    2018-12-05 01:44

    A one-volume popular history of the English language with a particular emphasis on the interplay between standard English and its nonstandard varieties. Such varieties must have been there since the beginnings of the language: a Saxon was a wielder of a seax (a kind of knife); if you look at a British regiment abroad today, you'll see speakers of many dialects; why would it have been different in 450 A.D.? Our corpus of Old English texts is only about 3/4 the size of the complete oeuvre of Charles Dickens, but still we can tell, for example, that the word "church" is more common in southern-origin manuscripts, and the word "kirk" in northern-origin ones. The Danes conquered North-Eastern England in the 9th century, but held on to it for less than a century; the Old Norse-derived pronoun "they" gradually displaced the Old English pronoun "hie", spreading from north to south. The third-person singular present tense verb ending -s may have come either from speakers of Old English trying to learn Old Norse but misunderstanding its tense system, or from speakers of Old Norse trying to learn Old English. We have a lot more documents in Middle English, and we can trace the development of its dialects, none of which was standard, since the language of the court was French. Geoffrey Chaucer has a story about two students from the North of England sleeping with the wife and daughter of a miller from the South of England; each character speaks his native dialect. Dialect writing has really exploded in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries: Lady Chatterley's eponymous Lover speaks the English of Nottinghamshire, and corrects the Lady when she attempts to speak it after sexual intercourse. In addition to regional dialects, English also has social registers: tons of French and Latin words were borrowed to create refined English and legal English; the thou-you distinction in Early Modern English seems to be a calque of the tu-vous distinction in French. At the other pole, many writers have tried to stick to the Germanic component of English for clarity and simplicity; Poul Anderson's "Uncleftish Beholding" is an extreme example; but what do you do with Latin borrowings ("cheese", "shrine") that carry the sound changes that differentiate Old English from other Germanic languages of the Dark Ages, and were therefore borrowed when the ancestor of Old English was still spoken on the Continent? Now that English is a global language, there are many varieties of the language throughout the world, from Nigeria to Jamaica; my favorite is the mock-Russian-accented English of englishrussia.com .

  • Erik
    2018-11-11 04:30

    This is hands-down the best one-dollar buy I’ve purchased in quite some time, as I picked up a barely-read hardback copy of this five-hundred-page-plus tome last weekend at Half-Price Books’ annual warehouse sale. (Which, tax-included, would have made it $1.09. But who’s quibbling here?) The subject matter is clearly massive here, unlike his shorter but just as erudite works in the past decade like Words, Words, Words, The Fight for English and By Hook or by Crook. In a nutshell, The Stories of English is Crystal’s comprehensive attempt at providing a layman’s collection of linguistic essays on the development of our beloved mother tongue that is not as daunting as his textbook the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (a work that I have yet, and even fear, to pick up due to its sheer weight and heft.)While there is not particular theme that stands out, other than linguistic change over time, here are some nuggets of brainy goodness that I ran across and which piqued my interest to no end.1. Our modern preference for subject-verb-object order was hardly the norm during the Old and Middle English periods, as object-verb-subject occurred more frequently in Old English texts that have survived and been analyzed.2. The modern word murder comes from the Latin murdrum, which in turn was found in Old English as mordor (the “d” being a slightly different and now extant letter that was pronounced “th”). Shades of Middle Earth anyone? (And, yes, Tolkien was an inveterate linguist of the old philologist order.) 3. The Middle English word ado combined the words to do; which French-speakers would be familiar with the preposition à meaning both “at” and “to.” In short, ado simply means “to do.” Much ado about nothing = Much to do about nothing. Likewise: Without further ado = Without further to do.4. Language purists/police/prescriptivists beware: “People who readily complain about language always have an unreal perception of what they do themselves; they routinely break the principle they most ardently commend.” Touché, I say.5. “Increased familiarity with a compound form increases the likelihood that users will move from a spaced version (dark room) to a hyphenated one (dark-room) to a solid one (darkroom).” Pretty simple process, that. Of course, these are just a few of the gems that I encountered in my long reading of Crystal’s comprehensively researched book. And it is both brilliantly insightful, if not mind-numbing at times. (Those Old and Middle English text excerpts can really put a wrench in it, despite the important points that they’re being used to illustrate.)

  • Tom Carson
    2018-11-25 02:46

    In the Stories of English, David Crystal demonstrates, through his display of knowledge and his fluctuation between academic and casual tones, that the study of language and its history can be very interesting and alive. This is what makes this book a great read for the reader who has little background in the study of language and who wants a comprehensive overview of the history of English.Unfortunately, considering Crystal's own proposal in the introduction of the book, this is not the sole purpose of the endeavor. In his introduction, Crystal informs the reader that the study of the English language has been incredibly biased toward the "standard" throughout history and that he is attempting to give a more in-depth view of the non-standard language and dialects. While this thesis makes the book seem very interesting and even slightly controversial, Crystal ultimately fails to prove his own point by consistently favoring a study of standard English himself.Dialects are discussed, particularly in the first few chapters, which deal with the development of the English language, and these chapters are probably the most engrossing in the book. However, the discussion of more modern dialects (and Crystal is very selective regarding these, focusing mostly on differences between American and British English and internal British dialects) is actually quite scant, with his examination of modern global English dialects being discussed in about a chapter and a half, giving the reader the impression that he is only scratching the surface.This is, of course, not totally Crystal's fault. Any attempt to explore the entirety of the history of the English language in a single volume cannot be expected to be a complete success. It simply seems as though he may have bitten off more than he could chew. As has been said, this book can be used as a great introduction, but those readers looking for a more thorough exploration will want to look further— perhaps not elsewhere, just further. The most unfortunate thing about it is that Crystal, as a writer and scholar, seems completely capable of taking the reader to such places but does not deliver to his full potential.

  • Daphne
    2018-11-30 07:36

    This hits all the right buttons for me - I am a lexicographer who missed her vocation. One of the first books I ever read about Linguistics in the 70s was by David Crystal so it was great to find him still producing books now. I love the complexity of English - I teach TEFL on occasions and know that one of the complaints from students is 'why are there some many ways to say something?'. This book gives the background to that. I am fascinated by the origins of English and enjoy trying to get my tongue around the yogh and the other sounds that have largely disappeared from Modern English; I have been reading this book on and off for close on a year as it can get very detailed(I put it on my Amazon wish list for last Christmas)and am approaching the end sadly. I intend to get another David Crystal book soon!

  • Rebecca
    2018-12-07 02:49

    This book manages to be both comprehensive and accessible to the non-specialist reader as Crystal details the evolution of the English language from pre-Roman times to the modern day and also ponders how it might develop in future. He also champions regional and national dialects and highlights how, although schools try to teach a Standard form of English, there really is no such thing. All varieties of English are just as valid and just as much worth studying as any other. Points are highlighted via a fascinating range of texts ranging from the well-known to the every-day as well as contemporary global literature. A great book and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of the English language.

  • Sean
    2018-12-06 02:46

    comprehensive, scholarly, and emminently readable, if a touch UK-centric (understandably on the whole, but irritatingly for the last 10% of the work).rather than go into detail, i'll say this: if you've an interest in the english language that's more than passing, but you don't have a doctorate in linguistics, you should read this book. it was challenging at times -- and, to be honest, it dragged at times -- but it was a master's level overview of the speak from its anglo-saxon roots to modern net-lingo. no layperson with an interest in either linguistics or the english language should skip this book.if you do (or do) and you do, u r dum.

  • Chris
    2018-11-14 06:50

    An unorthodox yet very readable, often very witty history of the English language. Crystal pays no heed to the illusion of a "pure" language sought by many linguistic historians, and his attention to regional dialects and non-standard English is refreshing (if lengthy). Though still perhaps a bit technical for the general reader, Crystal does take pains to explain the phonological, morphological aspects of language change in a relatively clear way (and with characteristic humor). Definitely recommended for anyone interested in the history of the English language from Proto-Indo-European to the present.

  • Chuck Lipsig
    2018-12-11 02:30

    I finally got through this fascinating book that concentrates on the development of English, not just as it's standard versions, but, in particular, the non-standard versions. The author makes the case that prescriptive standard English may have its place, but non-standard accents, dialects, and the like are just as important. He faces some difficulty is that there are periods of history where there simply is very little if anything in the non-standard English to go by and, perhaps, he may have done better to do more on the last several hundred years. I'm listing it as 4 stars, as there are no half-stars -- it's really closer to 4.5, IMO.

  • Emily
    2018-11-11 02:51

    Would be great, but bogs down very quickly in the minutiae of linguistics, especially regarding old English, and expects the reader to understand examples after an insufficient amount of explanation. For instance, many example texts included Old English letters, after only a brief overview, and because I couldn't read them it soon became very hard to understand what he was getting at. Later sections read much more fluidly, however, I'm not sure that makes up for the start.Another issue entirely is that this book needed a really good editor. It was far too long for the style it was written in. It read unbearably slowly, in the context of it's length.

  • Holly Cruise
    2018-11-25 04:51

    Thick, weighty and very very thorough tome on the English languages (yes, plural). David Crystal is the man when it comes to linguistics, and here he brings his usual eye to the development of the different forms of English used throughout history. Observational rather than prescriptive (thank god) he shows how changes came about, points out oddities we might not have realised, and generally demolishes the notion that we can freeze the language as a museum piece, presenting it rather as a living thing to be enjoyed by all.

  • Beth
    2018-12-05 00:48

    The description of this text is a bit misleading, I thought this would be lighter and a little more accessible for non-linguists. This is a super comprehensive look at the evolution of the English language. Despite being a huge language nerd, not gonna lie, it took me a while to get through this one. Some parts were engaging and easy to get through, but other parts seemed redundant and tended to put me to sleep. It also didn't help that I had downloaded a really buggy copy that kept messing up the order I was reading everything in.

  • Cait
    2018-11-13 08:46

    Found it really interesting, covered a wide range of aspects of English going right back to the very beginning.Loved that Tolkien got a little mention in the section on dialect.The way it was organised was good but some of the little boxes with additional information were in the middle of interesting sections so you had to flick back and forth to read everything.Was good to finally read it because I'd dipped into bits of it before and David Crystal is such a huge name in linguistics.