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Susan B. Gillmor has commented on (1) product.

The Stories of English by David Crystal
The Stories of English

Susan B. Gillmor, August 31, 2012

David Crystal has applied his appreciable knowledge of the English language to this impressive introductory study of the history of our language, detailed enough to satisfy more sophisticated academic-types while still accessible to the lay reader. The strength of this work is its emphasis on the ongoing development and history of the dialects of the language, concentrating more on the diversity of tongues evident from the inception of English as a discernable language and less on received standard English as spoken in the halls of academia and in political/diplomatic circles.

The history of English inevitably entails a thorough summary of its political and military history, its invasions and its wars, its immigrant ancestors and its emigrations to far-flung parts of the world, not to mention its social foibles and daily routines. Crystal designs an interesting pastiche format to cover the main storylines, with fascinating sidebars with mini-stories about the language and the people who speak it through the centuries. A chapter on the dialects that were spoken during the Middle English period, for example, is interrupted (in a non-invasive way) by a short exposition on the reason that the Old English word "stane" did not become the standardized word "stone" in certain dialect areas of the British Isles. A section on "Printing and its Consequences" includes a sidebar with an extract from the first King James Bible and is followed by what Crystal calls as "Interlude" (like a type of sub-chapter) about "The first English Dictionary." The format works well and accomplishes what Crystal has aspired to create.

The book was a pleasure from cover to cover, beginning with the languages present in Britain at the time of the original Anglo-Saxon invasion to the spread of English as a major global language in all its various dialect forms, from India to Jamaica to Australia and points in between. I recommend this work for the shelves of anyone who loves our language and has an interest in how it got from there to here!
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