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The Stories of Englishby David Crystal
Synopses & Reviews
The Stories of English is a groundbreaking history of the language by David Crystal, the world-renowned writer and commentator on English. Other books have been written on the subject, but they focused on the educated, printed language called standard English. Crystal turns the history of the language on its head and 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 globe. Interwoven 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. This significant shift in perspective enables the reader to understand the importance of everyday, previously marginalized, voices in our language, and provides an argument for the way English should be taught in the future.
"Leading British linguist Crystal (Shakespeare's Words) immediately distinguishes his pluralistic study of English's evolution from the standard, narrowly focused histories by describing not only how it evolved on an isolated island example from a Germanic language to the standard English we know today., but also on marginalized regional dialects, vernaculars and other 'nonstandard' examples, beginning with the origins of Old English. He shows, for example, how even Chaucer and Shakespeare embraced dialects in The Canterbury Tales and Henry V. There are also lighter moments, such as Crystal's examination of the Anglo-Saxon intonations of Yoda in Star Wars and of Tolkein's Middle Earth idioms. Writing of the 18th century, the author contrasts the proscriptions of Dr. Johnson and others regarding spelling, grammar and pronunciation with the efforts of Americans such as Noah Webster to differentiate American from British English. (Regional and ethnic variations elsewhere in the British Empire receive more cursory treatment.) However, Crystal glosses over the current status struggle in the U.K. between more 'authentic' dialects, such as the northern Liverpudlian, and newer ones, such as the suburban Estuary English. As for the language's future, Crystal wishes to see Standard English taught alongside familiarization with the varieties of dialects. Although he doesn't spell out how to accomplish this, his well-informed and appealing book makes a good case for the importance of dialects. 9 b&w illus., 12 maps. (Oct. 5)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] work of unprecedented scope and range...with piquant detail and lively anecdote....Accessible to the nonspecialist, Crystal's rich chronicle still presses deeply enough into key episodes to entice even casual readers into the more scholarly sources listed at the end of the book." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Mr. Crystal...chooses his examples brilliantly." The New York Times Book Review
"A dense, significant history. Had it been shorter and otherwise more reader-friendly, it could have made waves. Regrettably, only ripples will likely ensue." Kirkus Reviews
"This new history of the English language in all its manifestations is among the best ever written, and is both entertaining and informative." Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct
"Simply the best introductory history of the English language family that we have. The plan of the book is ingenious, the writing lively, the exposition clear, and the scholarly standard uncompromisingly high." J. M. Coetzee (Nobel Prize for fiction 2003)
"[A] wonderful postmodern study of the history of the English language, for both the scholar and the educated reader....As its title implies, it tells many stories — and tells them well." Library Journal
Book News Annotation:
Crystal (honorary, linguistics, U. of Wales-Bangor) has written widely on language in general and English in particular. He begins here by tracing the history of how Standard English came to be the privileged tongue it is. Then he recounts the stories of the other facets of the language over the past 1,500 years, which are rarely told. His topics include the Celtic language puzzle, understanding Danes, a trilingual nation, where the -s ending came from, avoiding transcriptional anemia, the case of y'all, and dialect in Middle Earth.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The groundbreaking history of the English language, fusing chronological with anecdotal and etymological accounts of individual word-histories, to create not ONE story, by many stories.
Alongside standard English we have a rich variety of the language from around the world.
Crystal turns the history of the language on its head and 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 globe.
About the Author
David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, and the editor of The Penguin Encyclopedia.
Table of Contents
Ch. 1 The origins of Old English 15
Ch. 2 The old English dialects 34
Ch. 3 Early lexical diversity 57
Ch. 4 Stylistic variation in Old English 86
Ch. 5 The transition to Middle English 105
Ch. 6 A trilingual nation 121
Ch. 7 Lexical invasions 144
Ch. 8 Evolving variation 169
Ch. 9 A dialect age 194
Ch. 10 The emerging standard 222
Ch. 11 Printing and its consequences 254
Ch. 12 Early modern English preoccupations 285
Ch. 13 Linguistic daring 311
Ch. 14 Dialect fallout 338
Ch. 15 Stabilizing disorder 365
Ch. 16 Standard rules 392
Ch. 17 New horizons 419
Ch. 18 Linguistic life goes on 453
Ch. 19 And dialect life goes on 484
Ch. 20 Times a-changin' 514
App The location of the towns and counties of England referred to in this book 535
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