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The English Language: A Historical Introduction (Cambridge Approaches to Linguistics) Paperback – April 27, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0521670012 ISBN-10: 0521670012 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Approaches to Linguistics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521670012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521670012
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

."..a rich and thorough documentation of the history of English from its Indo-European beginnings to the present day including predictions for the future. Each page is replete with facts and 'English trivia.' There are plenty of informative chapters throughout." Greg Morris, Notes on Linguistics --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

This new edition of the bestseller by Charles Barber tells the story of the English language from its remote ancestry to the present day. A brand new chapter on late modern English has been added and there is new material on English as a global language.

Customer Reviews

Good book, well the pages are a bit glossy.
FutureLibrarian92
A fascinating read, it details the history of the English language from the linguistic standpoint.
Teacher In Mexico
This book is an excellent introduction to the history of the English language.
Jim

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jim on December 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent introduction to the history of the English language. As the other reviewers have noted, it's a bit top-heavy on technical linguistics, and therefore may not be suitable to everyone. But if you don't mind reading a book which could also be used as a 400-level college textbook... I think this book would appeal to any who have an interest in linguistics in general and the history on English in particular - especially if you've read other, lighter books on the topic already and you're ready to get seriously into the topic.
I fit the above category, and I loved this book. Probably the best I've read on the subject so far.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By K. Johnson VINE VOICE on November 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
If someone is interested in learning the origins, history, and development of the English language, then he or she will gain a lot from this book. There are many technical aspects included. It's also enjoyable. Many applied linguistic terms and areas are covered. From English's relationship to Sanskrit and other languages, to the great vowel shift explaining why English often doesn't sound the way it's spelled--difficult and illogical for students learning the language. The author went into depth about such topics as the culture of the Germanic tribes and how demographics influenced the development of the English language the way it did. The Scandinavians, French, and many others have loaded the language with with many loans words. It's a good informative read.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By cole on August 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
My interest in linguistics began when my latin teacher began talk about past forms of english in class. I was looking through the book store to find more about what he was talking about. Many of the titles looked either too thick or too long. then i came across this title. It was thin and supposedly for beginners like me. I thought i would give it a try and purchased it. When i got home i immediatly began to read. It was getting dark by the time i put it down. I am an avid fan of fiction, and only read non fiction for the information. I usually find it boring, yet informative and long to be finished with it. But this book i found was very interesting as well as informative and i could not put it down. It introduces you first to the various symbols used to show different sound and then wastes no time plunging you right into the beginnings of the language through old, middle, and early modern english. It was easy to follow as long as you had the symbols memorized and gave a brief history of the times when the languge was at certain stages. I finished it quickly and understood most of the stuff i read. Now i feel i can step up to the next level and read some of the more complex books. This book was a good foundation for my interest in linguistics and i found no fault in it.
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51 of 61 people found the following review helpful By svwersch on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Just some remarks from a very specific angle.
Being Dutch but living in the U.S., I usually tell my American friends that for Anglophones Dutch is the most related language (actually Frisian is even more related but that mini-language is Holland's second language, and I don't want to make things too complicated). The funny thing is that even well-educated Americans normally are not aware of this fact. Some even told me that Celtic, being the second language of the U.K., was probably more related (this book makes clear, by the way, that Celtic is related to the Germanic languages but only remotedly, as another member of the Indo-European family), or French (because of the many loan words).
Well, this book confirms what I tell my Anglophone friends. The funny thing is that I am quite convinced that the Old and even Middle English texts, which Barber quotes, are probably more comprehensible to Dutch readers than to Anglophones. Dutch remained a fully West-Germanic language but English, though at its core still very much a West-Germanic language, was heavily influenced by North Germanic (Scandinavian) and especially French, due to the invasions of Vikings and Normands. It's curious how the Old English texts use words that still are current in Dutch but (more or less) lost in modern English: "onfeng" is "ontvangen" in Dutch but became "receive" (i.e. a French loan word) in English. "Niman" is "nemen" in Dutch but "take" (Scandinavian) in modern English. "Witan" is "weten" in Dutch but became "to know" in modern English. I found endless other examples in this book ("Ic dorste" = Ik dorst (in Dutch) = I dared (in English).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: A Historical Introduction aims to cover the development of our speech over as wide a span as possible, from the murky past of the ancestral Indo-European language to the present day. Charles Barber was responsible for the first edition of 1993, but for this second edition Joan C. Beal and Philip A. Shaw have made some revisions and added an entire new chapter on Late Modern English. The book is targeted towards speakers of UK English, as many of the examples and the description of sound changes assumes a knowledge of that variant particularly.

This book is a mess. The authors want to tell a story in a friendly manner, but first they spend over 50 pages of a 300-page book describing the basics of linguistics (phonology, syntax, language change). This will scare away readers wanting a friendly introduction, and for readers wanting a more meaty text these linguistic concepts are presented in far too sketchy a fashion to really prepare them for serious study. After that introductory chapter, the actual description of English over time is little more than the authors throwing out trivia without forming a coherent, smoothly flowing text. It feels like something cobbled together.

The chapter on Late Modern English is interesting. While anyone can notice that e.g. Jane Austen was writing from a different time due to her quaint vocabulary, I had never noticed some syntactic changes that had occurred in English only after her time. Still, there must be better historical introductions to English out there.
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