The Stories of English Reprint Edition
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.13 pounds
- Paperback : 592 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781585677191
- ISBN-13 : 978-1585677191
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.8 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Harry N. Abrams; Reprint Edition (September 6, 2005)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 1585677191
- Best Sellers Rank: #549,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If you think these are interesting questions, you will like this book. David Crystal describes how the ancient kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, Northumberland and Kent each contributed to what we know as “Standard English.” These historical kingdoms have left their mark on the regional dialects and accents of England and the US. Later interactions with other languages around the world gave a subtlety and complexity to English that made it highly expressive. Crystal traces English's improbable ascent to world power. Throughout, there has been a tension between stabilization (defining a standard variety of English) and change (agglomeration of foreign and regional words and grammar). Unlike other languages, English has no “academy” to regulate grammar, vocabulary and spelling. This is probably a good thing. Crystal maintains that as the English language becomes more globalized, “Standard English” is neither an attainable nor even a desirable goal.
I liked how he interspersed illustrative vignettes throughout the book, but I still feel his style could have been a little tighter--he could have given us the same amount of information in a hundred fewer pages.
Crystal never condescends and never lectures: you always feel part of a conversation with a knowledgeable, chatty, and slightly dotty uncle who just wants you stay for one more glass of sherry while he finishes his story.
Today, a great majority of people speak the English language. Few, especially in my country (USA) know anything about its origins or history. So many struggle with its apparent contradictory rules and baffling words. Why do we have words like through, though, and laugh which have a string of seemingly unimportant silent letters? Why is i come before e except after c a rule when there are so many exceptions? Why are double-negatives a "no-no" when other languages use them to emphasize the negative connotation? Why do some speakers have such trouble with syntax? Why did we used to have words like "thee" and "thine" but no longer?
Many of the answers are detailed within. I encourage anyone whose native tongue is English to read it.
One of the most amusing passages is where he quoted a serious poem written before "fart" was considered a word not suited for literature. I am reading it again and find that it helps me understand my own mother tongue...
Top reviews from other countries
Being severely short-sighted, I agree with vikki650 that the text size on the Kindle makes this book easy on the eyes. (The smallest text size is too large on my Kindle apps, if anything!) I wish I could give it 4.5 stars. The issue with the panels is a niggle, but not worth docking a full star.