eBook The Stories of EnglishAuthor David Crystal – 91videos.co

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,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. 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 spokenfrequently 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 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 Than , 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 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. Reading this has honestly been a year long project, as I ve had to alternate this with many other dense readings for my thesis BUT it s honestly a great and comprehensive guide to English I think my favourite parts have to be the chapters on old english and up until middle English The modern parts focused a little too much on prescriptivism descriptivism for my liking because I feel like i ve read that a million times before in uni, but like, a great book for lovers of English I do wish it would be updated with an extra chapter on contemporary English, but for something on that i guess you can always just read any other of Crystal s books 3 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 manyinfluences 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 aexhaustive 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 vastlyspace 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. 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 flawsI m fully aware that it s a bit bathetic of me to dismiss any writing but this most wonderful of linguists, however I adore all of his other books 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 slightlywitty 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. 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 muchinterested 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 themodern 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 companysee 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. 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 Alsotypos 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 wouldbe a bitaggressively 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 book is not it Stick with Inventing English by Seth Lerer. 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