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The Story of English (1986)

by Robert McCrum, William Cran, Robert MacNeil

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2,627265,052 (3.91)53
This work charts the tale of a language that came from nowhere to conquer the world. It is an introduction for both student and general reader alike.
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Very interesting book on how English developed over the years. The PBS series is also good. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
( )
  ByronDB | May 17, 2022 |
Fascinating book, fascinating series. I check it out from the library every year. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
The Story of English is titled about as literally as it comes. It is the story of the English language from its beginnings back in the middle ages to the current year of 1986(to the book). So it covers different areas and places that came into contact with the budding English language, and different events that shaped it. For instance, I learned that William the Conqueror was from Norman France, and wanted French to be the language of the educated and cultured. However, within a few generations English bumped back into play and was used again. That was pretty interesting.

The book is split into several chapters, with each chapter talking about a specific area or time period. They devote a great deal of space to American English, but they also talk about the Celts, the Scots, the Vikings, and all of them. You know, how they borrowed constantly to expand the vocabulary and all of that.

The last chapters talk about recent developments in English and how other nations might have more English Speakers than England and the United States. So it was covering India, China, other super powers of population... Since English is so widely spread, it is a wise idea to learn it rather than to not.

The Epilogue speaks of English as being an evolving thing, not set in stone, which is good. That means that the language is alive. Although there may be people that look down on new spellings for things and texting and whatnot, it will be there as a way to communicate.

It also touches on something that does bother me somewhat; namely, a great deal of people in other countries are at least bilingual. This is pretty easy to do, since all they have to do is learn English along with their mother tongue. For me though, I would have to choose one language out of hundreds. Well, maybe not hundreds, but several. Off the top of my head, I could try Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Russian or Portuguese. There are just so many choices... I don't really feel like traveling to Spain or Mexico or France, but if I wanted to, I could do so comfortably if I had another language. Or I could speak to immigrants or something. It would be interesting to get another world view, but nope.

Ah well, I would read this book again, since it was pretty interesting and meant to be a companion book to some old BBC or PBS television show/programme. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
This is a fascinating and interesting examination of how English can be presented as story.
  gmicksmith | Mar 12, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert McCrumprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cran, Williammain authorall editionsconfirmed
MacNeil, Robertmain authorall editionsconfirmed

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When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises o prolong life to a thousand years, and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who, being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay...
--Dr. Samuel Johnson, from his Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755
A living langage is like a man suffering incessantly from small haemorrhages, and what it needs above all else is constant transactions of new blood from other tongues. The day the gates go up, that day it begins to die.
--H. L. Mencken, from The American Language, 1919
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"The English language", observed Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is the sea which receives tributaries from every region under heaven."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This work charts the tale of a language that came from nowhere to conquer the world. It is an introduction for both student and general reader alike.

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