- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (1 Sept. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340829931
- ISBN-13: 978-0340829936
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Adventure Of English Paperback – 1 Sep 2004
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Melvyn Bragg's superb new history of the English language is told as an adventure story, and rightly so. There is much splendid intellectual firepower in this book. (Andrew Roberts, Spectator)
Concise as well as learned...Melvyn Bragg takes the high road and strides confidently through the origins and growth of English. It gives us an impressive and sage view of the big picture. (Robert Winder, New Statesman)
Bragg is an expert translator in areas that academics find difficult to popularise...he produces a pithy, accessible narrative. (Guardian)
This breathless tale of the English language is one of struggle, resilience and triumph (Irish Times)
Beautifully clear and, indeed, thrilling (Waterstone's Books Quarterly)
Bragg's approachable account gleams with little gems. It has power and clarity...rewarding. (Sunday Herald)
Always readable, often thought-provoking, and consistently entertaining. (Independent)
This is a highly readable, jargon-free treatise on a notoriously prickly subject. Bragg's affection for his subject is infectious. In this he successfully joins a long tradition of gentleman enthusiasts from peppery Dr Johnson to genial James Murray. (Observer)
Melvyn Bragg's fascinating biography of the English languageSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Nit-picking aside the book is a great read. It is full of interesting history and, especially in the latter half of the book, full of fascinating facts you always wanted to know about words but couldn't be bothered finding out. Such as the reason for expressions such as 'the Real McKoy' and 'Maverick'. Why Americans pronounce every syllable while us Brits tend to clip vowels as in 'Cem-e-ter-y'(US) and 'ceme-try'(England). How Kangaroo, supposedly, wasn't actually the name of the animal but the aboriginal for 'I don't know what you're talking about' when a native was asked for it's name in English. etc etc
If it's quick fire facts about the English language you're after I would recommend Bill Bryson's 'Mother Tongue'. It is an easier read and has more humour. Bragg's book goes into much more depth charting the progress of English from it's very beginning up to present day America and Australia. Not as readable as Bryson, his style more lecture hall than matey, but definitely worth it.
The best implemented sections are those that cover the language from the 4th century through to 17th century, and encompassed the repeated invasions during the first millenium by anyone on mainland europe with a boat and an axe, the Norman invasion and subsequant 300 year occupation, the plague, the catholic strangle hold of the 15th and 16th century, attempts to translate the latin bible to english for all to read, catholic attempts to stop this, the origins of Protestantism, the formalising of the language away from its regional spellings and dialect into a singular language, the work of the tamperers in making the language more difficult to learn thru the first official publication of the English Bible by King James 1.
Pros: Its all great stuff and additionally provides a real taste for the history that has shaped much of this country as it stands today.
CONS: It does lose its impact as it takes onboard the modern forms of english; American, Jamiacan etc but that might be because these hold little interest for me at this time.
I also could relate to how he felt the need to change his Northern accent when he reached 16 years old and began moving in different circles. I had a very thick working class north side Dublin accent until I was 19. Then I became very conscious of the way in which I spoke as I had left home and was living with a house full of foreign students. There was also a certain stigma attached to my accent, that I did not want. I regret now that I have lost so much of my old accent yet it still hangs in there, and people can still pick it up sometimes, just like with Bragg.
His section on the influence of Bible on English was generally OK, but being an avid student of Church history it was nothing I didn't know, and I actually felt he got a few of his facts wrong, but I won't go into that here as it didn't take away from the point of the story.
I really enjoyed the 2nd section of the book which spoke mainly about how English has spread around the world including America and Australia and how different nations have taken English and adapted it like India. One example he uses in "Singlish" in Singapore. Another interesting part was about the English of the West Indies including Jamaica.
A short book, packed with information. Very interesting subject.
While making no claims to be academic the book is linguistically well-informed and packed with endless (and often surprising) examples of borrowings from other languages throughout its 1500 year history. Bragg sees this facility for borrowing as the key to the current global domination of English, resisting in doing so even its home-grown grammarians, lexicographers and other guardians of stagnation. The English dialects are part of that rich pattern and Bragg has no difficulty in celebrating their survival or the continuing resistance to standardised pronunciation.
While fundamentally Anglo-centric, the development and contribution of American English is discussed reasonably fully, along with his understanding of its centrality in the emergence of English as the world's second language. Those who want a comprehensive discussion of the other international versions of English will have to look elsewhere as all get a mention but in superficial detail. This is not to say he is dismissive of them as he sees creoles such as Jamaican patois as no less a part of the language as the English dialects. Ultimately he sees English as diverging into a variety of subsidiary languages in the way that Latin did.
Bragg's style is engaging and compelling despite the extensive historical and linguistic detail, with his love for his language and its earthy roots shining through.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having taken the module on the OU course I was eager to have the book and it did not disappoint. Recommended for anyone who loves the English languagePublished 2 months ago by tigertiger-burning bright
Excellent book. Easy to read and to understand how the English language came to be.Published 2 months ago by Giuliano Mennella
An excellent read on the development of probably the world's most important language. A must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the English language.Published 3 months ago by J. Lock
When writing about language it's foolish to use the word "Adventure". Melvyn's no fool; he's accurate and a good researcher, but "Adventure"? I think not. Read morePublished 3 months ago by mike samuels
A fantastic read for anyone interested in the history and evolution of the English language. Despite it's diverse forays into foreign lands or the efforts of invaders to purify or... Read morePublished 4 months ago by bookworm