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The Stories of English Paperback – 5 May 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141015934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141015934
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Crystal works from his home in Holyhead, North Wales, as a writer, editor, lecturer, and broadcaster. He published the first of his 100 or so books in 1964, and became known chiefly for his research work in English language studies. He held a chair at the University of Reading for 10 years, and is now Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bob Ventos on 27 Jan 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a long and thorough - but never dull - read, tracing the history of the English language from its obscure Germanic origins to its current international status, and giving particular attention to `non-standard' forms such as dialects, regional accents and alternative spellings. Many interesting questions are dealt with on the way: why does English contain so few Celtic words? Why did we finally end up saying `comes' and `goes' rather than `cometh' and `goeth'? How does dialect work in Tolkein's Middle Earth? David Crystal tells us about the influence of phrases from the King James Bible and Shakespeare, how Keats wrote `I should of written', the consequences of printing on the language, the development of dictionaries, the etymologies of kiosk (Turkish), caravan (Persian) and dungaree (Hindi), and the use of alliteration in Old English verse. I felt like I had an English Degree by the end of the book - better still, the author's enthusiasm is so infectious and his arguments so absorbing that I felt like doing one!
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By The Fisher Price King on 27 July 2004
Format: Hardcover
In this authoritative history of the English language, David Crystal tells two different stories: one is about the development of standard English, and the other is about all its fascinating variant forms (dialects, slangs, the sociolects of particular groups - e.g. Internet users and hobbits!). The value of this is that so-called non-standard forms of English aren't demonized, as they have been in many other histories of the language. Yet at the same time Crystal explains why there are virtues in a standard version of English. This is a well-written book, covering a huge amount of material in pleasingly manageable chunks, with some great asides and interludes (Father Ted, anybody?). It beats the competition hands down.
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119 of 125 people found the following review helpful By jfp2006 on 24 Jan 2005
Format: Hardcover
David Crystal is quite probably the best authority there is on the English language past and present, and in "The Stories of English" he has visibly excelled himself. From "Beowulf" and the earliest documents in Old English right up to the specific features of text-messaging, and looking beyond to the twenty-first-century English-speaking world of his grandchildren, here is an impeccably researched history of the language.
The title gives an immediate clue to the originality of this book, throughout which Professor Crystal is at pains to show that, alongside "standard English", there are all the other varieties of the language which, in the name of a purism which he skilfully shows to be misplaced, have most often been either denigrated or ignored by other historical works of this kind.
Perhaps David Crystal's major achievement is that he succeeds in being scholarly without ever being pedantic. His attention to detailed research is impressive, and yet the reader never once gets bogged down in theoretical linguistics. The writer's approach is resolutely of a sociolinguistic nature, and he constantly draws attention to the links between language and society and the way in which the evolution of one is always conditioned by the evolution of the other. He is particularly good on the language of Shakespeare, and unsparing in his criticism of the "absolute rubbish" propagated on the subject of the bard by "enthusiastic linguistic amateurs".
But David Crystal's book really makes its major point in the way in which prescriptive norms are demonstrated to be arbitrary - however necessary they may also be. The book sets out an unanswerable counter-argument to all those who earnestly equate "good" English with good behaviour, and even with morality.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Jones on 20 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback
I have come late to English having only just scraped a pass at O level 35 years ago. I was sitting on a plane and saw someone on the seat opposite the aisle reading this book. From the little I could see it looked interesting and at the end of the flight when he stopped reading, I fortunately glimpsed the cover as he put it away. I was then straight onto Amazon and located it.

This is a wonderful book, incredibly illuminating and authoritative but at the same time straightforward and attention gripping. However it's not for the faint-hearted having many, many pages of small text. It took me several months to read cover to cover - but I'm glad I did...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By vikki650 on 15 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My review is not of the content of the book, to which I would issue five stars for the same reasons as my predecessors leaving feedback, but is for the physical readability of the text (and I wear glasses, but am not blind!). The content of the book is highly accessible for the novice interested in learning more about the origins and development of world Englishes, but my eyes are so fatigued after just three pages, that I need to put it down even though the content is quite understandable. After making it halfway through the second introduction, I knew there was no way I would finish the book, even though my Open University students have it on their recommended reading list for my sociolinguistics module. What I recommend is keeping a hard copy for those moments when you might use Crystal as a source, but if you want to actually read it like a book, from cover to cover, buy the kindle version and it will be much easier on the eyes. For future editions, I hope the publishers might find it in their hearts to be a little more generous with the font size even though it will take up more paper. It would be well worth it.
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