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The Stories of English [Hardcover]

David Crystal
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 May 2004
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 more than 1,500 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, the world-renowned writer and commentator on English. Many books have been written about English, but they have all focused on a single variety ? the educated, printed language called ?standard? English. David Crystal turns the history of English on its head and instead provides a startlingly original view of where the richness, creativity and diversity of the language truly lies ? in the accents and dialects of nonstandard English users all over the world. Whatever their regional, social or ethnic background, each group has a story worth telling, whether it is in Scotland or Somerset, South Africa or Singapore. Interweaved within this central chronological story are accounts of uses of dialect around the world as well as in literary classics from The Canterbury Tales to The Lord of the Rings. For the first time, regional speech and writing is placed centre stage, giving a sense of the social realities behind the development of English. This significant shift in perspective enables the reader to understand for the first time the importance of everyday, previously marginalized, voices in our language and provides an argument too for the way English should be taught in the future.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (27 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997521
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.4 x 5.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,154 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.

Product Description

Review

'It should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in language' -- The Scotsman, June 19, 2004

'learned but lively' -- Financial Times Magazine, June 26, 2004

About the Author

David Crystal is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has published over 90 books and was awarded the OBE for services to the English language in 1995. He is the editor of the Penguin Encyclopedia and the New Penguin Factfinder. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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There was variety from the very beginning. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kiosk, caravan and dungaree 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece 24 Jan 2005
By jfp2006
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book 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
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The English Language
A fascinating account of how our language has evolved over the years. The book keeps your interest and makes you want to know how our language has turned out even though we... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mrs P A Hay
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
Anyone who cares about language should read this book. It'll blow away all your pretensions and fill the gaps in your ignorance. It did mine!
Published 4 months ago by stargazer
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thoughtful, quirky book
This book is packed full of interesting facts, historical nuggets of info about how the English language has evolved and changed. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Sm Cresswell
4.0 out of 5 stars great buy
interesting read....studying for my OU English language /lit so comes in very useful. David Crystal writes for any level of understanding.
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. A. Hurford
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Book, not heavy, humorous and easy-going
"I have ever read Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue, a New York Best Seller. The Stories of English excels that at least in its more serious data and points. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Shi Jingxuan
3.0 out of 5 stars Kindle or Not?
I would prefer to download a Kindle edition for this but it doesn't appear to be one despite there being one on the amazon website...with no price. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Product review
Although I haven't read this book yet, it arrived on time and in perfect condition, and seems to meet my expectations when I ordered it, in terms of its content.
Published 10 months ago by Antony Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like language...
It's a while since I read this but I do remember finding it very absorbing and indeed revelatory, which surprised me a bit because the evolution of language is something I've been... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Terry Downey
3.0 out of 5 stars The text is soooo small!
The text is soooo small it is difficult to read. It causes serious eye strain and I am forever falling asleep whilst trying to read this. The content is OK, just hard to read.
Published 13 months ago by Nel
2.0 out of 5 stars Buy the book, not the Kindle!
A very schollarly book - but it really doesn't suit the Kindle format. The text in the illustrations is all but unreadable, tables disjointed, and there's no easy access to the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Brian Jarrett
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