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The Story of English: How an Obscure Dialect Became the World's Most-Spoken Language Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012

13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Michael O'Mara (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843178834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843178835
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Joseph Piercy has an MA (Hons) in English Literature from Wolverhampton University, and is the author of two previous books.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. G. Henderson on 19 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I started this book with high hopes but was sadly disappointed. Although we get some fascinating insights into the development of the language, the book does not really provide a structured outline of how English came to be and dives off into interesting but not directly relevant side channels about individual authors of note.
He betrays an ignorance of general knowledge and a lack of research which might have been sorted if a friend had read through the manuscript first (or is it an indictment of the subediting these days?). To give two examples: he refers (twice) to the "Archbishop of London" (no such person - did he mean the Bishop of London or the Archbishop of Canterbury or York?) and he tells us that Francis Bacon was made a life peer - which would have been interesting as the Life Peerages Act was passed in 1958. (Bacon was made a baron in 1618 and a viscount in 1621. He died without an heir and the titles died with him, so in a sense perhaps he was a life peer, but he was given an hereditary peerage!)
Ah well.
So feel free to read for some interesting facts, but better not rely on it too much.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Computer Idiot on 14 Nov. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book, tracing the origins of English right back to the Phoenicians and right on to netspeak. Sometimes, it seemed a little uneven with great detail about some things and others covered only with a broad brush. 20% of the book is a detailed index and wide bibliography
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Brooker on 6 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read several books such as this. Joseph Piercy's 'take' on the subject is interesting though it lacks any real depth. I would recommend it for secondary school pupils. My favourite book in this category is Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue"
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Format: Kindle Edition
My main gripe is that the book doesn't actually deliver what the subtitle says. It's well-enough written, but ratherly thinly populated with information and facts, and it seemed rather selective at times.

I started to wonder about the scholarship quite early on, when the author refers to the "Anglo-Saxon invasion". There never was such a thing, as historians had concluded well before this book was written. That was simply one of many replacements of the leadership elite which Britain has seen, albeit one which had a dramatic effect on the evolution of the language.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Royle on 24 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book to 'dip into' not a 'can't put it down' type of read but interesting nonetheless. Would have liked to have seen a little more on etymology.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 4 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
While it can be argued that this relatively short book (fewer than 200 pages) omits a lot, I certainly learned a lot from it and found it to be fascinating. The authors makes the case for ignoring some famous authors on the basis that their work did not affect the development of the language (fair enough) but I would like to have seen more about metaphors, idioms and clichés. Of course, a discussion of those could occupy a book in itself. I'm sure there are such books and maybe I'll investigate one day. Meanwhile, this book traces the rise of the English language from its Germanic origins to the dominant language on the internet.

In fact, the book starts by looking at Celtic languages that were spoken in what is now England prior to the invasions by Angles, Saxons and Jutes, noting that the Romans had their own language that never replaced those Celtic languages, but that the Germanic tribes brought their languages with them and almost made the Celtic languages extinct.

As the centuries progressed, first the Vikings. and then the Normans came, but the Germanic languages that evolved into Anglo-Saxon continued to evolve, absorbing Viking words and Norman French words along the way. Further developments in technology, imperialism, industry and technology caused further changes. There were times when the English language might have become extinct, but it proved to be remarkably resilient before emerging eventually as one of the dominant world languages.

Along the way, the role of royalty, the Church, various editions of the bible, some writers (especially Chaucer and Shakespeare) and other influences are all discussed.
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By JES on 28 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by a friend and amply justified the recommendation. The story is fascinating, particularly when set in an historical context as this author does, and there was much English literature that was entirely new to me.
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