- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Rev Sub edition (Jun. 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140154051
- ISBN-13: 978-0140154054
- Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 2.1 x 23.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,046,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
The Story of English: Revised Edition Paperback – Jun 1993
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A modern classic. --Sunday Times
A first-rate introduction to one of the most fascinating of subjects. --New York Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
The Story of English, by Robert McCrum - the author of Globish - comes an acclaimed history of the English Language. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Looks pretty - but there's an awful lot of margin. Like the Stephen-Fry-fronted Planet Word, this is a TV-spinoff coffee table potboiler; of the three names blazoned on the cover, one's the director William Cran and one the American 'host' Robert MacNeil (late of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, as another reviewer tells us - just so's you know) leaving the burden of content provision with our own Robert McCrum (whose latest, Globish, went down a bit pearish). I thought the chapter on black English was liveliest. One of the few (dubiously relevant) things I learned was the origin of Jelly Roll Morton's cognomen. Like so much else we're not offered a source for the story, presumably Morton's (notoriously unreliable) autobiography. Rather than the 'notes and sources', a straight bibliography would have made for greater ease of reference - but hey, this is a made-for-TV spinoff, right? This is what Roy Harris, among other kind blurbists, must mean by the 'new cultural orbit' into which linguistics is hereby being launched - a dangerously low-flying one, methinks. The substantially larger third edition (2001, last reprinted 2011) is probably worth investigating and its intro definitely merits a shufti. 2.5
The English language is certainly a sea of words and constructs which has been fed into by almost every major language and ethnic tradition in the world. English began as a hodge-podge of languages, never pretending to the 'purity' of more continental or extra-European languages (which, by the by, were never quite as pure as they like to assume).
The book `The Story of English', as a companion piece to accompany the PBS-produced series of the same name, hosted by Robert MacNeil, late of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, is an articulate, engaging, wide-ranging and fair exposition of an ordinarily difficult and dry subject.
The study of English is difficult on several levels. 'Until the invention of the gramophone and the tape-recorder there was no reliable way of examining everyday speech.' What did English sound like 200 years ago, or 400 years ago? 'English is--and has always been--in a state of ungovernable change, and the limits of scholarship are demonstrated by phrases like the famous 'Great Vowel Shift', hardly more informative than the 'unknown land' of early cartography.'
Of course, written language has until modern times been the limited and limiting commodity of a very small minority of people. The balance between the written and spoken language has a variable history, which can still be seen today (compare the writing of the New York Times against the speech patterns and vocabulary choices of any dozen persons you will find on the street in New York City, and this divergence will be readily apparent).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book I received was a very early edition - it did not contain recent research, included in later editions, identifying various British Neolithic words gained from computerised... Read morePublished 16 months ago by vin bird
Very interesting, although some of the points I found contentious and/or not explained enough. An excellent "commute" book! Read morePublished on 22 Jan. 2013 by Bee of Good Cheer
This is an excellent book on the history of the English language which is a fascinating topic in itself. Read morePublished on 28 Aug. 2012 by Doc Barbara