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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 27 January 2009
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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on 15 July 2012
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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on 20 September 2008
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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on 26 June 2008
Another excellent book by the Language Expert, David Crystal. This was on the recommended reading list for a module of my English degree course, and found it both a fascinating and useful read. Would recommend to anyone studying Linguistics or for anyone who has a general interest in the English Language.
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on 9 September 2009
I use reading glasses and have no problem reading with them. However - I found the size of the text too small in this book and consequently I have not been able to read it. Straining takes all the pleasure out of reading and so I would say - try to buy another edition with standard sized print or you may not enjoy it. I was so looking forward to enjoying this topic (during a 3 week holiday) but had to give up after 2 pages. I am sure that I would have been able to give it a good review had I been able to plough through it!
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on 6 January 2015
This book is unusually entertaining to read for what is primarily a textbook for English Language & Linguistics students. Clearly written with a few to the telling anecdote as well as pedagogic rigour, it was bought for my daughter, but I dipped into it and ended up reading the whole book. Fascinating and - the best recommendation I can think of - a very good read.
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on 18 January 2010
This is the story of the development of the English language - both standard and non-standard forms. In this book Crystal presents the correlation between social, political and economical changes alongside the language changes of the same period. This makes for a very interesting read and is clearly thoroughly researched.

There is a lot of information in this book but it's very accessible and not overly academic. I have read other history of English themed books and this one for me was by far the best. I don't think you need to be a student of English Language to enjoy or learn from this book.

The book itself is presented chronologically in small sections, with some interesting asides thrown in. The best thing about this book is the passion for language Crystal conveys in his writing. It is nearly 600 pages of very small text, but I wasn't bored once. His enthusiasm for the subject carried me through and made it effortless to pick up and continue learning - I genuinely wanted to.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the development of the English language.
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on 16 February 2013
I am in awe of David Crystal's knowledge of the English Language & now read a bit of him daily alongside an English Literature set text. He has a lovely writing style & The Stories Of English reads like a detective story. Yes, I forget most of the key information almost as soon as I've read it but in the moment of reading it is highly enjoyable & compelling! His ability to leave you wanting more at the end of each chapter & stage of history makes him more like a literary storyteller than your average, bog-standard text-book writer! At 43, I am part of the Literature-only generation of students &, despite an English & Philosophy degree & 10 years of English teaching in the 1990s, I have managed to avoid English Language studying to date. However, David Crystal has a real gift for making the subject accessible & entertaining & his grasp of the subject is breathtaking! You really feel you are reading The Master!I am now reading his latest book on Spelling & it is equally fab although I think Stories of English will always have a special place in my heart as the book that got me hooked on DC!
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on 27 November 2013
This book is packed full of interesting facts, historical nuggets of info about how the English language has evolved and changed. It's set out in small sections that you can dip into. Always interesting, stimulating and quirky! It also has tables, maps, prints of manuscripts, verses etc. Extremely erudite.
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on 31 August 2009
I enjoyed this book but was irritated by it in equal measure. The enjoyment came from its exploration of how English developed down the centuries and its wanderings along the bye ways of the language, but three aspects annoyed me. Firstly I found the author's style pedantic and a heavy read. Secondly there is very little about modern versions of the language except American and British. I would have loved to know more about Indian, Aussie, Kiwi, West Indian and other varieties. Thirdly the author has a down on correct standard English which he associates with racism and class warfare. He worships Middle English as the golden age of dialect diversity but English is now a world language which needs standards for global intelligibility. If he had cut out the political diatribe and told us more about modern versions of the language it would have been a better book.
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