on 13 May 2012
This was a necessary purchase for a module at university called, 'The History of English' and it is one I am thoroughly glad I made. The book is very easy to read (for a first year BAhons), helpful and explanatory of the main aspects you need to be aware of when studying the history of the English language. I would say however that this is more of a starting guide and could not be relied on to construct an entire essay with. I studied a similar topic at A-level and thought it would have been useful then also.
I would recommend this not just to students of English but those interested in finding out more about the English language. It's definitely not a book that I will be selling on, I can easily see myself rereading it one day.
I did also feel that it was rather pricey but one of the authors was my lecturer and was a lovely woman so it's good to know my money was going to a nice person!
on 13 December 2003
Barber offers an excellent little introduction to the English language, exploring linguistic themes like what is a language? how does the voice work? and then going on to look at how language came to the British Isles, driving out the native languages as the Anglo-Saxon invaders took root, then, in turn, had their language transformed by the next successful invaders, the Vikings, the Normans, etc. Readable and stimulating.
on 24 August 2011
Barber was recommended to me by a friend, as I was at the time writing an article on the formation of English. Reluctant to pick up such a 'mainstream' book - as I am a self-admitting intellectual snob - I was forced to read it by my friend with the promise that I never had to listen to any of her recommendations again if I disliked it.
What a complete shock to find that not only is this the most comprehensive and concise history of the English language that I have come across, it is the best written book on the topic by far.
If you are interested in understanding the formation and development of the English language, with a view to understanding the effects of globalisation and the spread and subsequent change of English, this is the book for you. I've been informed that many universities recommend this as a good guide, and I definitely endorse its use to make some difficult concepts very easy to understand. I love the way particularly that the chapters are set out, which I feel makes the best of the wide range of topics covered.
I feel that the only drawback is that in places the detail isn't deep enough if you are interested in academic analysis. That said, this is the starting point that anyone interested in the subject would need; self-confessed intellectual snob or the loosely interested passer-by, this is the perfect starting block.
on 4 September 2012
When a book about the English Language is subtitled 'A Historical Introduction' you will expect it to explain the origins of the language, with a reasonable degree of supporting evidence. However, this book still clings to the old paradigm in which English just appeared, with no antecedents, after a phase known as the Anglo-Saxon invasion. The book concedes that 21st century genetic evidence shows that the invasion may have been vastly smaller than previously assumed, but it is still startling that such an academic primer is still hanging on to an antique model. The authors still think English appeared as a language spoken by a ruling elite that had landed from Germany. And the statements that the previous language in England was a version of Brythonnic (as stated by Kenneth Jackson in 1950) without at least questioning this shaky proposition is bizarre. The similarities of some Old English words and their Old High German or Old Swedish analogues doesn't prove a thing to me other than English, Swedish and German are related. I already guessed that from the similarity of certain words. It doesn't mean we were invaded by them. If there isn't any available evidence to prop up these suppositions then the authors should say so, and not skate over the problem!
I liked the general chapters before this that explain the general nuts and bolts of a linguistic system - almost useful.