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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine work,
This review is from: The Language Wars (Kindle Edition)What a marvellous book! For anyone interested in the shaping, describing and attempted policing of the English Language this is a "must buy". Hitchings writes lucidly and entertainingly without missing out anything significant.
The book gives a potted history, not so much of the language itself as writings about the language: grammars, dictionaries, style guides, usage guides, and so on. There are chapters on American English, the spread of World Englishes and punctuation mixed in. All are well worth the effort of reading and every chapter seemed to contain something new or something that I had not considered.
One word of warning: there is a chapter on taboo words, so if any potential buyers prefer bowdlerized texts this may not be for them. Less prudish readers will be aware that ignoring such terms would be ignoring significant parts of the language.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite a White Flag,
That said, the author is fundamentally - like most linguists - a descriptivist; that is, he believes that language evolves by itself, and the prescriptivists who try to correct its course are (and he makes the analogy) like King Canute, doomed to failure. This policy proves revealing - of his grisly fascination for Americanisms and his dislike of Lynne Truss, among other things - but is constantly undermined by his (albeit grudging) accounts of the influence of Lindley Murray, Henry Fowler and their ilk. However, in the penultimate essay he appears to abandon all pretence to laissez-faire descriptivism, laying into politicians, advertisers and other manipulators of English for perverting the way we think. and all but joining the ranks of "grumblers, fault-finders, quibblers and mud-slingers" he earlier excoriated.
But that, Hitchings seems to realize, is intrinsic to the fraught nature of the subject. Everyone has some opinion about the ways our language is used, and if you want some provocative writing about those opinions, this book comes highly recommended.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Language Wars: A History of Proper English, by Henry Hitchings,
This review is from: The Language Wars: A History of Proper English (Paperback)Hitchings' title "The Language Wars" aptly sums up his impressively erudite and extremely readable account of the development of our language over the centuries, and deals not only with the emergence of early English and the battles that were fought both for and against it, but also with its modern progress. His style is easy and conversational, but he does not talk down to his readers, nor does he avoid necessary technical terms - although these are always elegantly and helpfully explained or enlarged upon.
I found the whole thing enormously enlightening, and far better than several others, whose authors evidently considered their work to be thorough and painstaking. Hitchings' book is both of these, but the effect is rather like that of a good novel; one chapter leads inexorably to the next, and I found myself reading far into the night.
This, in short, is a book for the "serious amateur" who would like to know a lot more about the study of the English Language, and how it has affected - and is still affecting - the rest of the world.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars grammar,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the history and use of the English language,
I found the sections about the development of dictionaries to be particularly interesting and informative.
This is a serious look at various topics relating to the English language and although it is enlivened by some sharp comments and humour this book does not make for light reading. Recommended for those who have an interest in linguistics and the growth and use of English around the world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on language,
This review is from: The Language Wars: A History of Proper English (Paperback)I have read many books on language. This is simply the best. Unfailingly informative and illuminating, written in an accessible style that is not dumbed down, as are all those wretched TV documentaries these days, it does not patronize, yet it clearly demonstrates the author's scholastic standing, as well as his sense of humour. If you buy one book on language this decade, buy this.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
This review is from: The Language Wars: A History of Proper English (Paperback)I am very pleased with this purchase. The delivery was very quick and the quality of the book is excellent. The book is also very useful. Thank you.
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The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings (Paperback - 1 Sep 2011)