The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language Hardcover – 13 Oct 2003
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Melvyn Bragg's superb new history of the English language is told as an adventure story, and rightly so. There is much splendid intellectual firepower in this book, as one might have expected from watching the ITV series on which it was based, and the story is not all one of imperialistic advance. (Andrew Roberts, Spectator)
Beautifully clear and, indeed, thrilling (Waterstone's Books Quarterly)
On American English as it evolved Bragg is excellent. He has a novelist's eye for the illuminating vignette...it is always readable, often thought-provoking, and consistently entertaining. The colour illustrations are a particularly striking feature of the book. (Independent)
Bragg's approachable account...gleams with little gems. His enthusiasm is appealing...he digs beneath modernity and examines our bedrock with a sympathetic eye. It has power and clarity...this adventure is rewarding. (Sunday Herald)
Bragg's excellent radio programmes on the subject ...are the basis of this history of English over the past 1,500 years. Bragg is an expert translator in areas that academics find difficult to popularise...encapsulationg academic knowledge of Old and Middle English he produces a pithy, accessible narrative. (Guardian)
This is a highly readable, jargon-free treatise on a notoriously prickly subject. Bragg's affection for his subject is infectious. In this he successfully joins a long tradition of gentleman enthusiasts from peppery Dr Johnson to genial James Murray. (The Observer)
Melvyn Bragg's fascinating biography of the English languageSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Nit-picking aside the book is a great read. It is full of interesting history and, especially in the latter half of the book, full of fascinating facts you always wanted to know about words but couldn't be bothered finding out. Such as the reason for expressions such as 'the Real McKoy' and 'Maverick'. Why Americans pronounce every syllable while us Brits tend to clip vowels as in 'Cem-e-ter-y'(US) and 'ceme-try'(England). How Kangaroo, supposedly, wasn't actually the name of the animal but the aboriginal for 'I don't know what you're talking about' when a native was asked for it's name in English. etc etc
If it's quick fire facts about the English language you're after I would recommend Bill Bryson's 'Mother Tongue'. It is an easier read and has more humour. Bragg's book goes into much more depth charting the progress of English from it's very beginning up to present day America and Australia. Not as readable as Bryson, his style more lecture hall than matey, but definitely worth it.
The best implemented sections are those that cover the language from the 4th century through to 17th century, and encompassed the repeated invasions during the first millenium by anyone on mainland europe with a boat and an axe, the Norman invasion and subsequant 300 year occupation, the plague, the catholic strangle hold of the 15th and 16th century, attempts to translate the latin bible to english for all to read, catholic attempts to stop this, the origins of Protestantism, the formalising of the language away from its regional spellings and dialect into a singular language, the work of the tamperers in making the language more difficult to learn thru the first official publication of the English Bible by King James 1.
Pros: Its all great stuff and additionally provides a real taste for the history that has shaped much of this country as it stands today.
CONS: It does lose its impact as it takes onboard the modern forms of english; American, Jamiacan etc but that might be because these hold little interest for me at this time.
While making no claims to be academic the book is linguistically well-informed and packed with endless (and often surprising) examples of borrowings from other languages throughout its 1500 year history. Bragg sees this facility for borrowing as the key to the current global domination of English, resisting in doing so even its home-grown grammarians, lexicographers and other guardians of stagnation. The English dialects are part of that rich pattern and Bragg has no difficulty in celebrating their survival or the continuing resistance to standardised pronunciation.
While fundamentally Anglo-centric, the development and contribution of American English is discussed reasonably fully, along with his understanding of its centrality in the emergence of English as the world's second language. Those who want a comprehensive discussion of the other international versions of English will have to look elsewhere as all get a mention but in superficial detail. This is not to say he is dismissive of them as he sees creoles such as Jamaican patois as no less a part of the language as the English dialects. Ultimately he sees English as diverging into a variety of subsidiary languages in the way that Latin did.
Bragg's style is engaging and compelling despite the extensive historical and linguistic detail, with his love for his language and its earthy roots shining through.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read this book because I was interested in the history of English language and this book was a perfect introduction. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Gurjit
I love books about language and its history and I like Melvyn Bragg on the radio so I thought that this book woudl be an excellent read. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Anne
Interesting all the way through. I saw the tv series many years ago, and had wanted to find out more. He explains things very well. Read morePublished 1 month ago by H. Hall
A great resource written in an easily read style. Informative and interestingPublished 1 month ago by Charlotte murray
A fascinating book whether you are studying English language or just reading for interest. Highly recommended.Published 4 months ago by Michelle
Having taken the module on the OU course I was eager to have the book and it did not disappoint. Recommended for anyone who loves the English languagePublished 8 months ago by tigertiger-burning bright