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The stories of English
Crystal, David
Adult Nonfiction PE1074.7 .C79 2004

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Leading British linguist Crystal (Shakespeare's Words) immediately distinguishes his pluralistic study of English's evolution from the standard, narrowly focused histories by describing not only how it evolved on an isolated island example from a Germanic language to the standard English we know today., but also on marginalized regional dialects, vernaculars and other "nonstandard" examples, beginning with the origins of Old English. He shows, for example, how even Chaucer and Shakespeare embraced dialects in The Canterbury Tales and Henry V. There are also lighter moments, such as Crystal's examination of the Anglo-Saxon intonations of Yoda in Star Wars and of Tolkein's Middle Earth idioms. Writing of the 18th century, the author contrasts the proscriptions of Dr. Johnson and others regarding spelling, grammar and pronunciation with the efforts of Americans such as Noah Webster to differentiate American from British English. (Regional and ethnic variations elsewhere in the British Empire receive more cursory treatment.) However, Crystal glosses over the current status struggle in the U.K. between more "authentic" dialects, such as the northern Liverpudlian, and newer ones, such as the suburban Estuary English. As for the language's future, Crystal wishes to see Standard English taught alongside familiarization with the varieties of dialects. Although he doesn't spell out how to accomplish this, his well-informed and appealing book makes a good case for the importance of dialects. 9 b&w illus., 12 maps. (Oct. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Crystal (Shakespeare's Words; Language and the Internet) is a professor of linguistics who was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1995 for his services to the English language. His wonderful postmodern study of the history of the English language, for both the scholar and the educated reader, breaks new ground in its attention to nonstandard English and to dialectal dialog in literature at all periods of the development of the language. Crystal shows how linguistic change and other aspects of historical and cultural change are linked and delights in geographic and ethnic variation. Beginning with "The Dream of the Rood," an Old English or Anglo-Saxon poem, he reveals that "linguistic purity" has never existed and that English is far more interesting and complex than standard accounts of normative language have indicated. The book reads easily. As its title implies, it tells many stories-and tells them well. Essential for all libraries.-Carolyn M. Craft. Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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