From Publishers Weekly
Linguist Crystal (How Language Works
) elucidates the serendipitous nature of language study as he meanders from Wales to San Francisco by way of England and Poland, taking every opportunity for linguistic exploration. A somewhat rambling travelogue is paired with Crystal's idiosyncratic thought processes, and the book is full of descriptive anecdotes culminating in linguistic intrigue. Often something simple such as an impromptu Good morning from a Welsh shepherd is the trigger, in this case prompting the history of the shepherd's crook of the book's title. Crystal searches for—and finds—surprising topics in the lush cultures surrounding him, including the etymology of the name of a Welsh town which contains 58 letters (it's Llanfairpwll for short), causing him to speculate on why words containing consonants like m, n, l, and r are considered the most beautiful, to discuss the linguistic processes of a wordplayer and to conclude with a version of Hamlet
in which every word begins with h. In a conversational style that includes plenty of quirky facts, Crystal captures the exploratory, seductive, teasing, quirky, tantalizing nature of language study, and in doing so illuminates the fascinating world of words in which we live. (May)
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Praise for 'The Stories of English': 'A marvellous book!for anyone who loves the English language(s) it will be a treasure-house.' Philip Pullman 'Reads like an adventure story. Which, of course, it is.' Roger McGough 'Rejoices in dialects, argots and cants!enlightening -- in a word, excellent.' Sunday Times 'A spirited celebration!Crystal gives the story of English a new plot.' Guardian 'Simply the best introductory history of the English language family that we have. The plan of the book is ingenious, the writing lively, the exposition clear and the scholarly standard uncompromisingly high.' J.M.Coetzee