- Taschenbuch: 592 Seiten
- Verlag: Penguin (5. Mai 2005)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0141015934
- ISBN-13: 978-0141015934
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13 x 2,5 x 20,3 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 1 Kundenrezension
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 95.428 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
The Stories of English (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 5. Mai 2005
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"This new history of the English language in all its manifestations is among the best ever written, and is both entertaining and informative."
When and why did 'thou' disappear from Standard English? Would a Victorian Cockney have said 'observation' or 'hobservation'? Was Jane Austen making a mistake when she wrote 'Jenny and James are walked to Charmonth this afternoon'? This superbly well-informed - and also wonderfully entertaining - history of the English language answers all these questions, showing how the many strands of English (Standard English, dialect and slang among them) developed to create the richly-varied language of today.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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The title of the book is important: it focuses the thesis. Crystal traces the development of standard English, as do other historical linguists and such popularizers as Robert MacNeil and Bill Bryson, but-different from them-he traces it alongside the development of competing non-standard, dialects. He insists that one needs to see standard English developing and then existing alongside these other dialects. There are, he urges, several "stories of English," each of which can and should be appreciated.
Crystal argues that there are, in fact, several standard forms of English, each with its own history as it diverges from standard British English. There is, for example, standard American English, standard Canadian English, standard Australian English, and so on, each with a number of non-standard varieties existing alongside it. And there are varieties of English employed in such nations as India, where they provide communication across native language lines and exhibit their own characteristics. The very term "standard" English requires definition.
Amazingly, given the subject he covers and given that he is a professional linguist, Crystal writes accessibly for an educated general audience. For one thing, he breaks into his narrative to offer specific examples and details set off in boxes from the main text. The material presented in his boxed examples clarifies points raised in the main text and, if they occasionally prove a bit heady going for non-specialists, they can be skipped without significant loss. His writing itself is clear, detailed, and often witty. Crystal has done a fine job of explaining sometimes arcane matter without dumbing down and without writing in so technical a manner as to baffle understanding.
Finally, Crystal reviews several implications of there being "stories" and not "a story" of the English language. He says we need what we refer to as "standard" English because of the advantages it provides: we can speak to other English speakers in other countries easily, we can have easy access to their written and oral cultural artifacts, and so on. However, we also need to become less judgmental about non-standard dialects and learn to appreciate them. They are, after all, a part of what we mean when we speak the word "English."
This book would make a fine textbook or corollary reading for a college course dealing with the history of the English language. But it is also just a plain good read for a terrified amateur interested in the subject.
There are at least two surprising aspects of the early history of English that Crystal tries to explain. First of all, how did it pass from the Anglo-Saxon of the 11th Century to the Middle English of the 14th, recognizably the same language that we speak today, in such a short time, with relatively little change in the longer period since? Nearly all of the old inflections disappeared in this period, and a torrent of words of French origin were adopted. Clearly this happened during a time when English was not the language of power in England, as the rulers were speaking French. That in itself brings us to the second surprise, one that is rarely pointed out, but is obvious once it is: why was it English that ultimately survived in England, and not the language of the conquerors? In other cases, such as the use of Portuguese in modern Brazil, it is the language of the conquerors that displaces whatever existed before. As with all such questions there is no one simple answer, but Crystal explains this partly in terms of the relatively small numbers of the Normans -- always a small minority in the country they had conquered, and partly in terms of increasing political rivalry between England and France, with increasing awareness of England as a country in its own right.
As English before the 17th century evolved entirely in the British Isles, and as the major changes occurred before then, it is inevitable that the diversification of the language into American and other modern variants comes late in the book. One can hardly describe the American English of a time when American English did not exist. Thus the complaint by an earlier reviewer of a British bias is not justified, and the later chapters discuss all of the variants of English that exist today.
The organization of the book is somewhat unusual: each chapter presenting a fairly conventional account of the development of English is followed by an "interlude" that discusses some feature, often an anomaly, that is not easily understood in terms of the conventional picture. This is a useful touch, and helps to emphasize the reality that many forms of English have always existed simultaneously, from the various forms spoken by the different Germanic tribes who arrived in England after the middle of the 5th century, right up to the present day.
As the title suggests, the book tells the various stories by which the English language has come to be what it is today. (It's as much about history and politics as it is about language.)
This isn't the only book to cover these topics, of course, but at 584 pages this is certainly one of the most comprehensive and well researched.
What makes this work so special is that it doesn't just concentrate on the history and character of "standard" English:
Indeed, for every one person who speaks Standard English,
there must be a hundred who do not, and another hundred
who speak other varieties as well as the standard. Where
is their story told? (p. 5)
In this vein, it tells the stories of the rise of British English, American English, Scottish English, creoles, street slang and, most recently, Internet English.
It argues that we're presently in the middle of a period of rapid change and growth of English, and these are among some of its many conclusions (p. 529):
1. Language change is normal and unstoppable, reflecting
the normal and unstoppable processes of social change.
2. Language variation is normal and universal, reflecting
the normal and universal diversity of cultural and social
4. A highly diversified society needs nonstandard varieties
('nonstandard language') to enable groups of people to
express their regional or cultural identity.
I recommend this enjoyable and instructive work to anyone who has an interest in this wonderful and diverse language: English.
(c) 2005 Tim North: [...]
It includes more examples from the language (Old, Middle English, Early Modern, etc.) than I remember from other popular books.
It was slower going but I loved the detail. I highly reccommend it for those who won't be discouraged after a couple hundred pages to still be in the 14-15th century.