Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review--The Story of English

The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil could very well be titled The Story of the Englishes, for they discuss the varieties of English existing even at the development of the language. The first three chapters focus on Engish at the time of the book's publication, then the early development of the language itself with the influence of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and French, and the explosion of language during the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries, specifically siting Shakespeare's contributions. The suceeding chapters look at different forms of English (Scots, Irish, African-American, Austrailian), the continuing influence of American and English culture, then finishes with a consideration of the future of English.

This book was published in 1986, so some of the information is dated, including computer-related slang, but it still provides a detailed and well-written overview of the history of the English language, and readers will enjoy finding examples of their own region's speech, as I did in Dan Rather's description of dropping his regional accent for work and pronouncing ten with the standard pronunication instead of the regional tin.


The Story of English. McCrum, Robert, William Cran, Robert MacNeil. New York: Viking, 1986.

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