“It must be the best part of a decade since I saw Bragg's wonderful TV series on the history of the English language. I still remember being fascinated by it. This is the book that accompanied that series. I was given a copy as a gift recently, and it went straight to the top of my to-be-read pile.
And who wouldn't be interested in the history of English? From its early Frisian routes, through the Viking and Norman conquests, and on through successive waves of expansion. The influence of Greek and Latin, the absorption of French influences, the rich tapestry of colonial words brought in from the ends of the world. The standardisation of the language through printing, lexicography and broadcasting, and the specialisation of the language for new communities of speakers. And the continued evolution of the language, even now.
Bragg cleverly splits the narrative into themed chapters. We get a little history lesson, and an explanation for why new words were borrowed from external sources. He explains why so many of our military terms derive from Norman French, and our ecclesiastical words from Latin, and our scientific words from Greek.
It's a very interesting read. But there are problems. There were too many dry lists of words that I wanted to skip. And he admits he's not a specialist, and his work is not aimed at a scholarly audience. That said, he did include both an index and a bibliography at the back, of which I approve.
So yes, a stimulating read. ”
“A must for anyone navigating the world of English, written or spoken! Mr. Bragg gives a thrilling, sometimes funny and always very interesting account of the origins and growth of the English language. ”Dictionerdy wrote this review Tuesday, February 5, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The author treats the English language like a species and looks at where it started and how it evolved and thrives. Lots of information. Lots of speculation about why it is thriving. A really interesting look at something we all take for granted. ”Neil Crocker wrote this review Sunday, January 27, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Great book on the history and origin of English and how other languages influenced it. Great in audiobook format so one can actually hear the language throughout time.”Patrick Abbott wrote this review Wednesday, January 23, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“"The way in which a few tribal and local Germanic dialects spoken by a hundred and fifty thousand people grew into the english language spoken and understood by about one and a half billion people has all the characteristics of a tremendous adventure. That is the story of this book." The language seen as a living organism, with a character, a presence, a life of its own. I enjoyed the reading. ”Noel VdD wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A great story of the growth of a language from one hundred and fifty thousand people to more than a billion people”Mahabaleshwar Hegde wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“There are many books on the history and nature of English available, but this is worthy to stand amongst the best of them. Melvyn Bragg brings his own spin on the subject, informed by the dialect of his own Cumbrian upbringing. Highlights include his account of the first printed bibles in the English language and, much later, the contributions of empire to the language - including Australian, Indian and Caribbean variants among others.”Byron Farrow wrote this review Sunday, September 16, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“If you want to learn why English is a melting pot language, read this book. I had no idea that English borrowed words from so many different languages. I knew it started off as a Germanic language but after reading this book, I don't think it is fair to keep saying that.”Missu wrote this review Monday, July 23, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No