BookBrowse Reviews Spell It Out by David Crystal

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Spell It Out

The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling

By David Crystal

Spell It Out
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2013,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: 2 Dec 2014,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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David Crystal's fascinating look at how English words are spelled sheds light on the diverse forces that shaped the language

David Crystal's rich, useful and fascinating survey of English spelling will change the way you think about language. Crystal shows us that language is not a fixed system created by scholars, but is constantly being shaped and reshaped by individual pens and voices – monks, scribes, speakers of regional dialects, printers, and even Twitter users.

Crystal shows why English spelling can be so confusing and how it got that way: "[the] origins of spelling difficulties in English lie in the fact that there are far more sounds in the language than there are letters." After a brief and illuminating section on alphabet origins, Crystal explains how scribes first used the Latin alphabet to record the sounds of Old English, a runic, Germanic, inflected language that had sounds that didn't exist in Latin: the short "a" sound in "man," for which scribes created the "ae" letter, "ash" and ...

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