A landmark history of the English language detailing how and where it began 1,500 years ago and how it evolved to become the tongue of some two billion people worldwide.
In this groundbreaking book, Melvyn Bragg shows us the remarkable story of the English language from its modest beginnings around 500 A.D. as a minor guttural Germanic dialect to its position today as a truly established global language. Along the way its colorful story takes in a host of characters, locations, and events, from the early Anglo-Saxon tribes; Alfred the Great's stubborn resistance to the Danes; the impact of the Norman invasion in 1066; the "arrival" of such masterpieces as Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales, not to mention a "coarse" playwright named William Shakespeare (who alone contributed 2,000 new words to the language!); the songs of the Creole slaves and the words of Davy Crockett; and Lewis and Clark's expedition west, which coined hundreds of new terms as they discovered hitherto unknown flora and fauna. Embracing elements of Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi, and Gullah, this 1,500-year story covers a huge range of countries and peoples. The Adventure of English is an enthralling story not only of power, religion, and trade but also of people and how they changed. And continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.
The Great Escape
One of the manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 793 reads: "In this year dire portents appeared over Northumbria and sorely frightened the people. There were exceptional flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine immediately followed these signs, and a little after that in the same year, on the eighth of June, the ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God's church on Lindisfarne."
The Vikings were unloosed and for almost three centuries raids and settlements by these Scandinavian warriors devastated huge tracts of the English islands and threatened to supplant the language which had begun to show such astonishing promise. The Norwegians raided the northern and western rim of Scotland and flooded into Cumbria in the northwest of England. It was the Danes, though, who came with greatest force, their armies looting and then occupying substantial territories in the Midlands and in the east of the country. ...
It's quite a gripping story - just as one thinks English is going to be finally squashed by an invading language, up it bounces as right as rain, not just having survived, but having grown by absorbing the invader (like a linguistic version of the movie Aliens).
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (801 words).
Melvyn Bragg was born in 1939 in Wigton, Cumbria - where many of his 19 fictional books are
set. He won a scholarship to Oxford to read history, and in 1961 he gained a
coveted traineeship with the BBC.
He presented Start the Week between 1988 and 1998. In his 1998 series On Giant's Shoulders he interviewed scientists about their eminent predecessors, and from 1999 to 2001 he presented The Routes of English, a series celebrating 1,000 years of the spoken language (on which The Adventure of English is based).
He currently presents In Our Time, a BBC Radio 4 series where he and his expert guests discuss the history of ideas, and explore subjects in culture and science. The show is off-air until late ...
If you liked The Adventure of English, try these:
'Who would have thought a book about punctuation could cause such a sensation? Truss serves up a delightful, unabashedly strict and sometimes snobby little book, with cheery Britishisms dotting pages that express a more international righteous indignation.'
An illuminating account of the birth and rise of the global political and economic system that, sustained first by Britain and now by America, created the modern world.
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