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A History of the English Language

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Comprehensive and balanced, this classic exploration of the history of the English language combines internal linguistic history and external cultural history from the Middle Ages to the present. The emphasis is on political, social and cultural forces that affect language. The fifth edition reflects the latest trends and statistics of the past 10 years in a revised and Comprehensive and balanced, this classic exploration of the history of the English language combines internal linguistic history and external cultural history from the Middle Ages to the present. The emphasis is on political, social and cultural forces that affect language. The fifth edition reflects the latest trends and statistics of the past 10 years in a revised and updated Chapter One, "English Present and Future." It also provides a new section on gender issues and linguistic change and includes a thorough revision of Chapter 11, "The English Language in America," including updated material on African American Vernacular English. Discusses Black English and varieties of English in both Africa and Asia, as well as varieties in the United States, Australia and Canada. Includes a map of American dialects. Provides examples of twentieth-century vocabulary. For multilingual readers or anyone who wishes to develop a well-rounded understanding of present-day English.


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Comprehensive and balanced, this classic exploration of the history of the English language combines internal linguistic history and external cultural history from the Middle Ages to the present. The emphasis is on political, social and cultural forces that affect language. The fifth edition reflects the latest trends and statistics of the past 10 years in a revised and Comprehensive and balanced, this classic exploration of the history of the English language combines internal linguistic history and external cultural history from the Middle Ages to the present. The emphasis is on political, social and cultural forces that affect language. The fifth edition reflects the latest trends and statistics of the past 10 years in a revised and updated Chapter One, "English Present and Future." It also provides a new section on gender issues and linguistic change and includes a thorough revision of Chapter 11, "The English Language in America," including updated material on African American Vernacular English. Discusses Black English and varieties of English in both Africa and Asia, as well as varieties in the United States, Australia and Canada. Includes a map of American dialects. Provides examples of twentieth-century vocabulary. For multilingual readers or anyone who wishes to develop a well-rounded understanding of present-day English.

30 review for A History of the English Language

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    This is a fantastic, highly detailed overview of the history of the English language in which I learned some surprising things, such as: --"they," "their," and "them," our plural pronouns, were a Scandinavian (specifically Danish) import. Old English conjugated them as "hie," "hiera," "him." --In fact, the Danish invasions of England prior to the Norman Conquest probably contributed a lot more to our loss of inflection (word endings) than the French influence on our language ever did. While we This is a fantastic, highly detailed overview of the history of the English language in which I learned some surprising things, such as: --"they," "their," and "them," our plural pronouns, were a Scandinavian (specifically Danish) import. Old English conjugated them as "hie," "hiera," "him." --In fact, the Danish invasions of England prior to the Norman Conquest probably contributed a lot more to our loss of inflection (word endings) than the French influence on our language ever did. While we "borrowed" a lot of words from the Norman French, we adapted our syntax to the Scandinavian model, so that our language became much simpler in terms of inflection compared to say, German or Latin. --Also, Middle English grew out of a lack of regulation/caring on the part of the Norman invaders, who kept speaking their own version of French while the English middle/lower classes spoke a rapidly evolving (and unchecked) form of English. --We can thank the 18th century (Enlightenment period) for many of our more restrictive grammar rules of today; for instance, "lay"/lie," "between you and I," "between/among," "different from" versus "different than," etc. This was also the period in which a grammarian named Robert Lowth condemned the double-negative, a construction often used by Shakespeare, but now deemed grammatically incorrect (as though English were equivalent to algebra!) --When a grammarian makes people stick to certain grammatical rules, this is called "prescriptive grammar." -- Prescriptivists like to assert rules for everything, from how a word should be used based on its etymology to how it should be used based on its usage in Greek or Latin, and even to how it should appear based on analogy (for example, if you write "backwards" and "forwards," you should also write "afterwards" and "homewards.") Gah, I kind of detest these 18th century guys. They ruin all the fun that writers like Shakespeare had with English--Shakespeare, who molded the tongue like clay, coining and using more words than almost anyone else in the Elizabethan period. Basically, this text confirms that English is an ever-changing, ever-living language, growing and morphing, adapting and revising itself according to the needs and circumstances of those who speak it. What lives cannot be contained; it can only be described in each successive moment of its appearance--that's our language, and we should be proud that whatever grammatical boxes we place it in, it always manages to break out of.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alina

    This book cycles through the entire history of the English language, from the proto-Indo European start to its modern day variations. For everyone who thinks that our language is as simple as "English is a mix of German and French," you have SO much to learn. A favorite non-fiction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nadja

    unlike my professor, this book actually makes sense

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This was a good book; I wish I had the latest edition rather than this edition from the early 1990's. The language has changed since the introduction of the Internet and texting which wasn't an issue at the time this version came out. I think I may have had this version since it was new, though. I just now got around to reading it in it's entirety. Very informative. Some chapters were more interesting than others. I liked the chapters on Old English and also on American English. Always something This was a good book; I wish I had the latest edition rather than this edition from the early 1990's. The language has changed since the introduction of the Internet and texting which wasn't an issue at the time this version came out. I think I may have had this version since it was new, though. I just now got around to reading it in it's entirety. Very informative. Some chapters were more interesting than others. I liked the chapters on Old English and also on American English. Always something to learn, so I keep expanding my knowledge of my own langauge. Languages are alive and amazing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Hatchigan

    Read this for a college course (and basically had to memorize the contents). It was one of my most challenging - and rewarding - classes. Baugh shows how language is elastic, bending and changing and morphing as time, history and cultural influences force and/or influence written and verbal exchanges.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Krystal

    I'm putting this on here because it may be one of the first honest-to-god textbooks that I actually read all the way through. It feels like an accomplishment.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I read this book three times in one semester as an undergrad in the 1980s for a really hard class. I LOVED IT--both the class and the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    An incredibly easy-to-read but detailed account of the whole history of the English language, divided into three parts: Old, Middle, and Modern English.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erin Riggio

    I read this in a college class and really enjoyed it. It might be a bit dry to read in its entirety, but pick it up for some fascinating anecdotes about the history of our language.

  10. 5 out of 5

    George King

    My college text--and still the standard by which others must be measured. The complexity of the English language is a thing of beauty.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    If, for any reason, you find yourself wanting or needing to read Baugh and Cable's A History of the English Language, I'd advise you against using the Sixth Edition. It blurs details that earlier editions are much more clear about, re-arranges chapters that were better organized before, and since it doesn't address really recent evolutions in the language, you really aren't missing anything by using an earlier, clearer edition. The sixth one just isn't great.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    It gives a really in-depth view of all the cultural and political influences that shaped the English language to what it is today. Kind of nice to read if you have the time and interest for these kind of things.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rao Javed

    Syllabus book...always hate them.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erica Walsh

    Totally a book I had to read for college - but if you ever said, "Why is this a word?" then this book is fun. And if you are nerdy - this book is fun.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Holstrom

    One of the few history books I've actually enjoyed. It starts at the very beginning of English language and goes up to today-ish and English in America. A wonderful read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    Even to one who is not a student of history or linguistics, this book is accessible, and from it I learnt a lot. It is unsurprising that it is known as a standard text of the history of the English Language. Its chronological approach is appropriate, and feels very much like a well-crafted narrative that takes you on a flight from Celtic times, roaming over Beowulf, to Chaucer's Cantebury Tales, to Shakespeare. A highly enjoyable read which I would recommend to anyone who possesses the slightest Even to one who is not a student of history or linguistics, this book is accessible, and from it I learnt a lot. It is unsurprising that it is known as a standard text of the history of the English Language. Its chronological approach is appropriate, and feels very much like a well-crafted narrative that takes you on a flight from Celtic times, roaming over Beowulf, to Chaucer's Cantebury Tales, to Shakespeare. A highly enjoyable read which I would recommend to anyone who possesses the slightest of interest in our cosmopolitan language.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    A very comprehensive look at the English language from an academic standpoint. It was really interesting and I enjoyed seeing how the history we learned in school impacted the language we speak.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Very thorough information. Overall pretty interesting too for a school book on the English language

  19. 4 out of 5

    Yalina Soto

    Easy way to digest the changes English went through, my students found it interesting and educative.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed

    I have no idea why I marked this to read while I actually read and studied it four years ago. Wonderful book

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amellia

    Excellent mix of history and the technical evolution of the English language. The accompanying workbook provided helpful exercises to understand the linguistic aspect of the language.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clay Kallam

    As textbooks go, this was a pretty good read -- though I confess I skipped the lists of words borrowed from specific languages or areas. "A History of the English Language" is also a bit dated, but really, not much has changed in terms of the development of the language in recent decades. And really what you're reading this book is the history of English, which goes back to the 5th century AD or so. I was put off a bit by the odd characters used to designate certain sounds, as I didn't know what As textbooks go, this was a pretty good read -- though I confess I skipped the lists of words borrowed from specific languages or areas. "A History of the English Language" is also a bit dated, but really, not much has changed in terms of the development of the language in recent decades. And really what you're reading this book is the history of English, which goes back to the 5th century AD or so. I was put off a bit by the odd characters used to designate certain sounds, as I didn't know what they referred to, but after a while you could figure it out. In the end, I was surprised how quickly the pages turned, and what I had originally viewed as an assignment that should be required for anyone who takes language seriously turned out to be relatively comfortable survey of a complex topic.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I had this as a textbook for my all-time favorite class at university. Its the most in depth examination of the English language that I have seen. It's equal parts history and linguistics and it's thoroughly readable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    This is one of the few textbooks that I have read in its entirety in a long time. It was fantastic, though, offering an expansive and entertaining look at just what the title describes, a history of the English language from early Germanic roots through modern dialogues.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shehzadamuheet

    digging the history of english language...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Most consistently interesting and engaging "textbook" I've had to read. History and linguistics meshed together.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adastra

    An excellent reference for advancing stuff learned in class.

  28. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    good stuff. suitable for an undergraduate course. works through the basic periodizations with rigor.

  29. 4 out of 5

    secondwomn

    read for my history & structure of the english language class. easy to follow, which is a good quality in a textbook.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Call me a dork, but I had more fun reading this textbook than any other textbook I've been required to read.

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