Gegaderung => Old English Language => Topic started by: David on March 13, 2011, 05:48:37 PM

Title: Development of English
Post by: David on March 13, 2011, 05:48:37 PM
We were asked for more postings so I am asking for help.

I am interested in the development of our language.
I have come across some changes from old English to middle English but I would like to find out more.
I am also interested in finding out about changes in English during the old English period, and different dialects
Finally, I would particularly like to find out about the predecessors of old English.

Can anyone tell me about other books or sources on these developments ?
Title: Re: Development of English
Post by: Graegwulf on March 15, 2011, 12:31:34 PM
There have been many books on the history of the language, though all the ones I know are rather old now.  I've mentioned "Our Marvellous Native Tongue" by Claiborne, which I like because it looks at the older, Germanic and even Indo-European beginnings as well as the history within England.

Barbara M. Strang's book, the title of which I can't remember, is interesting because it goes the other way: it begins with modern English and works back.  This is useful because you start with something familiar and get to understand the older forms step by step, rather than starting in the deep end with Old English, which is a foreign language if you haven't studied it.

Another Oldie but Goodie is Lancelot Hogben's "Mother Tongue", but once more, not up-to-the-minute historical linguistics.

I'm on the look-out for something more modern, it's a while since I've read any books on the history of English.


Title: Re: Development of English
Post by: Deoran on March 20, 2011, 09:58:47 AM
David Crystal's "The Stories of English" is the best that I have read, and is fairly contemporary.

Title: Re: Development of English
Post by: Horsa on March 20, 2011, 01:59:12 PM
There was also Melvyn Brag's recent TV series -  The Adventure of English ( That's where I first heard about Chancellery English (I think it's called). I liked the series. There's an accompanying book, too.
Title: Re: Development of English
Post by: Deoran on March 22, 2011, 06:30:30 PM
I agree: Bragg's book is certainly excellent (I've not seen the series), but he is a presenter, albeit a more scholarly one than many of his peers, and it shows in the level of detail in his book compared to Crystal's, who is an academic. For example, in one of the Old English chapters of "The Stories of English", I seem to recall Crystal analyses several versions of a manuscript line by line, identifying potential scribal errors and dialectal variation. Great stuff!

So I'd say that if you want an easy bedtime read, Bragg's book is for you (or perhaps Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language, which I've not read); if you want a slightly less accessible but more thorough discourse on the development of English, Crystal is your man. He's written other books on the English language as well, as I'm sure have other academics.