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By Seth Lerer

Why is there this kind of outstanding distinction among English spelling and English pronunciation? How did our likely rather basic grammar principles advance? What are the origins of local dialect, literary language, and daily speech, and what have they got to do with you?

Seth Lerer's Inventing English is a masterful, attractive background of the English language from the age of Beowulf to the rap of Eminem. Many have written in regards to the evolution of our grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, yet in simple terms Lerer situates those advancements within the better historical past of English, the US, and literature.

Lerer starts off within the 7th century with the poet Caedmon studying to sing what could develop into the earliest poem in English. He then appears on the medieval scribes and poets who gave form to center English. He unearths the strains of the good Vowel Shift within the spelling offerings of letter writers of the 15th century and explores the achievements of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of 1755 and The Oxford English Dictionary of the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries. He describes the variations among English and American utilization and, throughout the instance of Mark Twain, the hyperlink among nearby dialect and race, category, and gender. ultimately, he muses at the ways that touch with overseas languages, pop culture, advertisements, the net, and e mail proceed to form English for destiny generations.

Each concise bankruptcy illuminates a second of invention-a time whilst humans came upon a brand new type of expression or replaced the way in which they spoke or wrote. In end, Lerer wonders no matter if globalization and expertise have became English right into a global language and displays on what has been preserved and what has been misplaced. a special combination of historic and private narrative, Inventing English is the dazzling story of a language that's as dynamic because the humans to whom it belongs.

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Extra info for Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language

Sample text

This word comes straight from the Old English poetic vocabulary, with its compound force and its internal alliteration. The word appears in the poem Christ (937). In Genesis, there is wælgara wrixl (the exchange of death spears). But the power of this word comes, too, from the more common contexts of the verb wrixlan. For what is more frequently exchanged in Anglo-Saxon literature are words rather than weapons. The scop in Beowulf exchanges one word for another, varies his vocabulary when he wordum wrixlan.

Gif min bearn wera brucan willað, / hy beoð gesundran and þy sigefæstran . ” (“If the children of men will use me, they will be the healthier and the more victorious”). That health and victory, however, is not simply bodily or martial, but spiritual. This is a book of creation itself, a great Bible no 21 doubt, bound with glittering ornament: “forþon me gliwedon / wrætlic weorc smiþa” (“on me there glistens the remarkable work of smiths”). That Old English word wrætlic appears again and again in the riddles to illustrate how even the most mundane of objects can seem remarkable.

Told in the first person, it begins by recounting how a thief ripped off flesh and left skin, treated the skin in water, dried it in the sun, and then scraped it with a metal blade. Fingers folded it, the joy of the bird (that is, the feather) was dipped in the woodstain from a horn (that is, the ink in an inkwell), and left tracks on the body. Wooden boards enclose it, laced with gold wire. “Frige hwæt ic hatte,” ask what I am called, it concludes. It is a book, but no mere volume. It is made up, sequentially, of all other parts of creation.

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