History of the English Language

History of the English Language Seth Lerer
  • Title: History of the English Language
  • Author: Seth Lerer
  • ISBN: 9781565853843
  • Page: 368
  • Format: Unbound
  • History of the English Language Seth Lerer History of the English Language Sixteen centuries ago a wave of settlers from northern Europe came to the British Isles speaking a mix of Germanic dialects thick with consonants and complex grammatical forms Today we call that diale
    Sixteen centuries ago a wave of settlers from northern Europe came to the British Isles speaking a mix of Germanic dialects thick with consonants and complex grammatical forms Today we call that dialect Old English, the ancestor of the language nearly one in five people in the world speaks every day.How did this ancient tongue evolve into the elegant idiom of Chaucer, ShaSixteen centuries ago a wave of settlers from northern Europe came to the British Isles speaking a mix of Germanic dialects thick with consonants and complex grammatical forms Today we call that dialect Old English, the ancestor of the language nearly one in five people in the world speaks every day.How did this ancient tongue evolve into the elegant idiom of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Twain, Melville, and other great writers What features of modern English spelling and vocabulary link it to its Old English roots How did English grammar become so streamlined Why did its pronunciation undergo such drastic changes How do we even know what English sounded like in the distant past And how does English continue to develop to the present day The History of the English Language, 2nd Edition, is Professor Seth Lerer s revised and updated investigation of the remarkable history of English, from the powerful prose of King Alfred in the Middle Ages to the modern day sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr.Throughout its history, English has been an unusually mutable language, readily accepting new terms and new ways of conveying meaning Professor Lerer brings this second edition up to date by including discussions of the latest changes brought about through such phenomena as hip hop, e mail, text messaging, and the world wide web.Are you a logophile someone who Pauses over a word to wonder about its origin Stops to consider if a phrase or word is proper Savors a colorful idiom or slang phrase Is concerned about the use and abuse of English Is just plain curious about words Then you will find these 36 half hour lectures endlessly fascinating and immensely rewarding.Hear the Sound of English over the CenturiesThe author of numerous authoritative books and articles on the English language and English literature, Professor Lerer is an expert who knows how to get people excited about their mother tongue, as evidenced by his many teaching awards Washington Post reviewer Michael Dirda praised the first edition of this course as justly popular, and went on to applaud Professor Lerer s style as erudite without ever becoming dull Professor Lerer captures your interest from the start of lecture 1 when he recites a series of literary passages in their conjectured historical pronunciation The three quotations begin as follows Nu sculon herigean heofonrices WeardWhan that Aprill with his shoures sooteTo be, or not to be that is the questionThe first is the opening of Caedmon s Hymn, the earliest extant poem in Old English, composed around the year A.D 680 Most people are hard pressed to see any connection to modern English, but you will discover that there are many hidden traces.The second passage is from the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer s Canterbury Tales, written in Middle English in the late 1300s This is recognizable as English, but with a mix of baffling vocabulary You will find that many of the unfamiliar words are just slightly disguised versions of words we use today.The last quotation, of course, is from Shakespeare s Hamlet, composed around 1600 But you may be startled to hear Professor Lerer s reading of this celebrated soliloquy, which hardly sounds like the pronunciation of modern British Shakespearean actors That is because English in Shakespeare s time did not sound like what we ve become accustomed to hearing on the stage.The Great Vowel Shift and MoreFrom this core sample of English over the centuries, you begin your journey Professor Lerer proceeds chronologically, beginning with the roots of English in the postulated ancient languages known as Indo European, probably spoken 5,000 to 6,000 years ago by a group of agricultural peoples living around the Black Sea.Never written down, the Indo European languages were discovered in the 19th century when an English scholar noticed that certain words, such as the Sanskrit raj, the Latin rex, the German reich, and the Celtic rix, were similar in sound and meaning they all mean king or ruler These and other clues suggested that most of the languages from Ireland to India descended from a common language or group of dialects, which came to be called Indo European Germanic arose from this protolanguage, and Old English evolved out of Germanic.Linguists have developed remarkable tools for charting how languages change over time In this course, you will employ these tools to investigate four specific areas Pronunciation As you can see from the Old English sample above, the sound of English has changed radically The best known example is the Great Vowel Shift, a systematic change in the pronunciation of vowels that occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries Professor Lerer s reading of several lines from Shakespeare s Richard III shows that the shift was not yet complete in the Elizabethan age.Grammar and Morphology Grammar describes the way words work together, and morphology describes their form, such as whether nouns and verbs are inflected The evolution of such features is fascinating to observe, as in the Old English and Middle English expression methinks, where me is not the subject but rather the indirect object The compound translates as it seems to me Meaning Semantic Change Words change meaning Take the word silly, which comes from the root selig, meaning blessed Over time, the word came to describe not the inner spiritual state of being blessed but the observed behavior of someone who acts foolishly When reading an older text, beware that seemingly familiar words may not mean what you think.Attitudes toward Language Change What are we to make of the wide variation in language use across the people who speak English The 18th century English lexicographer Samuel Johnson wrestled with this challenge while compiling his famous dictionary The debate is reflected in today s debate over prescriptivism the idea that correct linguistic behavior should be taught versus descriptivism the idea that linguistic behavior should only be described.From English to AmericanPublished in London in the mid 18th century, Samuel Johnson s Dictionary of the English Language was the first reference work used as we use a dictionary today as a source for everyday, individual questions on spelling, pronunciation, and grammatical usage.Another influential dictionary figures prominently in the last third of the course, which focuses on English in America In the early 19th century, Noah Webster compiled a dictionary devoted to America s forthright and commonsensical relationship with the English language Today s differences between American and English spelling for example, color versus colour, defense versus defence are due to Webster He also recorded American pronunciations and advocated that all the syllables in a word be enunciated necessary and secretary, not necessry, and secretry Professor Lerer encourages you to step back and observe your own pronunciation If you are from the South, do you pronounce the words pin and gem with the same vowel Professor Lerer himself is from Brooklyn, but the sharpest elements of his accent were ironed out long ago by his mother, a speech therapist for the New York City schools However, like many former dialect speakers, he can revert to his roots, and he demonstrates how he used to pronounce often and orphan the same way.Experience a Great Civilization through Its WordsEnglish has come a long way since those first Germanic settlers crossed the North Sea to Britain The words you use every day are like archaeological artifacts connecting our age to theirs To study the history of this wonderful language with Professor Lerer is to experience the literature, politics, culture, ways of thought, and world outlook of a great civilization through its most precious legacy its words.
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    About Seth Lerer


    1. Professor Seth Lerer 1956 is a contemporary Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University, specialising in historical analyses of the English language, in addition to critical analyses of the works of several authors, including in particular Geoffrey Chaucer.


    999 Comments


    1. Update I loved this book a lot when it was discussing the Indo European roots of the language write up until Samuel Johnson I ve kind of got a bit bored with it since then But suddenly I am not bored, I am ANGRY and what I am angry about is probably going to upset all you Americans.I ve got up to the chapter on the Declaration of Independence which Lehrer things is written in a very erudite manner by Jefferson who would have chosen the words knowing their Latin, or otherwise roots Well I m not s [...]

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    2. This is a 36 lecture course, each lecture being thirty minutes in length The subject is fascinating, and Lerer is obviously learned and highly articulate if intermittently frustratingly dry and pedantic, nevertheless, to the listener s relief, often highly witty as well In the first third of the course, Lerer focuses on the development of Old English from its roots in Germanic languages, in turn hearkening back to Indo European, then moving forward through the period of the Norman Conquest, not [...]

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    3. This was one of my most favorite books ever I have listened to it in Audio format 2 times and found it to be very enlightening Topics such as Indo european How we know how dead languages were probably pronounced, the great vowel shift just prior to Shakespeare s time and why the dialect of poor southern blacks in the USA is a very sophisticated language that follows the rules of good grammar are all covered in an historical context I found my self coming away with much enlightenment and with ong [...]

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    4. I love these lectures I ve listened to them all at least once, and many of the others three or four times They are very informative, as well as interesting, which is sometimes hard to accomplish in this subject, even for people who love it, like me.

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    5. This subject is a so interesting it s getting me all freaky and reverent In point of fact, I m quite literally awe struck I m agog as it were Professor Seth Lerer is wizardly He is a warlock He s a shaman He s Gandalf the white He hath one eye open to the other realm This course is clearly his master work It seems like that anyway It s so brilliant, developed and rich that I am left to assume that it took a lifetime of hard work to create If not like if it s just one of his many than I give up o [...]

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    6. This is truly a masterpiece Delivered by a gifted lecturer with a pipe tobacco and scotch voice for pronouncing ancient tongues and a unique and enjoyable pentameter in speaking He is able to take the arcane and ancient and make it curious and alive, which is an important skill when one is speaking about the syntax of ancient french I have successfully delivered many tidbits from this lecture to friends and students, and continue to productively reflect on the content to this day.

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    7. Lerer s knowledge and affection for his subject is impressive, and particularly impressive is his ability to read various dialects as if he were the native speaker Lerer has a good way in driving home his points e.g vowels are continuously produced sounds that can go on forever whereas consonants break the sound After a description of English s indo European roots, Lerer breaks down the history of the language into Old English Anglo Saxon, 7th to 11th Century , Middle English from the Norman con [...]

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    8. I ve just finished Part I of the three part lecture series Lerer does a great job lecturing, and any listener should know that these are lectures, so yes, boredom and some dryness is part of the fascinating process however, he is very knowledgable about the English language s development, pronunciations, and terms He has filled my head with fascination about simple things such as the word silly or how old English said Aks and we turned letters around to say Ask And, I ve always been curious abou [...]

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    9. This is a series of lectures done by Seth Lerer for The Great Courses and it s all about how language comes to us by way of the Middle Ages and the many influences from Latin, French and Olde English As a writer I was really fascinated and I think had I studied this when I was younger, I might have been better at learning new languages.A tip Don t be intimidate by the deep scholastic content If you are not catching every single fact or concept, just shrug it off and keep going There are things t [...]

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    10. One of the best series I have ever heard It s SO good that, time permitting, I would listen to again IMMEDIATELY and I recommend it FULLY to EVERYONE There is NO FILLER to force the course to meet its total of 36 excellent lectures and plenty for, even a language devotee, to learn afresh.It was fascinating to hear variants of the To be or not to be soliloquy.Great delivery generally, although, as a native Brit , I may have been a little over sensitive about Northern English being rendered with a [...]

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    11. Still another great course from The Teaching Company Five Stars Also another one that I am going to have to listen to several times, since there is so much to absorb.The forty third, albeit audio, book that I have finished this year Normally I do not mind including a very occasional audio book in my count, but this year is different The transition to Durham has, since early June, been so consuming that my reading program has basically stopped I feel like I am starving intellectually One projec [...]

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    12. This was an absolutely fascinating series of lectures which, despite knowing the topic rather well, I learned new things in every lecture Prof Lerer s idiosyncratic style took a little while to get used to, but his obvious and infectious enthusiasm for wordsmithery and the malleability of English was clear from the get go and overruled any misgivings I may have had I can t say I d recommend it to everyone, but to practically anyone with an interest in history, linguistics or literature, I d advi [...]

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    13. This is probably my favorite teach company course yet It help up for a second time through.

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    14. Like that cake sitting in the fridge you keep coming back for tiny bites and occasionally a big, fat piece A language nerd s delight Audio.

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    15. This is a great course very interesting and informative It took me almost 1.5 years to complete it, but it was well worth the time and effort Professor Lerer has such a way of explaining even complex concepts that they seem accessible even to a person like me, who has only a very basic knowledge of linguistics Highly recommended.

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    16. First third was captivating, second third was so so, final third was rubbish.

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    17. Ich liebe diachrone Linguistic, also die Wissenschaft dar ber, wie sich eine Sprache, in diesem Fall die englische Sprache, im Laufe der Jahrhunderte ver ndert hat Naja und dieses Semester hatte ich auch die entsprechende Pflichtveranstaltung Wie das so ist, manche Profs halten tolle Vorlesungen, manche eher weniger tolle und die eigenen Profs leider meistens recht konfuse.Ich habe also diese Reihe parallel zu meiner Vorlesung geh rt Mit 36x30 min entspricht dieser mp3 Kurs auch in etwa dem Volu [...]

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    18. TL DR Great information, horrible listen.Seth Lerer makes William Shatner look like an absolute master of oratory performance There s strong emphasis on just about every other word and strange pauses in odd places At one point Lerer talked about The study OF English The study OF Language and it was just odd Why do you need to hit the word of that hard Ever My roommate overheard the course and described it as a roller coaster of words I m pretty sure he was paid to say ifyoulike and You will reca [...]

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    19. Seth Lerer takes provides a historical, grammatical, intellectual and pronunciation focused perspective of the English language He covers topics from Shakespeare to the Great Vowel Shift to French English politics during the Norman Invasion The lectures are 18 and a half hours long, so this is a meaty series of lectures even if you set your device to play the audiobook extra fast.For the rest of my review click here scribblerhn mendez 2017 08 13 history of the english language book review

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    20. Very fun material It was a little wordy, no pun intended He tends to talk so much about the lesson plan that he seems not to get to the meat of specifics I was dying for specifics about the various topics For example, there would seem to be mountains of fun information about ebonics, but he just kind of tip toed around the subject However, it was still fascinating material and I m definitely glad I listened.

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    21. Looking at my list of books I ve listened to in the past few years, I discovered I had listened to this one as well and had completely forgotten about it Thinking back I now recall it was somewhat interesting but looks like I was unable to actually retain anything at least consciously As such, I can only give it a lukewarm rating of three stars.

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    22. This truly is an amazing book The professor provides an engaging history of English from its earliest sources to the present He discusses the role of the church, national administration, writing, Dictionaries, colleges, and journalism in the development of languages He ends with a discussion of Chomsky.

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    23. If English is your mother tongue then you need to know where that which spills from your mouth originates and there is no finer way of getting the facts than with these lectures I had a slight problem with Lerer s voice but for the most one can distract from this due to the excellence of content

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    24. I keep thinking I m going to be interested in the history of the English language, and then I try a book or a lecture on the subject and I m bored I didn t finish this lecture series I guess it s time to admit I m just not interested in the subject.

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    25. The prominent thing about this book is that it is divided into lectures which are divided into points which make studying history fun keeping it away from long, boring pieces of writings and hundreds of pages on a certain topic I love this book.

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    26. Very informative

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    27. 8 a little too chronological at times But still very interesting.

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    28. This is an audio book.

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    29. Great beginning, great ending Got a little bored in the third quarter.

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    30. This took me a while but it was so good and I enjoyed Prf Lerer very much I won t remember it all, but I don t have to take a test and I have learned some very interesting things about english.

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