Book of the week : The Stories of English

11th June 2004 at 01:00
The Stories of English
By David Crystal
Penguin pound;25

The recent success of Lynne Truss's book on punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, has shown that there is an eager market for reflections on the state of the English language. Could it be as mega (to use a modern coinage) for David Crystal's authoritative book on the varieties of the language?

Professor of linguistics, author of more than 90 books, sometime contributor to The TES among many newspapers and journals, Crystal has laid out a history that elucidates how "standard" English is interwoven with colloquial dialects, legal and literary offshoots, foreign incomings and authorial coinages.

Its main thesis is simply told: the usual run of linguistic history which tells of the victory of "received" English throughout the tribulations of social and political events, and upholds a particular version of English as correct, is not just skewed but wrong. It is made Crystal clear that not only has there never been only one thread of descent from Anglo-Saxon to Norman to French to early modern and so on, but that it wouldn't be desirable if there had been.

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

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