Inventing English A Portable History of the Language

ISBN-10: 023113794X

ISBN-13: 9780231137942

Edition: 2007

Authors: Seth Lerer
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Description: Why is there such a striking difference between English spelling and English pronunciation? How did our seemingly relatively simple grammar rules develop? What are the origins of regional dialect, literary language, and everyday speech, and what do they have to do with you? Seth Lerer's "Inventing English" is a masterful, engaging history of the English language from the age of "Beowulf" to the rap of Eminem. Many have written about the evolution of our grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, but only Lerer situates these developments in the larger history of English, America, and literature. Lerer begins in the seventh century with the poet Caedmon learning to sing what would become the earliest poem in English. He then looks at the medieval scribes and poets who gave shape to Middle English. He finds the traces of the Great Vowel Shift in the spelling choices of letter writers of the fifteenth century and explores the achievements of Samuel Johnson's "Dictionary" of 1755 and "The Oxford English Dictionary" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He describes the differences between English and American usage and, through the example of Mark Twain, the link between regional dialect and race, class, and gender. Finally, he muses on the ways in which contact with foreign languages, popular culture, advertising, the Internet, and e-mail continue to shape English for future generations. Each concise chapter illuminates a moment of invention-a time when people discovered a new form of expression or changed the way they spoke or wrote. In conclusion, Lerer wonders whether globalization and technology have turned English into a world language and reflects on what hasbeen preserved and what has been lost. A unique blend of historical and personal narrative, "Inventing English" is the surprising tale of a language that is as dynamic as the people to whom it belongs.

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Book details

List price: $27.95
Copyright year: 2007
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 4/10/2007
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Size: 6.46" wide x 9.17" long x 0.98" tall
Weight: 1.232
Language: English

A Note on Texts and Letter Forms
Introduction: Finding English, Finding Us
Caedmon Learns to Sing: Old English and the Origins of Poetry
From Beowulf to Wulfstan: The Language of Old English Literature
In This Year: The Politics of Language and the End of Old English
From Kingdom to Realm: Middle English in a French World
Lord of This Langage: Chaucer's English
I Is as Ille a Millere as Are Ye: Middle English Dialects
The Great Vowel Shift and the Changing Character of English
Chancery, Caxton, and the Making of English Prose
I Do, I Will: Shakespeare's English
A Universal Hubbub Wild: New Words and Worlds in Early Modern English
Visible Speech: The Orthoepists and the Origins of Standard English
A Harmless Drudge: Samuel Johnson and the Making of the Dictionary
Horrid, Hooting Stanzas: Lexicography and Literature in American English
Antses in the Sugar: Dialect and Regionalism in American English
Hello, Dude: Mark Twain and the Making of the American Idiom
Ready for the Funk: African American English and Its Impact
Pioneers Through an Untrodden Forest: The Oxford English Dictionary and Its Readers
Listening to Private Ryan: War and Language
He Speaks in Your Voice: Everyhody's English
English Sounds and Their Representation
Glossary
References and Further Reading
Acknowledgments
Index
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