A Cultural History of the English Language (The English by Gerry Knowles

By Gerry Knowles

This publication offers a brand new interpretation of the heritage of English. entry to giant corpuses of English has allowed students to evaluate the trivialities of linguistic swap with a lot better precision than ahead of, usually pinpointing the beginnings of linguistic options in position and time. the writer makes use of the findings from this study to narrate significant historic occasions to alter within the language, specifically to components of linguistic inquiry which have been of specific value lately, corresponding to discourse research, stylistics and paintings on pidgins and creoles. The publication doesn't try and chronicle adjustments in syntax or pronunciation and spelling, yet is designed to counterpoint a corpus-based examine of formal adjustments. the tale of English is stated to the overdue Nineties to incorporate, among different issues, discussions of Estuary English and the results of the knowledge superhighway.

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Additional resources for A Cultural History of the English Language (The English Language Series)

Sample text

After his death in 1066 he was succeeded after a brief interval by the duke of Normandy, and from this time onward England was oriented not towards the Northmen but towards the Normans. 3 The Anglo-Saxon written tradition Much discussion has centred on whether English and Danish were mutually intelligible in the Danelaw. The assumption behind the discussion is that if they were not mutually intelligible, they could be regarded as distinct languages. However, intelligibility is not a good criterion.

At the very least, we cannot easily draw conclusions about the forms of early spoken English from a study of written records. The most typical kind of reading in our modern culture is that undertaken by individuals reading silently to themselves. In medieval times, reading more typically meant reading aloud. St Augustine, in his Confessions, comments that St Ambrose read silently, implying that this was unusual (Aston, 1977: 348). We now think of letters representing sounds (which implies that sounds are logically prior to letters), but the medieval term for the sound of a letter was its 'voice' (which implies that letters are prior to sounds).

Early English dialects There was no such thing at this time as a Standard English language in our modern sense. Not only did the original settlers come from many different tribes, they also arrived over a long period of time, so that there must have been considerable dialect variety in the early kingdoms. As groups achieved some local dominance, their speech was accorded prestige, and the prestigious forms spread over the territory that they dominated. In some cases the immigrants took control of existing Celtic kingdoms, for example Northumbria subsumed the old kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira (Higham, 1986).

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